Le Mans 2005
The Tourists' Story
The Race - Part 1
Perhaps unsurprisingly, bearing in mind the circumstances of our late arrival at the circuit, the 4 pm start for the 2005 Le Mans 24 Hours seemed to be upon us much more quickly than usual this year and, as expected, once the flag was dropped, the two Pescarolos raced out in front, carving out quite a gap to the chasing Audis. As usual, I've no intention of detailing the progress of the race here - that's been well documented since the race took place - so I'll concentrate on my photographs instead.
As always, those who were lucky enough to be at Le Mans in 2005 will recall how incredibly hot it was at the start of the race. I know that my temperature had been inflated by the rush to get there on time, but in all my 19 previous visits, I couldn't remember a time when I felt quite so hot - so much so that after an hour or so of the race, I had to go off in search of plain ordinary water....
Like many, I'm always rather sad to see changes to the circuit and the surrounding buildings. Circuit changes aside (which I rarely agree with), alterations to the environment of Le Mans are sometimes good, some times less so. In 1990 I was lucky enough to be able to get up onto the pit balconies for the first time, which was particularly fortuitous as they were demolished after that race, to be replaced with the massive new pits and pits grandstand complex for 1991 - I can't believe that's now over 14 years ago! I remember standing opposite on the tribunes, wondering why anyone bought a ticket for such a steeply-raked grandstand and I guess it always annoyed me that it seemed to be filled with pretty people who didn't take up their seats until half an hour before the race and left them about an hour after the race started. Well, thanks to Fab, I first sat in the pits grandstand in 2003 and returned again in 2004. The view is tremendous, with no debris fencing to get in the way. I suspect I may not be up there again in 2006, and I shall miss it.
One of the advantages of the pits grandstand to the photographer, apart from having that unimpeded view, is that once the race is properly under way, people do tend to disappear from their seats. In 2005 this was especially so because as the sun dropped lower and lower in the sky, the direct sunshine started to rise up the stand, row by row and began to incinerate everyone sitting there! So it was that Fab and I were able to disappear down to the front row to take more photographs. Couldn't stay there for long, mind you - it was so incredibly hot. If ever there was a year when my advice about making sure you wear a hat was vital, it was 2005!
And so it was that my first stint in the grandstand came to an end. Roasted to a frazzle and in near of sustenance, Fab and I parted company and I headed off up through the Village for the rendezvous with the other five Tourists at the champagne bar.