weather or not, the time before the
start of the race, particularly after
the cars had set off on their parade
lap, was as electric as ever and I
was able to catch the stream of cars
on video as they started the first
lap of the 24 hours.
opening laps were pretty exciting,
too exciting for some with cars
falling off the road every few
minutes, notably the Johansson Audi
and David Terrien in the FFSA Viper -
what an effort he made to get the car
back to the pits!
we quit the tribunes and made our way
around to the Dunlop Chicane.
We watched in increasing alarm as the
black clouds moved overhead and as we
crossed the bridge and walked down
towards the Esses, the heavens
opened, drowning us all in a matter
of minutes. At that stage, we
decided to give best to the rain and
headed back to the van to make an
early getway for Le Grand LucÚ and a
change of clothes and dinner!
enough, with weather as bad as this,
I was giving some very serious
thought to my intention of staying at
the circuit all night, but in the end
the risk of getting very wet had to
come second to watching the 24 Hours
at night. We returned to the
circuit (after a quick visit to the
Mulsanne restaurants), and the others
left me for the comfort of a few
hours in their beds at about 1.00
"Le Mans at night" tour was
slightly more limited this year than
usual, as I was just a little wary of
being caught out in the open if there
was another downpour. By the
time I had arrived back at the
circuit, the rain had eased to just a
fine drizzle. As a result, I
tended to divide my time between the
top of the Welcome building and the
tribunes, whilst further dividing it
between still and video photography.
Welcome area was always an
irresistible lure as it not only
provided me with my favourite view of
the track, but a non-stop supply of
revitalising coffee from the bar
though, I dragged myself away from
that view and headed off to look
around the few stalls that were still
open at that time of the morning.
far as the race was concerned, rather
like last year, the works Audis had
done the rest of the field up like a
kipper, and that included the two
Bentleys, although we still had the
No. 8 Bentley to cheer on, even if
the two lightning-quick but fragile
MGs had bitten the dust.
dawned arrived, I decided to rest
awhile in my customary lofty
perch. It has never ceased to
amaze me how many people quit the
circuit during the night and early
morning, or who give in to the
temptation to waste the time by
sleeping! I guess that most of
the time I was atop the building
during the night, there were no more
than half a dozen others up there at
any one time.
more, at about 7.30, I left the
Welcome building and wandered back
through the Village and the
underpass, to spend a bit more time
watching the race and the pits action
from the tribunes. I should
mention that Radio
had been superb company throughout
the nighttime hours. I think I
must have listened to more RLM this
year than any other.
was waiting (and nodding off) outside
the Welcome area when I received a
tap on the shoulder from Paul.
He, Howard and Robert had kindly
returned in the bus to collect
me. I was impressed by the fact
that Paul and Howard had come back -
as Le Mans newcomers, they were
obviously keen enough to leave their
beds - unlike some others!
breakfast back at Le Cheval Blanc, we
made our by now routine visit to
Arnage and Indianapolis, again having
to park in the overflow car
park. As lunchtime drew on it
was frites, omelettes and merguez all
round as the race headed for a
crushing victory for Audi,
Kristensen, Pirro and Biela heading
for a second consecutive win.
too soon, the 24 Hours was over for
another year and we were trudging
back to the bus. This year we
were in no great rush, as we were
staying in France that night.
We journeyed from the circuit to the Hotel
Restaurant Le Gue du Holme
at Saint-Quentin-sur-le-Homme, just 6
or 7 kilometres from Avranches.
I didn't actually observe very much
of the journey, about 5 minutes at
either end - I slept the rest of the
hotel was a very nice place indeed -
if you get the chance, visit their
- you can see what's on the
menu! The food was glorious - I
can still taste the fois gras
now! And the desserts - well,
suffice to say that we weren't
watching the calories!
a very good night's sleep and a good
breakfast, it was time to pile back
into the bus for the first stage of
the journey to Cherbourg for the boat
back to Poole. But not before
Madame kindly assisted us with our
2001 team photo!
stopping at the war cemetary at
Colleville-sur-Mer, we lunched in a
lovely little seaside restaurant, the
sun now fully observing Sod's Law by
shining warm and bright.
again, an excellent Le Mans trip, in
great company. Yes, the rain
did put a bit of a dampener on it at
times, but not enough to prevent me
from signing up for Le Mans 2002 -
watch this space!