Le Mans 2014 - Ayse's Story
Page 4 - Tuesday
Seeing the Paddock Sites - Smoking a Dog and Listen at Nissan
As (any) regular readers will know, I've been making a longer trip to Le Mans since 2010 and I'm honest enough to admit that it has become quite a challenge for me to remember with any degree of clarity what we did on any given day and certainly at any particular time, which makes writing up my story that little bit more difficult. Before these longer trips, over the course of a long weekend from Friday to Monday, recalling events wasn't too much of a problem, but a trip which now extends to 9-10 days does create issues for someone like me who likes to go into detail for the sake of posterity after the event! In years past I've taken notebooks - but then I've forgetten to write anything much in them! Last year I put a diary app on my mobile and even though I made something like 80 entries in it during that trip, I still resolved to record more this year. Well, the simple fact is that I failed miserably, making only 40-odd entries into the diary. The teacher's admonishment after Le Mans 2014 therefore has to be 'must try harder' in 2015 - a phrase all too familiar from my schooldays......
The upshot of this is that there are several 'lost' periods where my memory fails me and I have no useful notes to assist. Tuesday morning is definitely one of those periods....
What I do recall is that I had a pretty broken sleep after 'whatsapping' with Jayne around 2 am, but then, unusually, I slept on until the very late hour (for me) of 8.45. James and Nane were both up by this time and we met outside an hour or so later for our first run up the road for breakfast at the Bar Havane where Madame professed to have no recollection at all of seeing (and acknowledging) us at Auchan the day before. Wonderful strong coffee was consumed along with a selection of croissanty goodies.
As Nane had been unwell in the morning yesterday she had missed out on our Auchan trip and James took her shopping for the bits and pieces she needed. On this occasion (the only one, I think) I passed up the chance of another shopping opportunity and instead stayed at the hotel, initially sitting outside enjoying the warm sunshine while my room was refettled.
Tuesday was of course an important day as we would be welcoming the arrival to the team of Tony, who had decided to avoid the normal rush on Wednesday by travelling over a day earlier than usual. Tony's ferry was due in at Caen at 3 pm, giving him an a likely ETA of between 5 and 6 pm.
As usual we had no real plans for Tuesday, our traditional 'rest day' however while we were at scrutineering we'd bumped into John Brookes, the Press Officer for the Greaves Motorsport team and he had kindly invited us to lunch at the Smoking Dog restaurant in the paddock today. Regular listeners to Radio Le Mans (and those who have taken a wander around the paddock in recent years) will be familiar with Smoking Dog, where many of the teams as well as the RLM crew are fed and watered during the Le Mans week.
James and Nane returned from Auchan after a successful shipping trip and we made plans to head into the circuit at 12.15. On our arrival in the road behind the grandstands we discovered that the garage blanc was closed and so we had to park much further up the road in the corner of the garage bleu instead. We walked back along the outside of the circuit alongside the run to the Ford Chicane. The area was as eerily deserted as it had been at around this time last year. We made our way briefly up onto the tribunes so that Nane could have her first look at the them and the pit area before heading down through the underpass into the paddock.
From there it was only a short walk to Smoking Dog and John was already there. We were introduced to Daniele, the son of the proprietor Carlo. Daniele was running front of house and made us very welcome. We enjoyed an excellent meal with John and had a chat with a pleasant American couple, over for the race.
In addition to our lunch, John had also invited us to join him for the media event he was hosting for Greaves (and Nissan) later than afternoon which we readily accepted. But we had a little time to kill and as the paddock wasn't subject to any obvious security this early in the week, we took the chance to wander through it, seeing the team personnel scampering here and there doing their preparation for the on-track action which would start tomorrow. I spotted Bart Hayden, the Rebellion team boss and James was able to have a short chat with him before he had to dash off. It was a really pleasant way to spend a relaxed hour in the sunshine which, as it had been since we arrived in France, was literally 'wall to wall'.
By now it was time to make our way up to the Nissan area in the paddock where we joined John and various members of the media, there to meet the drivers of the #41 and #42 Greaves Motorsport cars. There was considerable media interest in the drivers of the #42 Caterham liveried car as Matt McMurry, the son of former Le Mans competitor Chris McMurry, who had only turned 16 years old in November 2013 was aiming to break the record (which had stood since the '50s) for the youngest driver to take part in the 24 Hours - and in due course, the youngest finisher! Although I took a few photographs, I actually spent most of my time chatting to his team-mate, Tom Kimber-Smith, himself a double Le Mans class winner in GT2 in 2006 and LMP2 in 2011. With the focus on McMurry and the other young Greaves driver, Allesandro Latif, Tom was left twiddling his thumbs so James and I went over and had an interesting chat with Tom.
It was very entertaining and just that bit different from the norm but it was also incredibly warm in there and at around 4.30 pm we thanked John for the invitation and said our goodbyes. There was nothing much to keep us at the circuit now so we left and retraced our steps from earlier in the afternoon back to the car in the garage bleu. Bearing in mind that we were close to the Porsche Curves and therefore the public road part of the circuit, the urge to drive it again became irresistible, although unusually (possibly for the first time for me), we drove the circuit in reverse, parking up briefly on the grass alongside the armco about 300 meters from the Indianapolis right-hander where more photographs simply had to be taken! If nothing else, we needed to record the last time we would see all that grass there before most of it gets removed prior to next year's race. After that we completed the reverse 'lap', leaving the circuit just before Tertre Rouge and then making our way back to the hotel.
As I indicated earlier, the team would soon be increasing to four with Tony's arrival. Just before 4 pm, Tony had texted me to say that he was just off the ferry and hoped to arrive in a couple of hours. I confirmed that we would be back at the hotel by then to meet him. It wasn't long after 6 pm that I decided to go outside for some fresh air only to find that the 'Brera Rabbit' had just pulled up in the car park. Like James the previous Saturday, it was great to see Tony again for the first time since the end of the Le Mans trip last year. Arriving at this time also meant that Tony was able to get straight into his room. We agreed to meet again at 7.30 pm for a trip to.. guess where? Del Arte, of course!
We had another splendid meal at Del Arte, sitting outside in the sunshine with Pizza Marocco's absolutely de rigeur for Tony, James and I, while Nane enjoyed a Caesar salad. Tuesday soon drifted to a relaxing close as we all looked forward to the first on-track action of the Le Mans week tomorrow afternoon....