The weather Gods had shined on
us for once as we did our pitwalk and the sun was beating down as we headed into
the Village where we bumped into Eric and his brother Stéphane and had a good
chat with them in the sunshine. We finally left the two
brothers at 3 pm as we needed to get down to the Espace Club at 3.30 to sign on
with the ACO and collect our wristbands.
We arrived to find Tony and his
'crew' already waiting in what was thankfully a relatively small queue. We
were rather surprised when the Espace Club opened for business bang on time for
a change and were signed on within 10 minutes or so.
On leaving there we
walked to the Audi Fan area which this year was a rather stripped down version
of the building that we had enjoyed viewing from for the past two years.
We were still able to get up top to the viewing 'terrace' past the long line of
people hoping to get hold of some free posters and the t-shirts we had already
acquired at scrutineering. It was pretty crowded up top but we eventually
managed to snag places by the rail at the front, noticing Audi ambassadors Frank
Biela and Tom Kristensen wandering around chatting to the fans. Just
moments before the four-hour free practice session started, Audi staff began
handing out Audi flags which proved to be a complete nuisance, blocking the view
of the countless camera lenses as they were waved with gusto when the cars
emerged from the pits!
Very shortly after this the rain arrived,
hard enough to persuade me to put my camera away and employ my otherwise useless
Audi flag to protect the top of my camera rucksack from getting too wet....
It was great of course to
finally see the cars out on track and there were plenty who were missing their
braking points into the Dunlop Chicane in the increasingly greasy conditions.
As it happens, fortunately the rain didn't last for too long and the track began
to dry out. After about an hour and a half watching from here we needed
refreshment and went down to the Espace Club where we spent about half an hour
trying to buy a hot chocolate - without success - as the young ladies serving in
there were quite unable to find the pods to put into the machine! We gave
up on the hot chocolate and instead set off down the inside of the Esses
alongside the Bugatti circuit where I paused for a while to take some
photographs and video from the vantage point that I discovered last year.
Tony, Andrew, John and Paul had stayed in the Espace Club, watching the progress
of the practice session on the monitors there. James, Toby and I
walked on down to the viewing area at the bottom of the hill, again pausing for
twenty minutes or so before continuing the journey down to Tertre Rouge for the
last hour of free practice.
It was while down at Tertre
Rouge that we indulged in
the first sandwich Americain merguez of the week, although the lady serving me
was really far too generous with the mustard - hot!
The videos taken during free practice on Wednesday
can be found here -
The four hours of free
practice seemed to fly by and soon it was over. Now suitably refreshed
after our invigorating doze of merguez and frites we made
the walk back to the grandstands to sit in T17 (Durand) to watch the 'Road to Le
Mans' practice session.