Le Mans 1993 - Ayse's Story
Page 5 - Saturday 19th June - The Race is On and The Tourists are Here!
We watched the start of the race from our seats in the grandstand and continued to watch for the best part of a couple of hours until the next potential rendezvous time with Ian approached. The lure of another glass or two of champagne was all too much for Peter and I and we headed back to the Mercier stall as fast as our legs would carry us! Lo and behold, they had beaten us to it! Ian had assembled a small team for 1993, consisting only of himself, his wife Carole, and Martyn Prowel. The introductions over, Peter and I settled down to enjoy not only several more glasses of bubbly, but the additional welcome company. In fact we would stick with them for the rest of the evening as Ian had very kindly arranged for Peter and I to join his party for the (by now almost standard) meal at Le Belinois that evening, which was something that we were both very much looking forward to. The five of us stayed together and (despite my having developed a very bad headache, verging on a migraine - too much champagne perhaps?), we wandered around the outside of the circuit to watch first from the Dunlop Chicane, and then on down at the Esses.
We then left the circuit, and headed off to a spot that was familiar to me, but not so to Peter. We went back to the rouge car park, where Ian always parked his car. This year, Ian had a BMW (as always), but this time a 325i convertible, and it was rather a tight squeeze to get Martin, Peter and myself into the back seat, although the problem was made a little easier by the fact that the roof was down, essential in the by now blazing sunshine. Ian then treated us to a trip to the Mulsanne restaurants where, in time-honoured fashion, we watched the cars over the fences, while perched on chairs, lumps of concrete and anything else which came to hand (or foot!). This has always been one of my favourite spots at Le Mans, a feeling which I seem to share with the many Brits who also make a beeline for the car parks at Hunaudieres. It was noticeable however, that the number of cars parked there was clearly down on previous years. We watched from here for a while (and sadly I didn't take very many photographs), until it was time to make our way to the restaurant for our evening meal.
You may recall that we (or rather, Alan Matheson) happened upon Le Belinois in 1990, and we had a marvellous meal there that year. We also ate there in 1991, when the food was good, but the service was quite poor. Peter and I of course missed out on the experience in 1992, but I was really pleased to be back there again in 1993. My only problem at this stage was the persistence of that damned headache, which just wouldn't go away! As before, the meal was superb and the company even better, and thankfully I soon forgot about my headache. For the first time, we ate in the restaurant on the ground floor - perhaps Carole's presence somehow elevated our status in the eyes of the proprietors?! (I don't know for sure, but in 1990 and 1991, we definitely seemed to be "hidden" upstairs, on the first floor!). As I have said in previous years, one of the major advantages of eating at Le Belinois is that we can make use of the "facilities". Yes, not only could we have a brisk wash-down, to rid ourselves of some of that clinging orange sand, but we could attend to other things as well - you know what I mean! Having sat in a coach from 9.00 p.m. on the Friday night, and then onto a ferry and straight to the circuit in the coach, you can perhaps appreciate how welcome the facilities were! After a thoroughly excellent evening, well enjoyed by all, we finally left Le Belinois at about midnight, and Ian kindly ferried Peter and I back to the circuit. I think that Ian, Carole and Martyn were staying at a hotel not too far distant from the circuit (I think it may have been at Le Grand-Lucé), and they then headed off there for some rest. (This was the first time to my memory, that Ian had not stayed at the circuit throughout the race - oh well, age does creep on, doesn't it - sorry Ian!).