When I write my story each year, I commit it to
paper with pen and ink first so that as the memory starts to fade, hopefully
most of the noteworthy things we did during the trip make it into the story.
So by October each year, I've normally done that. This brings me to the
problem with the 2018 story. I didn't do that..... From this
point on, I'm typing it straight into the page largely from memory having
suffered from the longest period of 'post-Le Mans malaise' that I've ever
experienced! I do have the benefit of a few notes in my phone, the text
messages that were sent at the time and of course the photographs and video I
took, but the memories themselves have by now definitely faded a bit more than usual.
So if friends who were there with me read it once its finished and wonder where
that hilarious moment on (insert day here) has gone, I obviously forgot
it! So as we proceed to write of the events of Tuesday 12th June, I
am doing so on Tuesday 1st January 2019!
So to the Tuesday, the 'Day of Rest'. The
day before the on-track action starts with practice and qualifying on Wednesday.
I woke early as usual, had my morning coffee and showered and dressed. As
my first video of the day shows, the weather was a little inclement.....The
plan as far as I was concerned was the same as always, to head up to the Bar
Havane for coffee and croissants. Having checked in with James F, it was
clear that he and Ramona were going to be a little slow out of the blocks this
morning, so having compared notes with James, we decided to head up to the bar
on our own before making the trip to Auchan for some shopping.
The bar was quite quiet and we enjoyed that oh so
familiar strong coffee and croissants from the patisserie around the corner
before deciding to head up to Auchan to stock up on water, almond tuiles, bacon
hula hoops and cherries! James was quite keen to get hold of some trousers
which zipped off to become shorts so we did the rounds of the nearby camping
type shops. At some stage we had a 'foody' conversation with Ramona during
which she mentioned carp and how good she said they were to eat. So having found a tank of
small carp at Decathlon (or wherever it was), James and I couldn't resist
sending the picture back to James F. While we were at Auchan, I topped up
with petrol, to make sure I was ready for the rest of the week.
We made our way back to the hotel to find James F
and Ramona up and about and it was an easy decision about what to do next.
It was time for my new car to drive the circuit! James and I followed
James F into town and we were soon emerging at Tertre Rouge corner onto the
Mulsanne Straight, otherwise known as the
Ligne Droite des Hunaudières or the (now) D338 towards Tours.
Thankfully by now (around 1.30 pm) the rain had almost stopped and we parked up
at the beginning of the first chicane. We spent quite a lot of time
looking (as we did last year) at the size of the kerbing and also the amount of
water that had collected in and around the kerbs after the heavy rain earlier
that morning. We then continued our tour around
the circuit, stopping at various places of interest, so the second chicane,
Mulsanne Corner, Indianapolis, Arnage before driving around to the entrance to
the Porsche Curves where we parked up and walked down the track, close
to the point where we had walked to in the other direction last year. It
was great to while away just over an hour on this little tour and for me, it was
a joy to be able to drive around the circuit myself, for the first time in 33
years and to justify the 'map' legend that I had put on the back of the car
before I left home!
After our circuit tour, James F and Ramona
headed off to do non-racing things but James and I were keen to finish our
'lap'. We decided to park up at the main circuit entrance and take a look
at the museum, as James hadn't experienced this before.
We were quite lucky in that we were able to grab what appeared to be the last
space in the (apparently) free small car park opposite the main entrance (as
Parking Blanc was closed) and we thought we would grab a bite to eat in the
little café situated just outside the museum, however when we got there we found
that it didn't exist any more and there were just machines selling largely uninspiring
refrigerated sandwiches - disappointing ACO! So we passed up on
this meagre fare and took a look around the museum instead.
For those who have never been, the museum
really should feature in your plans. The reality is that the museum
doesn't change all that much from year to year, so annual visits aren't really necessary as
the exhibits don't change all that much other than usually a
new car or two at the very 'latest' end of the museum walk. There was
however a splendid
Gulf exhibition with, amongst other things, a McLaren F1 and the truly beautiful
Martini-liveried Porsche 917. I think James enjoyed the trip around the
cars and other exhibits although he didn't spend quite so much time analysing
gearboxes, suspensions and engines as his brother did in 2016!
After leaving the museum we spent a bit of
time in the ACO shop and bought a few bits and pieces before taking the
opportunity for a quick walk through the Village.
There wasn't a great
deal to see as most of the stalls were still setting up. We walked
over to the steps leading down to the back of the paddock and paused, seeing one
or two people in the pitlane. In 2016, Toby and I managed to get into the
pitlane on the Tuesday, however James F and I were turned away unceremoniously when we tried to
get in at the same time last year. On the basis of 'nothing ventured', we decided to give
it a go and to our surprise, we were able to walk straight into the pitlane.
Fantastic! My boys are clearly good luck charms.... All in all,
there couldn't have been more than about 30
people in the whole of the pitlane, rather different to the massive crush that
takes place at the official pitwalk on Friday. We were both in our
element, getting close to the cars, several of them being manoeuvred to and from
the scrutineering area, and watching the team personnel going about
their setting up. We also had the chance to stand out on the 'hallowed
ground' of the track for a while, James helping me out on occasion with my
pitiful attempts at selfies!
While we were in the pitlane, I spotted
Khaled Al Qubaisi, the driver of the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche. I
couldn't resist reminding him of the accident he had last year with Roman
Rusinov, James F's 'toilet buddy' (see last year's story for that one!), who
punted him off unceremoniously into early retirement, by asking him if he would
be keeping an eye out for Roman... He said he would be staying well away
By this time a few more people had clearly
realised that it was possible to get into the pitlane and up at the Village end,
it was getting noticeably busier. It was as we slowly sauntered along the
pitlane that we realised that there was some activity going on that could be of
interest. Some of the Porsche GT cars were being pushed the wrong way down
the pitlane towards pit in. Several media-tabarded people with cameras
were walking that way too. We had no idea why, but we decided to follow
them. As we walked past underneath the imposing ACO administration
building that towers over the pit entrance we fully expected to be stopped, but
there was no-one there to stop us. We walked on out to the area on the
inside of the Ford Chicane to see that we had lucked into a photoshoot for all
of the Porsche GT cars and drivers. This had obviously been set up as
another event to celebrate Porsches 70 years at Le Mans but it was clear that
this was strictly a media event to which the public clearly weren't supposed to
have access. Including the two of us, there were only a handful of
'interlopers' wandering around the cars and the drivers. The light rain
did nothing to spoil our enjoyment of this very unexpected bonus!
As things drew to a close we left the
Ford Chicane and made our way out of the pits and back over the to tribunes,
where we stood and took a few more pictures. Always one of those
particularly surreal moments, we stood on the concrete there and in the empty
grandstands, with barely another soul around, knowing that at 3 pm on Saturday,
spectators will be jammed in like sardines at the start of the race.
We made our way to the car and had an
uneventful and perfectly satnav-guided journey back to the hotel, arriving around 5.30. Having had no
lunch at all, it was time to scoff a few Hula Hoops, tuiles and cherries to
keep the hunger pangs at bay. We arranged with James F to meet for dinner
outside at 7.15. We had wanted to eat again at one of our regular haunts,
the Hippo Grill, but when we got there we discovered that it had 'morphed' into
something called Le Relais D'Alsace. We decided to give it a try however
on reflection it didn't turn out to be all that great an idea. I had a
fish dish with sauerkraut that consisted of a few small pieces of fish sat on a
huge plateful of sauerkraut while James, who loves duck, was left pretty
unimpressed by his duck dish. It wasn't particularly cheap either. I
confess I won't be looking to return there next year....
We got back from dinner around 10 pm and I
had a lovely Facetime call with Jayne before checking out the latest news on Ten
Tenths and then turning in. Dinner aside, it had been a really
great day, in fact one of my most memorable in all my years at Le Mans.
James was great company and it really tickled me to see him enjoying everything
that comes with a trip to Le Mans. I think he was beginning to appreciate
what he's been hearing me say for so many years - that Le Mans is so much more
than 'just' a race.... But now it was time for some rest as tomorrow would be a long day, with
qualifying not ending until midnight, so a good night's sleep was definitely
As you might expect, I took a few videos
during the day which you can view here:-