Le Mans 2014 - Ayse's Story
Page 7 - Thursday
And 4 Became 5.....
The morning dawned and, at the risk of being very repetitive, it was another beautifully sunny greeting to the day. I don't think any of us could believe that after so many years of fairly indifferent and unpredictable weather, we were finally having the consistently hot and sunny week that we had yearned for. With everyone up and about we headed up to the bar for our breakfast of coffee and croissants.
Today was of course the day when our team of four would become five. Over the last few years James, Tony and I had become familiar with fellow Tenther Allon Stokes. Allon loved Le Mans having first gone in 1999 and a few years ago I was able to put him in touch with Craig Antill, the original founder of Ten Tenths, when Craig was looking for a suitable candidate to join him on a trip to Le Mans. And so began a strong friendship between the two, which saw them attend several Le Mans together.
Unfortunately Allon (aka AllonFS on Tenths) was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2007 and had to give Le Mans a miss that year. He made his comeback in 2008 when he joined me and the rest of the Tourists doing Le Mans in their unique way. Allon returned to Le Mans with his normal group in 2009 and 2010 but missed 2011 as his son Ed was just six months old. Sadly Allon was rediagnosed with leukaemia in 2012, which caused him to miss that year's race as well (and triggered the Tenthers great response at the meeting -
Allon hadn't felt quite ready to make his comeback in 2013 but had been determined to do so this year. We discussed the best way for him to do that, particularly now that Craig was no longer inclined to do Le Mans again. I think I knew from the outset that joining Team DoT would be the perfect answer and after raising the possibility of Allon joining us in 2014, the decision was swift and unanimous. I had no doubt at all that he would fit in perfectly. Allon's only real difficulty was actually getting to Le Mans as he wasn't able to make the trip as early as the rest of us - even the possibility of meeting up with Tony on Tuesday was a bit to early for him. So it was time for Ten Tenths to come to the rescue. Allon made his plea on the forum and within the week there were several offers of assistance, but it was Sean (claude2cv) who provided the perfect solution with a journey on the Wednesday night boat to Le Havre.
Allon checked in with me on route on Thursday morning as he and Sean left Le Havre and it was while we were still at the bar that I received Allon's 'Nous sommes arriver' message! We were on the verge of heading back to the hotel anyway, so it wasn't long before we were all chatting outside. Fortunately we had been able to arrange for Allon's room to be available so he was able to get settled in straight away. We said farewell to Sean who headed off to the circuit to get set up in the garage vert before, guess what? We made another visit to Auchan so that Allon could get the bits and pieces he needed. (I think we need to get an Auchan loyalty card next year!).
After a thoroughly relaxing morning we left the hotel at 2 pm for the journey into the circuit, arriving, now 5-up, in the garage blanc at 2.40. After entering the circuit (and allowing Allon to take great lungfulls of the Le Mans atmosphere he had been missing since 2011!), we did the rounds of the stalls behind the grandstands, including the purchase of coffee and more croissants and, if I remember rightly, an ice-cream for Tony! We gently meandered around the stalls and then made our way around the outside of the circuit up to the Dunlop grandstand, where Allon surveyed the possibilities for watching the start of the race on Saturday. We crossed the famous bridge and headed to the Espace Club where after another patience-testing experience in the queue, I was able to register Allon as a guest, thereby obtaining for him a very fetching pink wristband.....
We stayed up on the bank above the Espace Club to watch the Group C support race qualifying session but although it was good to see some of these lovely cars from my early days at Le Mans again, in truth, after the first 15 minutes it all became a little.... well dull, to be honest. Only a few of the cars were being pedalled anything like in anger and it almost looked like a demonstration run rather than a serious qualifying session. One day I hope to see cars from the early to mid 90s in action - the Peugeot 905, Toyota TS010 and the awesome TS020 (GT-One) and McLaren F1. I wonder if we'll ever see that day?
After the Group Cs came the Porsche Carrera Cup cars which were also qualifying for their race on Saturday. We had plumped to watch the second qualifying session for the big race from T17 and caught quite a bit of the Porsche session which proved to be pretty entertaining, much more so that I'd expected. The faster cars wouldn't have been disgraced in the main race!
Videos 16 & 17 (I've included a couple of snippets of the Group C practice)