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Le Mans 2022

Le Mans 2021

Le Mans 1996 Ayse's Story

Page 5

Saturday 14th June - Pre-Race



We finally got into the circuit at about 1.20 pm, and I was keen to get onto the tribunes to watch the driver parade which would be starting very shortly.  We were delayed however, as Peter could not find his bum-bag containing all of his French francs!  He dashed back to Martyn’s car, no doubt praying that he had left it in the car or the boot, while we were all getting ready to go into the circuit.  The minutes passed and we all waited for Peter, some purchasing copies of Le Maine Libre with the various free posters, which the vendors are always trying desperately to sell before the race.  Peter finally appeared smiling, from which we realised that he had found the missing bum-bag.  He'd left it on the back seat of Martyn’s car, while he was getting ready.  That was good news!


Although it was dry, the outside of the circuit bore clear evidence of the heavy rain on Friday.  Parts of the spectator areas on entry to the circuit were like a quagmire, and once again we had cause to thank our lucky stars that it wasn’t still raining, and to continue keeping our fingers crossed that the weather remained dry for the race.


We were soon onto the tribunes, Ian leading us all through the already large number of spectators gathered for the start of this, the greatest of motor races.  As you know, I hate having to plough a furrow through the spectators on the tribunes, with a large camera bag to carry, however, this year the task didn’t seem so bad and we were able to get ourselves into quite a good vantage-point.  Unfortunately, having been delayed by Peter’s bum-bag problem we had missed a substantial part of the drivers’ parade, probably the best part of half of it, and I settled down to take as many shots as I could of those drivers still to be paraded before the fans on the tribunes.


Amongst others, I got a good look at the Andrettis (with Grouillard) in one of the Courages, Martin Brundle with his co-drivers in the Nissan, and the drivers of the two works Porsche GT1s.  Of course, you never know how good these pictures are going to be until you get them back after they've been developed.  I was pretty optimistic about them, nevertheless.  Of course the dreaded debris fencing along the main straight, first seen last year, was there again, making the process of taking photographs of the cars and drivers far more difficult than in years past (although I think I did a little better than last year....).  


The 24 Heures du Mans trophy was proudly displayed with last year’s winning team owner, Rheinhold Joest, accompanying it along the pit straight.  After this, we were treated to the sight of the parachutists, who all landed with pin-point precision on the main straight (with no damage to the cars or drivers waiting beneath them!).  Of course, Le Mans would not be complete without the Hawaiian Tropic girls, whose appearance was heralded by the arrival of a huge phalanx of photographers, so many that it was actually quite difficult to get a glimpse of the girls!  The “HT” girls certainly please the crowd at Le Mans, including Alan....


The race certainly looked a cracker.  A battle between the Joest TWR prototype, which had already proved itself by winning last year, the two works Porsche GT1s, the splendid new Nissan R390s, which had gone so well at the pre-qualifying days in May, and the now long-tail McLarens of the Gulf and works BMW teams.  Few people appeared to be betting against a Porsche victory.  The supporting cast was as good as ever, from the weird looking and glorious-sounding (if slow) Panoz cars, the Lister Storms and the customer Porsches and McLarens in GT1, to the Courages and Ferrari 333SPs in the prototype class, and the Chrysler Vipers and a myriad of Porsche 911s in the GT2 class.  It was a quality field, and we could only hope for a fast, close and (please) a dry race!















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