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Le Mans 1999 Ayse's Story

Page 6 - Saturday 12th June

Off to Le Grand Lucé



Mark, Clive and I had rolled into our beds back at the hotel at about 2.00 am, and despite the temporary nature of the bed I was sleeping in, I had a very good sleep.  I woke at about 7.00 am, but thought better of getting up at that time.  I woke again at 7.30 and decided that was enough sleep for me...  I was keen to get down into the town, not only to pick up a copy of Auto-Hebdo, the French equivalent of Autosport, but also to try and buy myself a new bum-bag, as the catch on the one that I had used for the past three or four years had fallen apart, just as I was getting into Martyn’s car at Ian’s house on Thursday evening.  Having quickly dressed and walked down the road to the Maison de la Presse, I found everything still shut, so, after a refreshing ten-minute walk (the sun was shining already), I headed back to the hotel.  Mark and Clive were just beginning to stir, so while I had the chance I made good use of the bathroom and just after 8.00 I decided to venture out again.  I bumped into Martyn, who was also of the same idea, as he needed to find a bank to obtain some francs, so we set off together.  We soon bumped into Ian, Robert and Peter, and a short while later we were joined by Mark and Clive. 


After some initial difficulty, Martin managed to change some of his travellers cheques, and I got my copy of AutoHebdo.  After getting our exercise for half an hour or so, we made our way back to the hotel for breakfast.  All had surfaced by now, however, Steve was missing.  He had taken his breakfast alone and gone out for a walk.  I wasn’t yet sure what to make of Steve.  He seemed to prefer his own company to that of the other Tourists.  But then again he had only met most of us for the first time the evening before, so I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt before passing further judgement.


After breakfast, I returned to my room and finished re-packing my bag before returning to the car park to deposit it in Martyn’s car.  Soon most of the Tourists were gathered outside, and I think it was in Ian’s mind to press on straight away to Le Grand Lucé, however Jeff and Richard had already gone off for a walk into the centre of Vendôme.  This being the case, it was decided that another short walk was in order before pressing on.  Although I was as keen as Ian to get on, I still needed to sort out that bumbag.  As it happened, Martyn and I spotted a leather-goods shop almost immediately (while Ian and the others set off to find a chemist for something for Robert’s hay-fever) and I managed to pick up a very nice Samsonite bumbag and Martyn made a purchase as well, enabling him to dispense with the gaudy orange article he had been forced to wear until then.  We limited our walk to just ten minutes or so before heading back to the cars.  On our return, it was a chance to pose for some team photographs, to include our waiter from the evening before! 


Soon we were all loaded up and ready to leave.  We waved our farewells to Vendôme at about 10.00 am to make the relatively short journey to Le Grand Lucé, arriving at the Hotel Restaurant Le Cheval Blanc in brilliant sunshine at 10.45.  The plan here, as I explained earlier, was for eight of the twelve Tourists to stay overnight that evening as there were insufficient rooms for all of us.  All bar Ian, Robert, Peter and myself sorted out rooms, before adjourning to the bar for a beer.


On the 1996 and 1997 trips, we had talked about the possibility of taking our evening meal here instead of at Le Belinois (for reasons which I have previously explained at length!).  The menu for the evening meal looked pretty good, and Ian soon discovered the owner was more than happy to cater for the twelve of us that evening.  It would be a pretty good earner for him, I should think...  


Our thoughts now having turned to food (again!) it was decided it would be a good idea to get a meal here in Le Grand Lucé, rather than to wait until we arrived at the circuit.  Frankly, I wasn’t that fussed, as it was my intention to get stuck into some merguez at the first available opportunity.  I would have preferred to have set off for the circuit straight away, however I learned long ago when you are a Tourist you have to go with the flow!  We therefore made our separate ways up to the main square, with various items being bought for lunch on the way from the nearby patisseries and charcuterie.  I managed to buy a copy of the special Le Maine supplement, from which we discovered that one of the two Nissan R391s (the No. 23 car which had been crashed by Eric van de Pole in practice) would not make the race, nor would the MacQuillan Porsche, which had failed to qualify by a considerable margin.


There was clearly some rivalry among the local shopkeepers, as the owners of both the bar and the charcuterie warned us in no uncertain terms that we should buy any cakes and pastries we wanted from another patisserie, located just out of the square.  I must admit that when those who decided to check out this establishment returned, their purchases certainly looked very good!  I have a superb photograph of Peter about to demolish a thoroughly devilish-looking strawberry tart.  Still, I wasn't about to be persuaded to eat now, I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for later on...


The clock soon ticked on to 12.00 noon and I was getting a little anxious to get off to the circuit, bearing in mind that we were expecting a very big crowd for this year’s race, and knowing that Ian would not be happy unless he found himself a place in the packed tribunes for the start of the race.  We finally left Le Cheval Blanc at 12.30 p.m. for the half hour drive to Le Mans and, very soon we were driving along those familiar roads on route to the circuit.















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