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Le Mans 2016 - Ayse's Story

Page 13 - Saturday 18th June

And They're Off..... (Or Not, As The Case May Be)



We were into our seats in T17 just after 2 pm by which time the cars were lined up in their familiar echelon formation with all the drivers and team members on the grid with them.  It is always a really impressive part of the Le Mans 'show' where tradition and pageantry quite rightly play a very important part in the build-up to the main event.  When we first sat down it was dry but the rain clouds were very evident and we knew that it was shortly going to get pretty wet.  Sure enough, by 2.15 it started raining - and hard - seemingly triggered by the arrival on the grid of some chap called Brad Pitt who the ACO (in their wisdom) had invited to start the race.  (I'd personally have preferred Clive Cussler's fictitious creation Dirk Pitt, but you can't win them all...). 













The rain showed no sign at all of abating as we drew closer to 3 pm and it was around this time that the realisation dawned (to my horror) that we were going to miss out on one of the most dramatic and iconic aspects of the start of the race - there would be no pace lap behind the course car, and even worse, the organisers had decided to start the race behind the safety car.  It was hugely disappointing as the rush of 50-pdd +(56 this year) cars past the grandstands as they start the first racing lap is one of the great spectacles of motor racing and a highlight of the event.  But I'm not going to put myself in the pillory by saying it wasn't necessary - that number of cars on a very wet circuit for the first lap or two would probably have been a recipe for carnage, however I can only hope there will be another 84 races before it has to happen again....  Starting the race under the safety car was one thing but why did it have to stay out for so long?  53 minutes and 7 laps?  The crowd in the grandstands were cat-calling and booing after 4 or 5 laps and the rain had stopped, with the track seemingly drying out so quickly that cars were coming in from the safety car train for intermediates.  If its true that the kerbing was holding plenty of water for such a long time, then we need to be assured that the ACO will do something about the draining to the kerbs by 2017....



So, with nearly an hour of the 'race' already gone the safety car finally pulled off and the 84th running of the world's greatest motor race at last burst into life.  The race was intriguing from the start with all three manufacturers in LMP1 taking turns in the lead but it was Audi who cracked first.  For me, the most pleasing aspect was Toyota's pace after their inability to keep up with Porsche and Audi last year.  In GTE, from the start it was the Fords (well, three of them) and the Risi Ferrari with Porsche, Aston Martin and particularly last year's winners Corvette left gasping in their BOP'd wake. 





























Lunch was taken in the stand by way of the obligatory ham and cheese baguettes as we settled down to watch the race unfold, having no thoughts of quitting our seats until we all felt the need to stretch our legs at around 7.50, nearly five hours into the race.  We strolled from the grandstand around the outside of the circuit, just managing to avoid the powerful urge to stay and listen to 'DJ Lara' who was performing (something) on the stage on the outside of the Dunlop Curve.  We continued on down by the Esses, pausing a while there before making the rest of the way down to Tertre Rouge where we crossed under the circuit to the spectator bank on the inside. 




And now the videos.....