Le Mans 2019 - Ayse's Story
Page 3 - Saturday 8th June
'The Le Mans Convoy Is On The Way'
With all of our packing done (and Lauren having driven down the evening before in her new Merc!), we prepared for the off on Saturday morning. The weather was a bit murky and despite my usual 'ban' on the use of the 'R' word on Ten Tenths, it looked as though we might be encountering plenty of 'non-sun' during the trip. After saying my farewells to my wonderful wife I set off for Portsmouth wondering how I had so much stuff in my car for just one person! James and Lauren were following me as they wanted to make a brief stop on route but they soon caught me up, thanks to a rather slow journey for me due to drivers with 'right foot rheumatism' through the New Forest to the M27. We made good time though on the motorway, arriving at the ferry terminal at 7.15 am.
We were both soon into the second ferry queue, untroubled by the Border Force when we learned that James F and Ramona had also arrived and were in a nearby queue. I knew that they had stayed overnight locally and I was looking forward to seeing James' new car as all he would tell be beforehand was that it was red! I did however have a sneaking suspicion about what he had bought! After about 20 minutes of waiting we drove on to the ferry, passing James F and Ramona in a rather splendid red Alfa Romeo Guilia... I had known for a number of years that James was an Alfa fan, so the choice came as no surprise. He had parted company with the Renault Laguna that he had taken to Le Mans for the last few years and bought the Alfa after serious issues over the initial Renault replacement, an Audi... Unfortunately my James' low slung Clio RS grounded as he drove on to the ferry which was a source of some concern later...
James and I parked up, virtually next to each other on the ferry with James F and Ramona only a few cars behind us and we made our way upstairs. It was unusual to be on the Normandie going out as our usual afternoon boat was the Mont St Michel, so we would be travelling both ways this year on the same ferry. As always, we went out on deck to watch the departure from Portsmouth, wondering what the sea had in store. It was already pretty windy and a 'fairly lumpy' crossing was in prospect. Undaunted though we were soon away and watched Portsmouth slip away into the distance. James, Lauren and I made our way up to the self-service restaurant. The morning crossing had a distinct advantage over the afternoon sailing - breakfast! So we indulged in the 'full English' despite the fact that things were already getting a little bit bumpy. Lauren wasn't all that keen and had one of my Kwells to keep things at bay, however as the movement was more up and down (bow to stern) than side to side (which I confess I don't much care for), I felt perfectly OK. James F and Ramona soon joined us, but didn't indulge in the New Forest Branch of Team DoT's hearty breakfast!
I'd love a fiver for every time I've said over the years that we had an uneventful crossing but that about sums it up again. By the time we finished our breakfast the crossing was rough enough for the outside decks to be closed to passengers (although they did let us out again later), so the rest of the crossing was spent in much the usual way, looking at the same things (or very similar) in the same shops as we always do, with the occasional drink from the cafe and then settling down to try and get the always completely useless on-board wifi to function... I was amused during this process by a text that I received from O2 welcoming me to.... Italy. It was tempting to pop up and check with the captain that he hadn't fallen asleep at the wheel, but I exercised restraint on this occasion...
When we did eventually get out on deck again it was a little calmer but there was still some significant movement, as evidenced by the wake of the ferry, like a dog wagging it's tail. The ferry was due into Ouistreham at 3 pm and by 1 pm the sea had become much calmer. By the time we arrived and prepared to dock it was millpond calm. The weather had improved considerably and when we emerged in the cars and joined the queue for French border control we did so in pleasant sunshine. It took about 20 minutes for me to get though, longer than usual, about 6-7 cars behind James. James F and Ramona had disembarked more quickly and as we left the port they were waiting for us at the side of the road, ready for the convoy to Le Mans.
We had a very good run down to Le Mans, taking us about and hour and three quarters. The route is straight forward from Caen, using the autoroute most of the way, giving me a little exercise from time to time at the peages, jumping out of the car and running around tom take tickets or pay by my credit card. On one occasion, I couldn't get the machine to react to recognise my presence until I realised that I hadn't pulled forward far enough. I felt sorry for those behind me.....
It was great to get to the hotel and meet our hosts Jose and Flo again. As is now de riguer, I was back in my room 117 and by 5.45 I had everything unpacked and in the proper place. It really was like being back in my French 'home', emphasising once more that the 2019 trip to Le Mans was now properly under way. It was also good to have an extra night at the hotel instead of stopping over in Alencon and we were there in time to go out for a meal with no additional journey to make the following morning.
As we'd all been up pretty early that morning we decided to go out to eat early (a theme that would stay with us all week), and there was a certain inevitability to our dinner choice - Del Arte of course! It was Pizza Vesuvio all round apart from Lauren who didn't fancy pizza with an egg on it - she had pasta instead. It was after the pizza that I discovered the first 'calamity' of the week - there was no creme brulee, it was gone from the menu. I was tempted to write a stern letter until I tasted the pannacotta with three toppings which was really very good...
After an excellent meal we were back at the hotel by 8.40 and after watching the TV briefly and checking out the updates on Ten Tenths it was time for bed for me to prepare for day 1 of scrutineering tomorrow.