Le Mans 2019 - Ayse's Story
Page 1 - The Prologue
Another Le Mans has been run. The 87th running of the great race and that's now 34 of them for me, every year since 1986. This means that I've been to 39% of all the 24 Heures races. 816 hours of racing. And as I begin to write the prologue to this year's story just over two weeks since the race ended, I now have 341 days until I (hope to) go to France again for the 88th edition. Highs and lows.....
What to say in this introduction then that I haven't said 33 times before? Well, the time between Le Mans in 2018 and 2019 proved to be quite dramatic for me and my family. Sadly we had another loss in August with the death of Jayne's brother Mervyn after a long fight against illness. With the bereavements in the family in 2017 and earlier in 2018, it was another very sad time, for Jayne, her mother, her three nephews and Mervyn's wife. On top of this, Jayne suffered some ill health in the latter part of 2018 with a blood disorder that was only discovered when she was preparing for an operation. That caused several months of worry and uncertainty which was only resolved early in 2019 after a lot of hospital visits and procedures. Happily the resolution dispelled the fears of something sinister at play and she was then able to have the operation after all, only several months late....
On the racing front, I went to the three days of WEC at Silverstone in August and had a splendid time as always with old Le Mans friends, plus, as a bonus, my James and his girlfriend Lauren joined me for raceday on the Sunday. I talked before about the pleasure I had in sharing my love of Le Mans firstly with Toby in 2016 and then with James last year and this was Lauren's introduction to motor racing, which she took to like the proverbial duck to water (or rather pig, as she wore the 'Pink Pig' t-shirt James brought back from Le Mans for her)! So much so that it wasn't long before I was talking to James about arrangements for Le Mans 2019 and whether Lauren would be coming with us. More on that later.
On a personal note, I made a big decision this year. On 1st April (which I thought was a particularly apt date to choose), I decided to retire from work. I've tediously referred now for a number of years to how much harder my work had become and nothing had improved. In fact, it became a lot more difficult at the beginning of the year when a restructure left me running the operation I am involved in largely single-handed. It was a senior role I had wanted (and expected) over 20 years ago only to have it stolen from me (and I use the word very deliberately), and only to have the same thing happen to me again 11 years ago. So fast approaching 62 years of age the time had come for a change and I made the decision pretty much on the spur of the moment to take the plunge into the world of retirement. I will finish at the end of October 2019, which on past form probably means that I will be 'a man of leisure' by the time I finish this story!
In thinking about Le Mans 2019 I had already made one important decision. Having enjoyed driving to Le Mans myself for the first time last year, I was determined to take my beautiful 125i to France again. My James (just 'James' from hereon in, distinguished from James F as I did last year) was also intending to go, albeit for a slightly shorter trip, as he was more pressed for leave from work than me. This quickly led to the discussion I hinted at earlier about Lauren. She really wanted to come to Le Mans with James and I had not a shred of doubt from the very start that she should. I knew she'd love it. To be fair, James didn't need a lot of convincing and the process of arranging ferries for James and I began. I also decided that I wanted a change from T17 as I had long harboured a desire to go back to the pits grandstand (T34), largely for the photographic opportunities you just don't get from the grandstands opposite the pits. So I went it alone and ordered entry and grandstand seats for the three of us direct from the ACO for the first time. A task not without issues as I attempted it on the morning tickets went on sale to members, but I got there eventually. James F kindly agreed to do the honours with our parking tickets and of course the rooms in our hotel.
The rest of the team would consist of James F and Ramona, Tony (returning after his 2018 'sabbatical') and of course Allon.
As the weeks passed, I struggled to finish the 2018 story and it's publication in May about 4 weeks before this year's Le Mans, was the latest it has ever seen the light of day. Having said that, it did allow one Le Mans to segue rather nicely straight into the next!