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Le Mans 2016 - Ayse's Story

Page 20 - Ayse's Postscript

 

 

I started adding a postscript to my stories a few years ago now and as I write this, it is almost 11 weeks since we made our ferry crossing at the start of the 2016 trip and therefore a day short of 10 weeks since the end of this years 24 Heures du Mans.  Its trite to say it but its astonishing just how fast the time flies.  As you may have read at the very start of the story, I gave a bit of thought to how to begin in this year and likewise its just as difficult to think of a novel or original way to close it.  I don't know how many people actually read it each year.  I can probably count on some of those who were on the trip, plus a handful of Tenthers and maybe a few others now that I publicise it via my Facebook page, but the bottom line is that I write it for myself as I enjoy reminding myself of something from which I gain such immense enjoyment.  It gives me the chance to look back on what happened, even years later.  So that's my ready-made excuse for the fact that I may have little in the way of writing talent and my photography skills leave plenty to be desired, but I do try!

So what of my 31st Le Mans?  Once again, the trip itself was a huge success.  The ferry, the overnight in Alenšon, and our stay at the hotel were simply perfect thanks to James' impeccable organisation yet again.  James also took on board Toby's desire to do and see as much as he could without so much as the bat of an eyelid and it made my first Le Mans with a member of my family along very enjoyable, when it could so easily have cramped our 'style'.  Toby, being a petrolhead anyway, took to Le Mans like the proverbial duck, seemingly completely engrossed in the event from start to finish, quite content to strike it out alone when he felt like it and all of the time relishing the prospect of seeing more of the cars, whether stationary, racing or exhibited in the museum.   

We had a much larger group this year of course and it seemed as though Andrew, John and Paul enjoyed their Le Mans debuts.  It meant that James and I saw less of Tony than usual, as Tony's group had different needs from time to time, but it made for a great atmosphere at mealtimes.  And I have to thank John in particular for providing me with a year's respite from my position as the oldest member of the group!

We had to dodge a few raindrops this year and despite my legendary optimism, I had realised this was likely even as the trip started, looking at the weather forecasts, but in the main we were fairly lucky, only experiencing the full force of the La Sarthe weather on Thursday evening at Arnage.  And aside from the rain at the start we were blessed with great weather for the race, with a night which to me seemed positively balmy compared to some of the racenights we had experienced in the recent past. 

And the race itself?  I thought it enthralling from start to finish - in all the classes.  GTEPro was badly affected by BoP and the Ford sandbagging, leaving Porsche, Corvette and Aston Martin largely uncompetitive however I suppose you have to acknowledge that the ACO got what they really wanted all along, a great race between Ford and Ferrari, but that was only thanks to Risi Competizione who thankfully prevented a Ford whitewash, despite the thoroughly shameful efforts of the ACO and Ford to 'do the dirty' on them near the end of the race. 

In LMP1, well, what can I say.  An absolutely cracking race.  Porsche looked favourites from the very start of practice while Audi hit problem after problem, although their cars were clearly as fast.  As for Toyota, after being so far off the pace last year, I confess I didn't have high expectations although I was pleased to see they were there or thereabouts after qualifying.  But in the race they were very strong throughout and I was absolutely delighted for them as they stroked home to their first win in the last hours of the race.  Then there was the end - so cruel, leaving all of us completely numb as we left the circuit. Having lost in 2014 when they had the fastest car and again this year when they had the race won with 3 minutes to go, I really hope they haven't missed the boat and can come back and get their just reward ion 2017. 

My 31st Le Mans ranks up there with the very best.  If Toyota had won it would have been the icing on the cake, but nevertheless it was hugely enjoyable from start to finish.  As it always has been, the company on these trips makes all the difference.  Having Toby along for the trip caused me to do one or two things differently, such as the Classic British Welcome, which I suspect we will now do again in the future.  The last seven years of travelling to Le Mans with James has emphasised to me just how important the build-up to the race is and I couldn't contemplate just doing the race weekend again. 

So I will conclude with heartfelt thanks to James for enabling me to have this experience for another year, with thanks also to Toby, Tony, Allon and the rest of the group for making it such a memorable experience.  As I sign off there are 285 days to go until I hope to depart for Le Mans 2017.  I can't wait.........