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Le Mans 2010 - Ayse's Story - Page 1

A New Beginning

The 2010 story really begins with the post-script to the 2009 edition.  Having decided immediately after Le Mans 2009 that it was time to do things differently, I began to try and work out exactly how to approach Le Mans 2010.  There had been some suggestions that one or both of my sons might want to go with me and maybe some of their mates, however this raised the prospect of the dreaded 'c'-word (I mean 'camping'....!) and I really didn't want to go there at all.  I had in mind the possibility of driving over myself and taking a room at Le Cheval Blanc for a few nights, simply because I knew it well and it was easy to get to and from the circuit from there, but the reality was that by mid-January, I'd made no plans at all and was becoming concerned about what I was going to do as I read on Ten Tenths about others having their ticket allocations confirmed by the ACO and their arrangements all in hand. 

But all this turned around on 14th January, when out of the blue James (Bentley03 from Ten Tenths) asked me on the forum if I had made any plans.  I said I hadn't and thus began a to-ing and fro-ing of messages between us.  Inside a day I went from having nothing planned at all to having a whole trip sorted, running from Monday to Monday - transport, accommodation, the lot - now that's what I call landing on your feet!  In fact, the trip soon changed to Sunday to Monday when the ACO brought scrutineering forward by a day.  What this meant though was a long, long trip away.  After 24 years of long weekends, suddenly I was faced with eight nights in France, and an additional night away from home as I needed to stay with my sister near Portsmouth on the Saturday night in order to get to the ferry terminal to meet James for the 8.30 am ferry on 6th June!  My wife Jayne was wonderful about it - she didn't really want me away for that long, but she knew just how much this trip meant to me. 

So, to finish the 2010 story introduction, so to speak, I guess this was all a bit of a leap of faith after so long following a particular Le Mans 'formula'.  Although I'd known James on Ten Tenths for a number of years and met him at the Ten Tenths meetings at Le Mans, we hadn't really spent much time in each other's company, save during the two pit visits that James organised for us in '08 and '09.  Bearing in mind that the two of us were likely to be spending a lot of time together over the course of more than a week, I knew how important it was that we got on OK - but somehow I also knew from the very start - even when we were just discussing the plans by email - that this wasn't going to be a problem.  Travelling to Le Mans with a fellow sportscar and Le Mans addict felt like an obvious recipe for success! And when James made it clear that his primary motivation was to see as much of the practice and racing as possible - it was music to my ears!  We would in fact be joined on the Wednesday by a third team member, Tony, who James had met a year or two earlier at Le Mans.  Tony was a friend of James' cousin Julie, who would also be arriving with her husband Andrew at some point later in the week.

OK, so enough of the background.....

So my 2010 story actually starts as I leave my sister's house near Portsmouth on the early morning of Sunday 6th June.  I'd agreed to rendezvous with James at the ferry terminal at 7 am and my brother-in-law Colin kindly got up early and chauffered me there.  James arrived bang on time and after loading my bags into his Toyota, we were soon off and booked into the line for the 8.30 fastcat to Le Havre with LD Lines.  Travelling only two-up was really useful, as it meant that there was no shortage of baggage room in the car's large boot, so I could bring along an extra bag devoted entirely to camera, video, radio and other accessories.  We were soon onto the boat facing a relatively quick trip over to Le Havre.  The boat was far from full and although there was some evidence of Le Mans-bound travellers, clearly the vast hoards of Brits would be leaving Blightly in a few days time.

The Fastcat nears the end of it's journey - arriving at Le Havre

Mr. Bentley03 - aka James - my chauffeur and new Le Mans team leader......!     And, unusually, a photograph of me right at the start of the Le Mans week (I had to get used to saying 'week' instead of 'weekend'!)

Our exit from the ferry was swift following our arrival at about 12.45 French time.  The beauty of it was that we had absolutely no need to rush at all.  We had a leisurely drive during which 'Doris' (James' satnav!) took us 'off piste' for a number of miles through the beautiful French countryside before aiming us back to the autoroute towards Le Mans.  I can't speak for James (as he was driving), but for me it was a blissfully relaxing way to start a Le Mans trip and I kept reminding myself that I normally wouldn't be leaving England for another four days. 

It also goes to show that you don't have to drive at breakneck speed all the time to get to places quickly.  We arrived at our hotel not far from St. Saturnin at about 3.15 but as we weren't able to access our rooms immediately, we decided to hop back into the car and head into Le Mans to see what was happening at scrutineering, brought forward to Sunday/Monday this year instead of Monday/Tuesday (and hence our departure on Sunday instead of Monday as originally planned).  But when we got there at around 4 pm, it seemed that the whole of France (and all of their family and friends) were packed into the square - of course, it didn't help that the Peugeots were on display either!

After walking around the entire scrutineering area - which James explained had been moved from the much larger area previously used - we came to the conclusion that we just weren't going to be able to see anything worthwhile.  A good indication of our lack of success is the fact that I didn't take a single photograph - with crowds at least 7-8 deep around the area in which the cars and drivers were being displayed, there was no chance.  After just 20 minutes, we decided enough was enough and headed back to the car.  After all, we had the whole day here on Monday to enjoy. 

And we were both pretty tired anyway after an early start that morning.  So it was back to the hotel to get into our rooms.  They were very nice, just right for one person with en suite loo and shower and TV.  I have to say that my first thought was that, compared to Le Cheval Blanc, I wasn't really used to this level of luxury!  With so much longer in France, it was nice to be able to make an extremely comfortable camp, put away some of my clothes and just chill out. 

The need for food soon beckoned though and James and I decided to hit the 'Buffalo Grill' for dinner.  In all my years going to France, I've never eaten in a Buffalo Grill - despite having passed hundreds of them on the road - but I put that right in 2010!  The food was perfectly good and the beers we had with it extremely refreshing! 

So, with day 1 out of the way and hoping for some good sleep after an early night, I was really looking forward to the trip into Le Mans tomorrow.