Le Mans 1999 - Ayse's Story
Page 11 - Sunday 13th June
Arnage and Indianapolis
Just before 8.30 we headed out of the circuit and saw Ian’s car parked in the perfect spot, literally right in front of us. There was no sign of him, so we assumed he had gone into the circuit to catch up with the action. Ten minutes passed and we were getting a little concerned (I began to worry that we had been due to meet Ian at 8.00 am and not 8.30), and Peter decided to walk back into the circuit to see if he could see him. He returned a few minutes later without success, but shortly afterwards, both Ian and Robert appeared, the 8.30 am time having been correct after all. We were soon into the car, the first chance Peter and I had had during the week-end to sample the delights of Ian’s M3, but not before Peter had presented Ian with his BMW key-ring. He seemed rather pleased that we should have thought of him in this way. We were soon heading back to Le Grand Lucé and predictably, I was struggling to stay awake, although Peter didn’t seemed to be suffering in the same way. We got back to the hotel at about 9.25 and I disappeared up to the room which Ian and Robert had shared, to have a quick wash before joining the others downstairs for breakfast - wonderful croissants and bread, and that delicious quince jelly that I have spoken of several times before in these pages.
By 10.15 the bill at Le Cheval Blanc had been settled and it was outside into the car park for some more team photographs. A few minutes later, we bade farewell to Le Grand Lucé for another year and set off back to the circuit again. Our destination this time was Arnage and Indianapolis, one of my favourite parts of the circuit (from which we had watched the conclusion of the race in 1997). On arriving at the Arnage car park at 11.00 am it was clear that like the day before, there was a massive crowd assembling for the last five hours of the race. The main car park was almost completely full and although Ian made it in, there was nowhere for Martyn and Jim to park, so two of the cars had to go to an overspill car park about a quarter of a mile further away. We finally got back into the circuit at about 11.15 a.m.
I spent about ten minutes taking photographs of the cars as they headed around Arnage corner before we all walked back towards Indianapolis. It was while we were assembling there that we heard the shock news that the leader, the seemingly bullet-proof BMW of Lehto, Kristensen and Muller, had crashed, apparently due to a suspension breakage. The car, which I had photographed literally moments before at Arnage, was out of the race, leaving the sister car of Winkelhock, Dalmas and Martini in the lead, chased by the all-Japanese Toyota. At the time the BMW retired it had been two laps ahead of its sister car and three ahead of the Toyota, so with four hours to go at the time it had looked as though the clock was running down to a reasonably comfortable BMW victory. All of that had now suddenly changed, with only a lap between the remaining BMW and Toyota. The three Japanese Toyota drivers were given the “Hurry Up” signal and Katayama, Suzuki and Tsuchiya all of a sudden were trading fastest laps (making me wonder why they weren't capable of doing that before), and we had a race on our hands again!
The time to eat was now fast approaching and we decided to get something at the eaterie at Indianapolis. It was omelettes and frites all round (although Robert had not been put off by his experience earlier in the week-end and indulged in another merguez), and very good they were too. Bearing in mind the intention to depart the circuit and race back to Le Havre immediately after the race, Ian was keen to do l’addition for the week-end now, rather than on the boat. This was something of a problem for me as I had foolishly agreed right at the top of the week-end that I would undertake this task. However, here I was at 12.30 on Sunday afternoon, not having slept since Friday night and in no fit state to work out what I was going to do next, let alone the week-end’s finances! Fortunately, Ian and Jim got on and did the deed, on a couple of spare serviettes, and within twenty minutes or so, everything was worked out and most of the debts had been paid up.