Le Mans 1993 - Ayse's Story
Page 1 - The Prologue
May 2020 and here is another update to my older stories of Le Mans, again with my original text and photos that haven't seen the light of day outside my photo albums for 27 years...
I tended to look upon 1992 as something of an "interim" Le Mans year. Although I enjoyed the trip as always, and the race and the experience had still been very much worth the effort as a whole, I still hankered after the "team" event that had been so special from 1986 to 1991. But there remained the problem of the sports car racing scene in general. From the point of view of the entry, 1992 was a huge disappointment, resting as it did largely upon the sterling efforts of Peugeot, Toyota and Mazda, and not much else. At the end of the day, it was quite remarkable (as David Coleman might have said!) that the week-end turned out so well, what with the thoroughly rotten weather and all. For 1993 on the 3.5 litre front, little had changed. Peugeot and Toyota were still there, but Jaguar were completely out of the picture and even Mazda had pulled out of major sports car racing. The BRM had also sadly sunk without trace. The 3.5 litre Nissan, although built and tested, failed to show up in an actual race. The ACO was very much aware of the importance of assembling something approaching a full grid for the 1993 race, the alternative being the prospect not only of a very limited number of cars, but also a smaller attendance at the race than ever before.
It was a damage-limitation exercise for the ACO, after the disappointment of the poor entry and the complete lack of support from the FISA, plus the desperate weather in 1992 and nobody knew for sure just how badly the reputation of the great event had been damaged. Thus it was announced not long after the 1992 race, that the following year, the Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans would be open not only to the F1-style supercar prototypes, but also to the old Group C cars (again) and, more importantly for the future (as it turned out), to true GT cars. It was immediately announced that Lotus would join the fray at La Sarthe in 1993 with their Lotus Esprit 300 and, to a great fanfare at the Auto Sports International show, TWR announced that they would run factory Jaguar XJ220C's in the great race. So, the "Coventry Cats" would be back again, albeit in GT form! In addition, the GT class would be bolstered by a myriad of Porsche 911's and French Venturi's.
Peter had made it clear both during and after Le Mans 1992 that he definitely wanted to repeat the experience in 1993. The question remained though, how was our trip to be organised? I wanted to go with Ian of course but could I afford to hang around as in 1992, and risk him making another last-minute decision not to go? Peter and I decided to err on the safe side and go ahead and do our own thing. I had decided to make my plans early for 1993 and, to that end, immediately after the 1992 race, I wrote to the ACO itself, with a view to getting my name on the mailing list for information about the 1993 race. In due course the information arrived, giving me the opportunity to purchase tickets direct from the organising club, at a considerable saving in price - or so I thought at the time! Peter and I had been thoroughly impressed with the arrangements made for us by Chequers in 1992, and we were therefore very disappointed to learn soon after the 1992 race, that the company was no more. I was quite surprised therefore, when I received a mail-shot from a new company, apparently created from the ashes of the old, and now called Motor Racing International. The company had presumably taken over the assets of Chequers (including most of that company's staff), and was offering tours broadly similar to those of the former company, for only a very modest increase in price. After some deliberation, Peter and I decided to go with the new company and our places were soon booked for June.
In the meantime, with the help of a French-speaking friend, I was able to contact the ACO and place an order for our enceintes generales and two places in the main ACO (Citroen) grandstand. I had always wanted to be able to watch the race from the famous three-tiered grandstand, which has dominated the start-line and the tribunes for so many years. The tickets were expensive, but, bearing in mind the weather conditions in 1992, I thought they might again prove to be worth the expense!
On the domestic front, the Hounsome household still had the same old love/hate relationship with Le Mans. Yes, I love it, and Jayne hates it! As the years roll by, it becomes more and more difficult for me to justify the trip in sheer economic terms if nothing else, but I always manage not to think of it in that way. It is incredibly selfish I know, but I would always be prepared to scrimp and save for Le Mans (and the same cannot be said for many things!). After Jayne and I married, my visits to motor races dwindled to only two or three events per season. Peter and I would generally hope to get to the finals of the BTCC at Silverstone, the occasional visit to Thruxton, and maybe the RallyCross Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. That’s about it, aside from Le Mans. It looks pretty meagre in comparison to my 35 or 40 meetings a season back between 1985 and 1987!
As 1992 turned into 1993, I started to count down the days to the race, starting around February time - still with four months to go! All of the necessary documentation had been dealt with via Motor Racing International, and the trip had already been substantially paid for. (One of the surprising things about the trips in 1992 and 1993 was that there proved to be very little saving in financial terms over the trips with Ian!). Inevitably in February/March time Ian confirmed that he did intend to go to Le Mans in 1993 after all, and he contacted me a couple of times to try and persuade me to go with him. Unfortunately, by this time, all our arrangements had been made, and I couldn't have cancelled them without incurring significant expense. So, with some misgivings, Peter and I stuck with our original plans, while Ian struggled to make up the numbers for his usual team effort.
I did, however, make arrangements with Ian to meet with him and the team at the circuit. It was agreed that we would try and meet at 2.00 p.m. on the Saturday afternoon, inevitably at the Mercier champagne stall on the outside of the circuit, behind the main grandstands. Failing that, we would try another rendezvous at the same place at 6.00 p.m.