Le Mans 1999 - Ayse's Story
Page 10 - Sunday 13th June
Dawn at Dunlop
After remaining a while, listening for any news of Boutsen, we went under the circuit through the Tertre Rouge underpass to watch the race which was now proceeding behind the pace cars. We stayed here for a long time, until about 4.30 am which in retrospect, was a mistake. it was a pleasure to have Peter’s company throughout the night, but I was keenly aware that it would be impossible to move around the circuit to watch from a variety of vantage-points, as had been my habit in previous years, as Peter didn't really want to do too much walking around as he was suffering a problem with his knee which made it difficult for him to walk any more than necessary. I had really wanted to make my way back to the start/finish straight, both to take some shots as usual from the tribunes (bearing in mind that I hadn’t been on the tribunes at all yet this year), and of course, to take some pictures from the top of the “Welcome” building. This was impossible, dawn was fast approaching and I knew there was no chance of making a dash back with Peter considerably less mobile than he would have wanted to be.
We therefore made our way back very slowly and eventually crossed over the Dunlop Bridge to walk back through the Village. At about 5.00 am we decided to take breakfast, and it doesn’t take too much guessing what we chose from the menu. We had a couple of Grand Marnier crepes each as we sat and watched the race on the video screen. For Peter, two of these wonderfully invigorating crepes was not enough, and he paid a second visit for two more! Suitably creped, we move on the short distance to have a gander at the Audi, Mercedes and BMW stalls. We had earlier decided that it would be rather nice to buy Ian something as a thank you for organising our trips to Le Mans over the past few years, and also recognising in a small way, his anniversary. Eventually Peter decided it should be a key-ring from the BMW stall and we bought another one at the same time for Martyn.
could see only too well that Peter was really struggling now. His knee was still playing him up and this
had reduced him to a snail’s pace. Conversely, I was feeling surprisingly good for 6.00 o'clock on a Sunday
morning at Le Mans. Having walked so
little during the night, I was having no problems with my feet and the rest of
me was in pretty good fettle as well! I
had now given up on any thoughts of dashing off to other areas of the circuit
to take photographs. I really wanted to
pay another visit to the “Welcome”
building, but Peter had no ticket and there was no way he could buy one at this
time of the morning. (Just think, while
we were wasting all that time at the champagne stall yesterday, Peter could
have bought a “Welcome Area” ticket. That would have meant that now he could have
gone in to have a sit down and a cup of coffee, while I went up onto the
building roof - very short-sighted!).
We walked on very slowly round to the Dunlop Chicane, to take some pictures from the inside of the circuit. By this time, BMW had a stranglehold on the race, with their No. 17 car leading and the No. 15 car in second place, although the Japanese-driven Toyota was now being pushed harder and harder by its drivers, in an attempt to bridge the gap to the BMWs. It was also getting pretty warm again and the sun was shining quite strongly, even for 7.00 am. After taking a series of photographs from the area of the Dunlop Bridge, Peter and I made our way down to a refreshment stall just opposite the Bridge. I had earlier promised Peter a cup of coffee and I was in need of some kind of liquid refreshment! I purchased a couple of cups of grand café au lait and we settled down to watch the world go by for a few minutes.
drinking my coffee, I suddenly realised I was beginning to doze off, something I most certainly didn’t want to do, so I left Peter sitting at the table while I set
off on my annual search for t-shirts for the family. I walked down to the end of the tribunes, and
then back behind the grandstands. I
found a stall selling t-shirts very like those I had bought for the last two
years, and I picked up one of these for each member of the family. I then carried on my walk right to the end of
the grandstands, before heading back again.
I just wish now that I had made the journey back along the front of the
my way back I purchased the 6.00 am edition of Le Maine Libre, which included some spectacular shots of the
Dumbreck car flying off the circuit and brought news of the retirements so
far. In fact, the list was already out
of date, as it didn’t include the Boutsen Toyota. Other notable retirements were the Brundle
Toyota, which had succumbed to accident damage caused by a puncture, one of the
two Audi R8C’s, the remaining Nissan R391, the DAMS Lola, the singleton Ferrari
333SP and both of the Philippe Gache Riley & Scotts. The paper reported an attendance figure of
170,000, although this didn’t include those spectators who would be
arriving for the first time that day.
I made my way back to where Peter was still sitting at the table. I'd been slightly worried as I had left my camera bag and tripod with him, and I thought that he might have dropped off to sleep, leaving my camera gear unprotected, but he was wide awake. It was by now just after 8.00 and we were due to meet up with Ian outside the main entrance in twenty minutes. We decided to spend a few more minutes watching from the banking just the Esses side of the Dunlop Bridge, where I reeled off a number of shots of the surviving cars as they came under the bridge.