With the pre-race festivities now over, the cars
left their echelon formation and set off around the 'green flag' lap. All
that is apart from the Bykolles which was reluctant to start and eventually when
it did, Dillman spun it at the Dunlop Chicane. We had noticed a change to
the starting procedures last year which resulted in the cars no longer having
the opportunity to get one or two laps in to check on systems, the state of the
track etc., which I found disappointing as the previous longer build-up tended
to enhance the atmosphere before the start. Nevertheless, the pace car
soon hove into view and the 86th edition of the 24 Heures du Mans was under way.
It turned out to be an eventful start to the race
as the field thundered past us in the grandstand and the normally bullet-proof
André Lotterer wiped the nose off of his Rebellion in a first corner skirmish at
the Dunlop Chicane. As I recall, he swore blind afterwards that he hadn't
touched anything (leaving therefore a veiled suggestion that the nose hadn't
been secured properly) however the video of the incident left no doubt at all in
my mind! Unfortunately that put one of our favoured Rebellions on the back
foot from the very start.
As usual, we settled into our seats to watch the
race unfold. As expected, the two Toyotas set the pace and it was the LMP1
non-hybrids that had problems, including the #11 SMP which had a long stop
dropping it to the back of the field. After an hour and a half the leading
non-hybrids were already half a lap down on the Toyotas.
In LMP2 the G-Drive Oreca #26 was looking very
strong while in GTEPro the Porsches were battling up front although I was
pleased to see the BMWs finding good pace to get up into the top five. In
GTEAm, the pretty Gulf Racing Porsche had a shunt at Indianapolis which caused a
long slow zone.
By now Toby had already had a typical attack of
wanderlust and had left the stand in search of sustenance! James and I
decided that we would hang on in the stand until 6 pm. We then left the
stand leaving James F and Ramona there to continue following the race with the
intention of meeting up again later down at Tertre Rouge. We made our way
around to go through the tunnel near the main entrance and on down to the Dunlop
Bridge on the inside to meet up with Toby at the Espace Club but by the time we
arrived there he had headed on To Tertre Rouge so we then headed down on the
inside of the circuit to meet him there.