The journey to Mulsanne Corner took longer than
we'd hoped for thanks to the traffic along the road running behind the circuit.
It seemed as though quite a few other spectators had also come to the conclusion
that with the break in the action, now was a good time to move to another
vantage point. The traffic isn't helped by the bizarre 'chicane'
arrangement that whoever is responsible for traffic management outside the
circuit puts in place each year. It seems to be done to facilitate access
to and from the Bleu and Blanc campsites however there never seems to be a queue
of any significance to get in and out but the 'marshals' there stop the traffic
and favour any single car that comes along wanting to cross the traffic into the
campsites. They also seem completely oblivious to the tailback of traffic
they're causing along the main road. If I didn't know different, I'd
say that the whole affair must be organised by our favourite bicycling car park
marshal with his dodgy eyesight! But there is nothing else to do other
than to grin and bear it and after about half an hour we were finally through
it, dodging the already drunk spectators on their wobbling bicycles....
The rest of the journey to Mulsanne Corner was a
breeze, aided by the fact that one of the roads which is always blocked
off by the gendarmes was mysteriously open this year, making the journey even
easier than usual. For those who tell me each year that 'you don't need
a car park ticket to get into the Mulsanne car park' we were once again
required to show our tickets on entry to a car park which was of course only
We'd been expecting rain at some point this
evening and it was beginning to get quite a bit colder but so far the rain had
held off. We did however don coats and hats as it's a fair walk back from
the main viewing area to the car park to get them if we needed them later.
We also brought our folding chairs with us. I'm getting older of course,
but having the chairs for the last few years has made lot of difference to my
comfort out the back of the circuit. I used to be able to stand for hours
on end but my legs and back start whinging after an hour or so these days.
By the time we collected all of our gear from the
cars and wandered through to the small bank running alongside the circuit it was
about 9.20, with the extended session due to start in ten minutes. I was
keen to stop just inside the last part of the spectator area so that I could
catch on video the first lap of the cars out of the pits again. So we set
up our chairs on the bank to await their arrival. Unfortunately I didn't
manage to get the cars all the way from Tertre Rouge this time, but at least I
didn't have a fool babbling on the public address while I shot the video...
My photography may be of amateur quality for the majority of the time, but my
videos of the cars with nothing to get in the way of the glorious noise are
pretty good, even if I say so myself.....
We stayed at this point for the best part of an
hour as the sun went down. We weren't sure before the start of the session
whether Toyota were going to go for a better pole time in this session but only
two laps in Nakajima in the #8 car went for it, clocking a 3m15.377, less than
six tenths slower than Kobayashi's stunning pole time from 2017. We hoped
for more to come but the worsening weather put paid to that. The #1
Rebellion just nicked the 'best of the rest' spot by a few hundredths from the
#17 SMP but no-one got near Bruni's Porsche time in GTE.
The rain arrived in spits and spats just before 11
pm and soon turned into a light drizzle. We packed up our chairs and
wandered up to the spectating area overlooking the corner but we all knew that
that was it as far as any serious qualifying was concerned. In fact, many of the teams
packed up for the night, leaving only a handful of hardy drivers out there,
notably a certain Mr. Alonso who pounded around, no doubt looking to get more
experience of the Toyota in the wet. It had been a bit of a damp squib of
an evening once the light faded and the rain arrived, so much so that I barely
got my SLR out of it's bag, which is why there are so few photographs of the
session. I concentrated instead on video.
As midnight approached, we left the banking and
started to walk back to the car park, watching the last few minutes as we walked
along. I followed James F back from the car park to the hotel, with just
one unnecessary (but familiar!) detour. We made really good time, getting
back just after 00:30. Once again the car park at the hotel was a scene of
pathetically selfish parking by loads of white van drivers but I finally managed
to squeeze into a very small space and climbed wearily into bed just after 1 am after a
quick shower to warm up.
So that was it for qualifying, no great surprises
and now we had a day to rest up and take it easy before enjoying the race on
Saturday and Sunday.
There is quite a lot of video from Thursday
evening, so there is a separate page for it.