Le Mans 2019 - Ayse's Story
Page 6 - Tuesday 11th June
'The Best Drive of the Year'
On the Tuesday morning I was up and about, having made coffee and showered by 8 am and I called home to see what was happening there. As any regular readers of my stories will know, the Tuesday of Le Mans week is what I call a 'rest day' before the action kicks off with free practice and the first qualifying session on Wednesday. We already knew what we would be doing this morning as we were all keen to drive the circuit. James had of course been waiting for this opportunity to take his Clio RS around the track and I seem to recall that he even took his car to the lavage to spruce it up in readiness! James fixed up his Go Pro on the top of his car. I had bought a cheap dashcam for the same purpose and fixed that up too. Sadly it would prove to be a bit of a dead loss...
We motored into town, James with Lauren, James F with Ramona and myself driving solo, heading up to join the track at Tertre Rouge where we briefly parked up for a view of the famous poplars and the memorial to Allan Simonsen, the Dane who tragically lost his life in the early hours of the 2013 race, already 6 years ago.
After a few quick photos we went back to the cars and drove on down the Mulsanne past the restaurants, parking up at the entrance to the first right-handed chicane. While Ramona went in search of some 'facilities' the rest of us had a wander around the chicane, inspecting the kerbs and the drainage (!) before the inevitable photocall for the cars.
From there we drove on down to Mulsanne Corner, parking up in line astern formation just before the corner where more photos were taken and another circuit inspection took place.
We followed the circuit on around, skipping the Mulsanne roundabout and parked up right on the outside of the Indianapolis corner, the left-hander which has become a favourite place to stop over the years. James wasn't content with just parking up and he and Lauren did several runs through the corner, slightly faster than we'd driven so far that morning! I was able to capture it on video for posterity... We also had the exciting (and rather different) experience of actually watching paint dry as a chap in a rather 'Heath Robinson' machine renewed the blue paint on the inside of the corner - another Le Mans 'first'!
We left Indianapolis but only drove a few hundred yards down to Arnage corner, around the new roundabout that was added last year before parking up on the outside of the exit of the corner. I mentioned my dashcam earlier which I had almost entirely failed to come to terms with. I had intended to film the entire journey around the circuit but the bloody thing had a mind of its own and the menu was almost impossible to work out. I should have spent a bit more time getting to understand it before I left for France. So I gave up on it at this point. If you're looking to buy a budget dashcam, steer clear of a 'Prestigio'!
After 15 minutes or so at Arnage we drove on down to the entrance to the Porsche Curves which were of course blocked off to cars about 200 yards in, where workmen were repainting numbers at the side of the track which no doubt had some significance that we were unaware of. We went for a walk after they had cleared off down towards the final part of the Curves before heading back to the cars again. We all drove back to the main part of the circuit.
As some very ominous looking clouds rolled in James F and Ramona left us at that point and headed off into town while James and I parked up in the useful (and usefully free) little car park opposite the museum (intended for museum visitors). After a look around the ACO shop we had a quick spin around the museum which again had free entry this year to race week ticket holders, before heading out into an almost completely deserted circuit.
Sadly unlike last year, we were unable to get down into the pits so we came back out and walked along the empty tribunes. We did find a couple of stores open and having spent that time in the museum during which we looked at models of the winning cars from the years we were born in, James and Lauren kindly made me a present of the 1957 winning Flockhart/Bueb Jaguar D-Type as an early Fathers Day gift!
There was an amusing vignette as we walked along the back of the stands. There is a building at the circuit at Le Mans which somehow has managed to survive longer than most others, affectionately known to Ten Tenths members as the 'piss-wall', an ancient open-air urinal which has simply always been there attached to a toilet block back behind the grandstands. There was concern on Ten Tenths a few weeks before that this ancient and much revered structure might be no more after Eric posted photos of the toilet block repainted to a lurid scarlet hue. I was therefore pleased to report on our Whatsapp group (and later on the forum) that the piss-wall had not only survived but that the 'ecosystem' in the drainage channel above it was also alive and well....
Time was getting on by now and we were very conscious of not having eaten at all. The only place we found open at the circuit was the diner at the back of the pits that was charging quite extortionate rip-off prices for food, so we headed towards base with a view to stopping off an Auchan on the way. We indulged in the obligatory emmental and jambon baguettes before gassing up the cars and arriving back at the hotel at around 3.30 pm.
Tuesday was notable for one other specific event - the arrival of 'Brera Rabbit'! Tony had messaged the group chat in the morning that he was at the ferry terminal, expecting to get to the hotel at about 5.30. Unfortunately his ferry was delayed on reaching Ouistreham, putting him back by about half an hour. Thanks to the traffic at that time of the day, he arrived with us at about 6.30. Once Tony had settled in to those familiar surroundings, we made plans to go out and eat. Having thoroughly enjoyed our meal at The Old Wild West the previous evening, we agreed to go back again with Tony. It was another really good meal with terrific service, which even included our waitress trying to take a Polaroid of us all! Te restaurant was a great find and I had a feeling we might end up back there again before the trip was over...
We got back to the hotel at about 9 pm and that was about it for Tuesday. I sorted out my photos from the day and vainly tried to find something worth watching on the TV before phoning home to Jayne and then turning in.