Le Mans 2019 - Ayse's Story
As I sit here putting the finishing touches to last year's Le Mans story, it is Saturday, 20th March 2020. There is nothing significant about the date as such, nor the delay in finishing the story. Those who know me well and have read my stories in the past will be aware that I don't exactly rush to get them into print. If anything, this one is quite early! What is significant of course are the events that have overtaken all of us in the last few weeks. We are now living with the reality of Covid-19, the 'Coronavirus', which is leading us to change the way we live from day to day. I'm not going to dwell on this from my present 'social distancing' position, however with less than three months to go to this year's Le Mans, we now face the prospect of an anxious wait until September to find out if it will go ahead at all this year. In the grand scheme of things with illness and death around the world right now, it doesn't seem quite as important as it has been. Nevertheless, my fingers and toes remain crossed that I will still have a Le Mans 'fix' this year.
The biggest event for me in the time since last year's race has been my retirement from work at the end of October. In the end, it was a huge relief to be finally rid of the stress and tension that work was causing and I have quickly settled into the calmer life of a retired person. It's wonderful! I just wish that things generally were better, but hopefully we will all pull through and be stronger for it.
Back to Le Mans then. What can I say in conclusion? That was my 34th Le Mans. My 34th consecutive Le Mans. As a trip, it was very good indeed. It was great to be back in the company of old pals, whilst accompanied by my son James and his girlfriend Lauren. This was his second Le Mans and her first, and like last year with James and 2016 with Toby, it was great for me to be able to feed off of the enthusiasm and interest of a Le Mans 'newbie'. I think they both enjoyed their trip and it was a real pleasure to have Lauren on board, particularly during most of the race when we lost touch with the other Team DoT members. And that, I think, was my one real disappointment of this trip, that we spent so much time without seeing James F and Ramona during the race (at all, really), although we did spend much of Saturday evening and the night with Tony and Allon. To be candid, having set up a means of communication with each other to deal with this potential issue, it was a shame that we weren't able to make it work better. We must try harder next year.
As everyone knows by now, I love the build up in the days leading up to the race as much as I love the race itself (sometimes I wonder if I don't actually enjoy the build up more!) and scrutineering and the practice and qualifying sessions were great. We had a good time in the evenings, particularly at The Old Wild West (which I suspect we will be visiting again in 2020, if all goes well). In hindsight, booking seats in T34 probably wasn't the best idea with the trek to and from, however T17 would not have been possible because of the membership situation and it was great for me to experience that stand again. We plan to be back in T17 in 2020, when James and Lauren will be joining me again.
Driving myself there (as I did for the first time last year) was another great success. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the complete freedom that it gave us to do what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. A highlight again of the trip again was the circuit 'lap' on Tuesday morning. It really has to be done.
As to the race, well, aside from GTEPro it was pretty average. The Toyotas did what we expected them to do, as did the other LMP1s. The problem for the #7 Toyota right at the end of the race was a great shame, one which Toyota should have avoided (assuming they would have wanted to?) if they'd been more sensible and changed all of the tyres at the first of the two unplanned pit stops. I think we all felt very sorry for Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez who had the race pretty much in their pocket from the opening laps. The GTs put on a good show even if the Keating exclusion left a vaguely unpleasant taste in the mouth. The reality though is that no-one goes to Le Mans expecting to see a nip and tuck battle in all the classes (and especially at the front of the main class); over 24 hours, that is a pretty rare thing that I've only seen a handful of times.
So onward and upward. Here's to the next Le Mans, whenever that may be. I hope you've enjoyed the story as much as I've recalled the events while writing it.
The postscript to the postscript is that, if all my plans have come to fruition, you should be reading this on a revised version of my website, which has been largely unchanged for many years and was looking terribly out of date. My thanks to Andrew Mason of Mason Web Design for that.