Le Mans 2015 - Ayse's Story
Page 9 - Friday 12th June
Fun in the Rain... (You Can't Park That There Mate!)
The thunderstorm in the Le Mans area hit in a big way during the night, waking me up at around 2 am and then again at 7. I managed to sleep on though and by the time I finally eased myself out of bed at about 9 am the worst was over, although it seemed certain that we were in for a pretty wet day. Fortunately the rain did ease enough to enable James, Tony, Allon and I to sit outside the bar and have our breakfast (while Tim caught up on his beauty sleep), but we all knew this wasn't likely to be a day for wandering around and enjoying the sights. Still, as far as I was concerned it could rain all it liked today if that reduced the chances of it doing the same during the race...
After heading back to the hotel after breakfast James, Allon and I went in to the circuit as Allon was quite keen to do the pitwalk. As it was raining by the time we arrived in Parking Blanc, James and I quickly decided that we weren't as keen to get wet as Allon and we decided to sit tight in the car as Allon pulled on his wet-weather gear. I think we would both have gone in had the rain eased off, but it actually got considerably worse while we were parked so we stayed put.
It was at this point that these two grown men started playing a silly game. The spaces in Parking Blanc are numbered and lettered and come race day the marshals are generally pretty vigilant, making sure that everyone parks in their allocated spot. Up to race day however (and even during the qualifying sessions) apart from checking that you have a ticket for the car park itself, the marshals tend not to worry about exactly where you park as the car parks are never full and so we generally try to get close to the entrance. But not today....
It all started at the entrance to the car park. I held up the ticket for the thickly-spectacled marshal on a bike to see (we don't usually bother sticking the ticket to the windscreen) to which his response was that it wasn't the right ticket. After attempting to ask him what part of 'Parking Blanc' printed on the ticket was incorrect, he clearly didn't understand, but eventually let us in. We parked close to the entrance and after Allon had departed sat there in the pouring rain. Then a young female marshal came over and told us we were in the wrong place and despite the fact that there were probably only 30-40 cars in a car park with spaces for many hundreds of cars, we were required to move and were directed to our correct spot. Then, lo and behold, 'bicycle repair man' decided to come over for another look at our ticket and he didn't think we were correctly parked, but after a seriously myopic study of the ticket (again), he rode off unsteadily on his bike to rejoin what was clearly a world of his very own.....
Having suffered the annoyance before on race day of not being able to park in our allotted space, the lunacy of the situation forced us into action. We started by turning the car around in our spot, which caused some amusement as a couple arrived near to us and proceeded to also park the wrong way around, before they then changed their minds, realising that ours was the only car parked in this way. We then parked horizontally across the row and then diagonally. From time to time our manoeuvres clearly attracted the attention of bicycle repair man's young sidekick, who obviously thought we had no idea of where and how we should park and who persisted in coming over to us to ask if we needed '...any 'elp parking?'.... Our mirth at the situation was heightened by the fact that the whole process was so banal and puerile, although tinged with a (very slight) degree of sympathy for the young female marshals who were by now like drowned rats on their bikes as they carried out their thoroughly pointless task as directed by their thoroughly pointless senior....
Allon returned to the car, also rather damp for his pitlane walk at around 3 pm, none the wiser for our antics in his absence and I think quite surprised to learn that we hadn't moved from the car all the time that he'd been away. We drove back to the hotel, realising that it was now mid-afternoon and we'd had nothing to eat since breakfast, so we stopped off at Auchan on the way where James and I bought some foie gras and bread for a picnic in our rooms when we got back. And jolly good it was too!
As is always the case (and has been since my days as a 'Tourist'), the most crucial decisions of the day always centre around food. We had never tried the nearby Le Portofino restaurant but decided to recce the menu and thought that it looked pretty good with the bonus that we were able to walk to it from the hotel. So it was time to ring the changes that evening. This was agreed by Allon on the strictest of understandings that we would go to Del Arte so he could have a Pizza Marocco on the Sunday evening after the race!
After a few hours chilling out after all of our Parking Blanc excitement, we headed over to the restaurant. It was during our meal that a new Le Mans trip phrase was coined; 'Doing a Portofino.' It started, as I remember it, with a glass being broken by one of the waiters and not long after that by another waiter depositing a container of garlic mayo destined for Tony's starter all over the floor and up the side of my bodywarmer. And we had barely started our meals by this time.... I had langoustine and mayo to begin with, which was OK, if not particularly inspiring (or as tasty as I had expected), followed by a scallop and prawn risotto which also failed to excite. It was a nice evening though and we did manage to get some food in between the minor accidents and amused ourselves at the wonderful translations into English of the items on the dessert menu from the app on Tim's phone.... Sadly for me, the promise of the menu failed to deliver and it was fairly pricey to boot. I shall remember it in years to come as we drive past it, ideally without stopping....
After our meal it was back swiftly to the hotel. With the intention (for most of us) of staying up all night during the race very much in the forefront of my mind, I needed a good night's sleep, as the next wouldn't occur until Sunday night!