Le Mans 1994 - Ayse's Story
Page 1 - The Prologue
Here is another update to my older stories of Le Mans, again with my original text and photos. The story is quite a bit longer this time. From reading it for the first time in more than 20 years I must have written it straight after the 1994 trip as there is detail in it that I would never have been able to remember months or even weeks later!
Following the events of 1993 I was looking forward immensely to Le Mans ‘94. I knew that Ian would once again organise a full team effort in 1994 and that team would include both myself and Peter. I was fortunate that during the latter part of 1993 I was asked to become involved in quite a bit of training for magistrates which although hard work, not only gave me a much higher profile in management and legal circles in the county, but attracted a far more valuable consideration - fees! I was able to save and put away some of those fees to pay for the 1994 trip. (Having moved house in March, 1994, with all of the attendant expense, there would have been no way that I could have afforded the trip without this additional and very welcome income!). Preparations were well in hand then, and we knew that it was likely to be quite a large team for 1994. This year though, Jayne wasn't keen at all on me going to Le Mans again and I had no choice but to admit the selfishness of what had become my obsession with Le Mans. I couldn't really justify it in financial terms, despite the fact that I had worked very hard to earn the extra cash. Whilst we agreed that following the 1994 trip I might need to take something of a sabbatical, our contretemps, coming so close as it did to the event itself, left me feeling a bit depressed. If the arrangements were not already made, and if Peter and Fred were not depending on me in a number of ways, I think that I would have felt that I had little alternative but to withdraw from the 1994 team. So bearing in mind that the week-end started under a definite cloud and I was consequently not in the best of moods, it is perhaps surprising to note that the Le Mans trip of 1994 was destined to become by far the best trip of the nine I had made to La Sarthe by that time. Quite honestly, with the possibility of missing the race in 1995, I was determined to make the most of this year. Notwithstanding this, the thought of Jayne and the boys back at home was never far from my mind - although I know that Jayne never believes me when I say it!
After the ACO's initial experiment with the GT class in 1993, five classes were created for the 1994 race. Whilst the older turbocharged Group C cars remained eligible (together with the dreadful "spyder" affairs, which had performed so dismally for the last two years), there would be two classes for GT cars, so these cars would now make up the majority of the entry for the race. The teams and manufacturers had sat up and taken notice and it seemed that after a tentative foot in the water in 1993, they were queuing up to dive into the deep end in 1994. We had GT entries from Nissan, Porsche, Ferrari, Dodge, Alpine, Honda, Mazda, Venturi, De Tomaso, Bugatti, Corvette and Lotus. (2020 edit - if only it was like this now!). Great names, some of which were returning to La Sarthe after an absence of many years. There were two disappointments however. There would be no Jaguars this year, TWR having decided not to take part at Le Mans, despite the relative success of the cars in 1993. (Perhaps Tom Walkinshaw was peeved by the ACO's decision to disqualify the class-winning Jaguar last year?). The second disappointment would not be so keenly felt until the week-end was well under way. The works Porsche team exploited a loop-hole in the entry regulations to field two Porsche 962's as GT cars. Vern Schuppan and Jochen Dauer had created road-going versions of the Porsche 962 and the Dauer versions were then turned into alleged GT cars. There were, sadly no homologation rules to prevent this. Of course, they were little different to the turbo prototypes which had run in Group C for so long, albeit that they had to use smaller wheels and tyres. They exploited the regulations to the full and it was obvious that the other GT class entrants would not get near them in the race. Unsurprsingly those other GT entrants cried "foul", but by this time it was apparently too late for the ACO to do anything about it. One very welcome entry came from the Kremer brothers who entered a Porsche 962 K8 spyder for Derek Bell (with Jurgen Lässig and Robin Donovan). Derek was insistent that this would be his last Le Mans (his twenty-fourth), and there were few people who would have begrudged him a record-equalling sixth Le Mans victory (certainly not me). All in all though, despite the Jaguar and Porsche disappointments, the massive entry (many aspiring entrants had to be turned away), held great promise for the best race since 1990. It was a shame that we would no longer witness the astonishing sight and sound of the Peugeot and (particularly) Toyota 3.5 litre atmo cars, which had only been raced for two years or so, and were put out to grass well before their time, but it was clear to most people that the future of Le Mans (and probably sports car racing in general) seemed to rest, for the moment at least, with GT cars. With all this to look forward to then, the preparations were made and the packing was done several days in advance. Due to my savings, I had been able to place my order for French francs well in advance of the race week-end.
If Ian's team for 1993 had been on the small side, then the team for 1994 would be one of the largest assembled since I started going to Le Mans with him in 1986. A quick run down then of the team members:- The backbone of the team between 1986 and 1991 was together again, i.e. Ian, Martin, Alan and myself. It was particularly good to see Alan back in the fold. He had suffered a nasty accident whilst diving on holiday in (I think), 1992. Fortunately he had become better able to control the resulting issues and had decided that the time was right to chase after the Hawaiian Tropic girls once again! Richard was also back with us, renewing his team membership of 1988 and 1991. Jim, another local solicitor, had been to Le Mans on a number of occasions in the past. In fact, I recall that we had met up with him and his pals previously at the circuit (in 1986 or 1987, I think). Jim would enliven the proceedings considerably after a few glasses of wine on both the Friday and Saturday evenings! I had met Chris (the senior partner in the same firm as Jim), about four years earlier, when I travelled with him to Donington Park on a Saab hospitality day (set up very kindly for me by Ian). I had been able to drive Saabs of various descriptions around the circuit and had a tremendous time. I hadn't seen Chris since that day. Nick was making his debut at Le Mans, and was an acquaintance of Ian, Alan and Chris. And last but by no means least came Peter and Fred. Peter of course had been to Le Mans with me in both 1992 and 1993, and was becoming a regular. I knew that if he had enjoyed the experience in those two years, he was bound to love the full Tourists version! Fred and Peter were old friends and Fred had expressed an interest in attending the race some months before. Originally, it had been thought that his son would come with us as well, but this plan didn't pan out. Like Nick, this was to be Fred's debut at Le Mans, and whilst he might have found the rough and ready approach of 1992 and 1993 a little difficult, I knew that he, like Peter, would thoroughly enjoy the experience and the company of the rest of the team members.