Le Mans 1995 - Ayse's Story
Page 4 - Saturday 17th June - Off to Le Grand-Lucé Again and to the Circuit
Although I was one of the first to rise the next morning I did manage a very good night's sleep, waking at about 7.30 am, quite a bit later than I would normally expect to wake on a Saturday morning on the Le Mans weekend. I left Peter to get up, while I took a walk around the grounds and carried on for a few hundred metres up the road. As has become something of a habit over the years, I took a photograph of the sign for the hotel, just to make sure that I didn't forget the name of it later! The various Tourists soon assembled for a good continental breakfast. Inevitably, one of the main talking points at breakfast was the likely weather for the race. The sky which greeted us on the Saturday morning was very grey and overcast, as complete a contrast as you could possibly imagine to the weather of the previous evening. The weather is always a concern for the Le Mans weekend however we had been pretty lucky in this respect in the past. We had a little rain in 1987 at the start of the race and a spot or two here and there in other years, however the only year in which the race was seriously marred by rain was in 1992, when Peter and I travelled alone to La Sarthe.
Our initial destination on Saturday morning was as last year, the Hotel Restaurant Le Cheval Blanc at Le Grand-Lucé, only twenty minutes or so south of the Circuit des Vingt Quatre Heures. Bearing in mind that in picking a hotel in Mayenne, we had travelled much closer to the circuit than usual on the Friday night, it had been my hope that we would be off to a good early start on the Saturday morning. I had hoped at one point that we might even get to the circuit in time to see part of the morning warm-up. No chance! After breakfast had been taken at a very leisurely pace it seemed an age before we were all loaded up and ready to set off. I'm not sure what time we reached Le Grand-Lucé but it was a lot later than I'd hoped. As in 1994 the whole team except myself was intending to stay at the hotel on the Saturday night, returning after the evening meal. While the others found their rooms and stowed their gear, I set off up the road to the shops (as I had done in 1994). I found a shop which selling the official race programme and for the first time in ten years, I bought my programme otherwise than in the garage rouge at the circuit. When I returned to the hotel, the others were already in the bar admiring Alan's new binoculars, which we heard so much about on the journey over. This was their first public appearance, and everyone seemed keen to give them a try, particularly Peter! But time was pressing on and I was beginning to get quite anxious to get on the road to the circuit. To my relief we finally did so and it wasn't long before we were approaching from the South by the same route as we had travelled last year.
I don't know whether Ian suffered from some kind of mental block at this stage but uncharacteristically, we ended up taking a couple of wrong turns as we neared the circuit, which cost us about half an hour in additional travelling time. So, from at one stage thinking that we would get to the circuit really early to see all the preliminaries, we ended up not arriving until about 2.30 p.m. We parked up in the usual place in the garage rouge and set about gearing ourselves up for the next few hours. It wasn't actually raining yet, however the sky (and the forecast), made it patently obvious that we would be very lucky indeed to last this particular week-end without a considerable amount of rain. Disappointing! This is always creates a dilemma on a Le Mans trip. You really don't want to have to lug around heavy coats and wellington boots everywhere and, as a result, I normally travel fairly light, with just a light jacket or coat and trainers. This year was no different. In fact, the decision to wear the coat was a last-minute one, I nearly left the garage rouge in just a body-warmer. To my surprise, Ian went in just shirt-sleeves with no jacket at all, a decision which he would later regret!
We finally made it into the circuit, and I took those first intoxicating lung-fulls of atmosphere which never fail to get to me, stirring up the adrenalin and great expectations for the next twenty-six or so hours. In fact, after the relative (personal) disappointment of 1994, with the "imposter" Dauer Porsches dominating the race, this year looked like it could be a classic. Would the WSC cars rule the roost, or would the converted Courages take the spoils? On the other hand, how would the magnificent McLaren F1 GTR’s perform in their first 24 hour race? I was really looking forward to seeing them! As always, we made our way along the tribunes and into the now densely-packed crowds. How I wished that we could have got there an hour or so earlier! As you already know I hate barging my way through to try and find a good vantage point. In fact, I left Ian, Alan and a couple of the others to do so, and found myself a reasonable spot about a dozen rows back. Unfortunately, it wasn't so good for photography from there. I did manage to get a few shots of the celebrities, but we were much too far up the track to be able to take pictures of the cars which would start near the front of the grid. Disappointingly, we had also managed to miss a good part of the drivers' parade as well. A shame, as this is one of my favourite parts of the lead-up to the Le Mans 24 Hours.