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Le Mans 2009 The Tourists' Story - Page 1

Bring Me Sunshine.......


I suppose the main thought for me in my final preparations for Le Mans 2009 was the hope of somehow appeasing the French weather-Gods following the rain of 2007 and 2008!  We were definitely due some serious sunshine....


As has tended to be the case for some years now, the core of this year's team of 10 Tourists remained the same from 2008, with Ian, Martyn, Alan, Jeff, Nick, Jeremy and myself all returning for more.  Of the remaining three, two had been to Le Mans before, Terry making his fourth visit (1989, 1995 and 2000) while Jim was back for the seventh time, the last being two years ago.  (These figures are only based on the Le Mans I have been to since 1986).  The only Le Mans 'newbie' in 2009 was Jeremy's pal, Phil who would be making the trip to La Sarthe in style in Jeremy's Aston.  For the full 'roll' of Tourists since 1986, click the link below.....



The 2009 Le Mans itinerary started in identical fashion to last year, calling for a rendezvous at Chief Tourist Ian's home in Southampton, followed by a quick walk down the road to the local pub for dinner.  Jeremy and Phil had gone on ahead and would meet us on the ferry in Portsmouth.  After eating (and enjoying the company of former Tourists Chris and Richard), we had a quick walk back to the cars to stow away our bags and head off to Portsmouth for the 11pm ferry to Caen. 


Getting ready for the off - Nick and Jeff load their bags into Ian's car while former Tourist Richard looks on....          Likewise, Martyn sorts out the boots of his car, ready to receive Alan's bag (together with Jim's and mine)          By the time we packed out gear, we had already been for dinner.....


Alan was still driving his venerable MGB - but not to Le Mans!          Alan and Jim in pre-journey discussion


The wait on the quay was relatively short, during which time we admired the exotic cars making the trip, including the fantastic Bentley that won the race in both 1929 and 1930 in the hands of Woolf Barnato.  Rebodied after the 1930 race by Barnato for racing at Brooklands, the car was now US-owned but was being brought to Le Mans for some pre-race display lappery by a very lucky Bentley employee!


From Southampton to Portsmouth and Alan and Jim are still having that conversation......          Now Ian and Alan pass the time waiting to board.....          This pretty little TR attracted a lot of attention.....          As, unsurprisingly, did this.....


But the star of the Brittany Ferries queues this year was definitely this superb Bentley...          Alan, Martyn, Ian and Jim listen to the history of the car from the driver          A Bentley employee, charged with driving this gorgeous machine to Le Mans


All was not well with the TR - and it hadn't left England yet!


After a brief stop to give the bored customs man another tick on his five-bar gate we made a very speedy entry onto the ferry - no more queues for us! - so that we had not only located our cabin but had beers in our hands within 20 minutes or so of getting on board....  Although the Normandie was typically late in setting off we knew that any lost time would easily be made up during the night crossing.  By half past midnight it was time for the cabin 6301 crew to head off for some shut-eye before being woken by the dreaded Brittany Ferries opera at 6.30 (French time)....


Time for the off on the Normandie as Nick, Alan and Martyn enjoy a beer...          Ian, Jeremy and new Tourist recruit Phil watch as the Portsmouth scenery goes past as the journey to France begins.


With a weather forecast that suggested no rain now at all until late on Sunday, it was good to wake up to the confirmation of blue skies after a reasonable sleep during which Martyn, Jim and Alan greatly enjoyed my snoring....  The exit from the ferry was pretty quick and we were soon on the road in search of breakfast.  There being no other plan, we decided to repeat our 2008 visit to the Pegasus Bridge at Benouville to enjoy croissants and coffee courtesy of the very convivial Madame Gondrée at her now legendary café. 


We've arrived at Mme Gondree's splendid establishment....          ....looking forward to some refreshing early morning coffee....          ....outside the cafe next to the famous (but replacement) bridge.....          ....while awaiting the wonderful croissants and pain au raisin....          ....for the second year running.


The various plaques were supplemented at the 65th anniversary celebrations only a few days ago....          Terry          Jeff, Terry, Jeremy, Nick, Phil, Martyn + 'interloper'......!          A pensive (or is that just sleepy?) Nick....          Jim studies the plaques....


Jeremy and Phil discuss the weekend ahead.  Phil was new to Le Mans, but not new to racing.....     The view across the canal to the cafe....     The Caen Canal Bridge, aka the 'Pegasus Bridge'.....     And the Caen Canal itself, the building of which began in 1838.  It opened in 1857.     The Caen canal bridge was renamed in honour of the cap badge of the 6th Airborne Division....


Ian and Alan read the explanations they almost certainly read last year as well.....!          Ian looks at the recently-laid wreaths.


We left Benouville at around 8.15 and were quickly on route to the 77th running of the World's Greatest Motor Race - as Radio Le Mans commentator John Hindhaugh said last year - 'You can disagree - but you'd be wrong'......  My sentiments exactly!











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