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Le Mans 2017 - Ayse's Story

Page 4 - More of the Same - Scrutineering 2

Monday 12th June



As I'm fairly sure I've said before in these pages (probably several times), there is something rather special for me about waking up on the Monday morning after my first night in my Le Mans 'home'.  This year's event had of course barely started but I was already into day three of my trip.  After the heat of Sunday it was thankfully a little cooler that morning and I pottered around in my room, made myself some coffee and I was just beginning to think about jumping in the shower when I was shocked to receive a text from James just before 8.15 am telling me that he was almost ready!  I was shocked because in all the years we've been going to Le Mans together I'd become used to the given fact that James is most certainly not an early riser and would rarely surface before 9.30-9.45.  So I quickly showered and dressed and I was ready in about 20 minutes! 


So by the astonishing time (for us) of 8.45 am we were off to the Bar Havane for breakfast for the first time in 2017.  It was good to be back at the bar with it's strong coffee with croissants and pain au chocolat from the patisserie around the corner.  Having enjoyed our fill of coffee and pastries in the warm morning sunshine we decided that now would be a good time to make a trip up to Auchan for provisions where I bought water, cherries, strawberries and some of my favourite almond tuiles.  Having returned to the hotel to stash our provisions, we jumped back in the car to head into town for day two of scrutineering. 

As usual, we headed to the car park at the Rue D'Algers but when we arrived we found most of the car park unusable due to the road and building works that were taking place with plant and machinery taking up a large proportion of the car park.  Although we managed to find a space, when I went to check on the parking charges, I realised that we had a problem in that we could only park there for an hour.  Although James had needed to return to the car to buy another ticket a couple of times on the Monday last year I was sure we had never been limited to an hour before and it just wasn't viable to keep tripping back every hour to feed the meter.  So we knew that we would have to find somewhere else.  I would probably have bitten the bullet and headed down to the large car park alongside the river where we had parked regularly before we discovered the Rue D'Algers car park, but it was a long walk to and from that car park and James was minded to see if we could find anything else.  As it happened there were several car park wardens in the Rue D'Algers - with only an hour on offer I suspect this was going to be a good spot to catch 'overstayers' - and they gave us directions to another car park supposedly not too far away....

And so began the hunt for the elusive car park!  We drove around for quite a while ending up down by the river more than once as well as visiting the station and I was beginning to think that a trip to the car park by the river really was the only option when all of a sudden we found the entrance to another car park, almost hidden, but still within reasonable walking distance of the Place de la République.  We entered the car park at ground (river) level where there were one or two cars parked and drove up a number of relatively steep sloped floors, all of which were almost entirely devoid of cars until suddenly we reached the top.  You have to remember that there is a lot of elevation to the town and we were optimistic that having gone up so far we would be pretty much on a level with where we needed to be!  There were a few more cars at the top but there wasn't another soul in sight, just a payment machine where we would have to pay when we left.  There seemed to be no restriction on parking time so we secured the car and made our way out.  It was actually quite eerie as even when we emerged from the car park, the area at the top was largely deserted.  Out in the sunshine we got our bearings fairly quickly and having walked for five minutes or so we found ourselves on roads we recognised and after a 15-20 minute walk we were back in the Place de la République. 

(Note:  When writing this I had to try and satisfy my curiosity about where we had actually parked and I believe we ended up in 'Parking Halles' as the photograph of the entrance on Google looks quite familiar.  It's quite interesting that someone has actually given the car park a review (!), rating it as a '1', the lowest possible score, describing it as 'lamentable, toxic and dangerous'.  I wouldn't go quite that far - perhaps 'abandoned and desolate but actually quite handy' would be an alternative description!)

So, having enlivened my story with another 'traditional car park tale, I can now take you back to our day at scrutineering! 

We took up our usual position in the road adjoining the square where the cars arrive from the circuit and were pleased to see the Rebellion Orecas in their splendid new colour scheme.  In fact, after our parking travails, most of the morning arrivals had already moved into the scrutineering area but we were right on the spot for the arrival of the works Porsche GTEs.  I freely admit (and always have) that like James, I'm a prototype man, but there was something just so right about the look of the Porsches.  They looked superb, very purposeful somehow, as if they really intended to do the business.  They were due to be the first cars in after the lunch break between 12.30 and 13.00.













We walked back to the square and around the full scrutineering area, checking out the Rebellions again and watched them posing for their classic scrutineering shots in the special photography area.  Bearing in mind though that we had reached the lunch break it seemed that the obvious and sensible thing to do right now was to take our own break for some refreshment.  Unfortunately (what am I saying?!), neither of us was able to resist the temptation to return to the Galand for a showing of 'Croque Madame - The Sequel' and even our waiter (the same fellow as the day before) greeted our order with a cheery 'the same as yesterday then....' 

With thousands of people visiting the scrutineering and a very busy restaurant, it was rewarding to have been remembered!  Lunch was excellent again, my croque was even better than the day before, particularly as we managed to secure a shaded table where we weren't gradually braising in the sun.  I went and paid the bill after our meal, only to find that the woman in front of me had paid our bill by mistake, but all was resolved in the end.  I waited by the scrutineering area for James as he popped to the loo, spotting G-Drive's Roman Rusinov running into the restaurant.  When James emerged he told me that he had unexpectedly shared the 'facilities' with Rusinov (as there was more than one 'facility' in the room!) as Roman just couldn't wait.  It was inevitable therefore that for the rest of the week Rusinov came to be referred to as 'James toilet chum' a fact that James fully realised that I would have to record for posterity.....

               Roman Rusinov discusses his lunchtime lavatorial experience with the local media.....    


By the time we emerged from the restaurant after our lunch it was wall-to-wall sunshine and stunningly hot.  I was grateful for the fact that I had my ever-present hat and had stuck with my shorts instead of trousers.  We made our way back again to our favourite spot where we sadly failed to get any decent view of the Toyotas as they arrived, as our view was blocked by other large lorries.  In fact they had also been blocked from Walter's view as well - he was very surprised when we told him that they had already gone in!  Other notable arrivals were the Ford GTs and although I still have little appetite for their BOP whinging and sandbagging strategies, I had to admit that they really looked very good up close.  If they had a decent GT engine sound I might even grow to like them.....

















As the day drew on we decided to make a final tour of the square and happily as we did so the Toyotas emerged and were preparing for their photocall.  As it happens, this turned out to be one of the highlights of the day and one of the highlights of the week as far as I was concerned, thanks to one Kamui Kobayashi....  Le Mans is a terrific event for the fans, something I understood from my first visit in 1986, but I've appreciated it all the more since I started attending for the full week.  Scrutineering, the pit walks and the driver parade the evening before race day all add huge value for the fans.  The teams and particularly the drivers play a massive part in this and most enter into it in the right spirit, even though this means hanging around in the centre of town for long periods of time when they would no doubt prefer to be doing other things.  The drivers also have to wait for the 'photo shoot' that takes place once the cars emerge from scrutineering.  As the first of the Toyotas was pushed out into the photography area out came Kamui Kobayashi, chatting to the fans and filming the whole thing on his mobile phone, taking selfies with the crowd.  He wandered around, filming the spectators and the delightful thing was that he wasn't doing it because he had to, he appeared to be doing it because he wanted to and he was clearly enjoying it very much.  If Toyota weren't already a crowd favourite, this display did them no harm at all and it certainly endeared Kamui in particular to many of the fans present at that moment, including me. 











By the time the Toyota photo-session was over we concluded that we had seen all that we wanted to see for the day, however we did return to the 'arrivals' road for a time and lucked into a good spot while the Toyota team were putting their cars away. 





It was still incredibly hot and I was already feeling quite weary, so we left the square and set off to find the car park.  We stopped in a road just off the square to admire a beautiful Aston Martin DB5, pausing while the owner fired it up, almost asphyxiating us with the exhaust fumes as we stood behind it!  On setting off again James spotted a pharmacy just down the road where I was able to top up my supply of 'Dog Cream', the analgesic cream 'St Bernard' that I first discovered in 2015 and have used regularly ever since.  Even better, it was on special offer, so I bought three tubes!  

We found our way back to the car easily enough and the car park was still almost empty and just as disconcerting as it had been when we left it a few hours earlier.  Having paid what I recall was a very reasonable amount for parking there for much of the day we set off back to the hotel, arriving about 5.15 pm.  After a quick shower our thoughts inevitably turned to food and we decided to pay a visit to another old 'haunt' the Hippo Grill, for foie gras, steak brochettes and for me, panna cotta to finish.  It was a very nice meal taken outside in the sun and I also indulged in what was for me, a very rare beer, my first alcohol in fact since my cider at Le Gouland on the way back from Le Mans the previous June!  The service however was rather 'inattentive', something which we didn't know at the time would become a bit of a theme for our meals on this trip.  Having gone out early to eat, we were still back to our rooms by 8.30 and after copying my videos and photos for the day to my laptop, I turned in eventually around 11 pm. 

I took a lot of video footage today.  Go here to see them -