Le Mans 1996 - Ayse's Story
Page 6 - Saturday 15th June - Football? What Football?
By this time, about 2.30 pm, we were moving rapidly towards the start of the race, and the atmosphere was changing, minute by minute. As is always the case there was an air of expectation and excitement, as the 1996 Le Mans 24 Hours prepared for the off. This was expected to be a good race, in fact there were many who believed that this was likely to be the best race for years. I was among that group, and I was expecting the best race I had seen, certainly since 1990.
The Philips airship hovered overhead, no doubt taking some hugely impressive video footage (a very small amount of which would ultimately appear in the video of the race), and the starting drivers began to accumulate by their cars on the grid. We were able to spot (amongst others), Andretti, Lees, Gounon, Lammers, Warwick and Sullivan, and it wasn't long before the grid began to clear and we were ready for the start of the pace lap.
The pace lap was watched on a giant TV screen just up towards the Dunlop Curve, and with the ACO’s customary timing and precision, the 1996 Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans was underway at 3.00 pm on Saturday, 15th June, 1996! It was clear from the very start of the race that it would be dominated by the Porsche GT1s and the Joest WSC cars. The Ferraris and McLarens simply couldn't keep up the pace in the searing heat and the Riley & Scott turned out to be a damp squib after its victories at Daytona and Sebring.
By about 6 pm at Le Mans 1995, we'd had enough of standing in the rain, and headed off for shelter and a beer. Well, the game plan was similar in 1996, however the departure from the tribunes was much earlier than usual, and took place in bright sunshine! The other five members of the team were keen to make their way over to the Village to find the giant TV screen on which live coverage of the England v. Scotland Euro '96 game was to be shown. Before we headed off under the circuit to the village, we did find time for the obligatory beer though!
While the others found their way to the TV screen, I decided to wander off to the inside of the Dunlop Chicane to take some more photographs. I didn't wait a whole year to come to Le Mans to watch football! In fact this was a good move as it was possible to get very close to the fencing at this location, with the result that I was able to take pictures of the cars with no obvious trace of the fencing to spoil them - these were some of my best photographs at Le Mans this year.
In fact, I kicked myself afterwards. For years now, I have wanted to pay a visit to the Le Mans museum, which is situated only 10 minutes walk from the Dunlop Curve, however I've never managed to persuade the others to make the visit as well. This would have been a perfect opportunity for me to take an hour out on my own (bearing in mind that the museum is shut during the night, so I couldn't go then), to make my visit, but, unfortunately, I forgot!
It was while the others were watching the football that I indulged in one of my favourite Le Mans treats - a merguez! I purchased a merguez baguette from one of the stalls. Having not had one in 1995, I rather wondered why! It was delicious!