Aysedasi's Le Mans

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Le Mans 2022

Le Mans 2023

Le Mans 2022 Ayse's Story

Page 2 - Thursday 2nd June - An Early Start



The decision by the ACO to hold the Test Day on the weekend immediately prior to the race weekend (as last year) had prompted changes to our usual routine which for a few years had seen us making the crossing to France on the Saturday.  Last year James F and Tony had travelled over early to spend some time in Bayeux before heading to Le Mans to be ready for the possibility of watching the Test Day from the Auberge des Hunaudières.  I was jealous of the experience that the two of them had there last year and fortunately they were as keen to repeat it as I was to experience it for the first time.  As scrutineering would be open to the public this year (it wasn't in 2020 and 2021), James decided to travel over earlier in order to be there for that as well and I agreed to do the same.  As a consequence, this year's Le Mans trip would be the longest of the thirty-five I've had to date, with an early morning crossing from Portsmouth to Caen on Thursday, which would result in a trip lasting a full 12 days from start to finish.  I can't say that Jayne was exactly delighted that I would be away for 'even longer' than usual, however she knew just how much I had missed it for the last two years and she accepted it with very good grace, which made things all the happier for me

As I said in the Prologue, James and I would be the Team DoT 'advance party'.  As he had done for several years now James travelled down to Portsmouth the day before, staying at a hotel virtually within spitting distance of the port.  For me, now living just that little bit further away it meant an early start.  The ferry was due to depart at 8.15 am and Brittany Ferries expected travelers to be there at least an hour before that.  I planned to get up at about 5.30, but thanks to our two cats, Fin and Mona (a delightful acquisition in early 2021), I was actually making tea just after 5.00.  I knew it would only take me about an hour to get to Portsmouth but I left a bit early as having packed the car, I was ready to go and if I waited I would just continue to disturb those left at home.  

It was a lovely morning and there was little traffic on the roads.  The wonderful 'smart' M27 motorway remained inexplicably limited to 60 mph but I made good time, too good really, arriving at the terminal just before 6.30.   I let James know I was there and awaited his arrival in the spot that he used to pick me up from when I used to travel with him in his car.   The terminal was much busier than usual with queues for the check-ins already, no doubt a result of advantage being taken of the 'Jubilee' holiday weekend, and I was told to move off into the queue rather than wait for James.  

Check in was very simple, a case of handing over my Covid 'passport' along with my passport and I was soon into the first queue chatting with a chap travelling over (for a holiday) in his Aston Martin.  James took a little longer to get up to the check in by which time I was through to the second queue ready to board the Normandie, once again.  By the time I began driving on just after 7.30 there was no sign of James but I was soon on and parked and up outside at the stern of the boat to see if I could spot James boarding.  I did just catch sight of him heading up the boarding ramp and it wasn't long before he joined me to await our departure.  I would later curse parking too far over to the left when I saw the marks left by careless people with their bags as they got on the boat.  Fortunately they were only 'rubs' rather than scratches.

We stayed out on deck to watch the ferry leave, pretty much on time as I recall before grabbing some breakfast and then heading to the shop, coming out empty handed as usual.   Just after 11 am, after a futile battle with the perennially hopeless free ship wifi, I got the now standard text from O2 to welcome me to Italy....  At least it wasn't Iceland, as at least one other person received!  

Now running on French time we headed down to the self service restaurant and partook of fish and chips, or at least what Brittany Ferries passed off as fish and chips, the fish was pretty poor and the meal was rendered edible only by the brown sauce I put on it.....

Our millpond-smooth journey ended when we arrived on time at Caen (Ouistreham).  We were of course parked in different places but we were both soon off the boat.  Then the wait began.  The queue moved painfully slowly towards the French immigration in the way these things are normally done, with queues gradually reducing in number, slowing the process down even further.  All in all it took us nearly an hour and a half to get through immigration.  Bearing in mind the fact that the process seemed pretty cursory and involved no Covid passport inspection, you have to wonder why....  There was an amusing aside later when I was sent a photograph by my good friend Ker Robertson that had been taken by photographer colleague Jakob Ebrey of my car in the immigration queue...

So freed from the trials of immigration we met up just outside the port and set off in convoy towards Le Mans with James taking the lead.  Although there were unusually a few roadworks on the autoroute, we weren't really delayed, other than by me jumping out of the car every time we hit a péage.  James had sensibly invested in one of the windscreen gizmos that let you through automatically - I must get myself one of those for next year...  We finally arrived at our Le Mans 'home' at about 6.20 pm and were able to get into our familiar rooms (117 for me again!) straight away.  

The evening meal had to be taken at Del Arte; after three years without a Vesuvio pizza, it simply had to be done with pannacotta to follow.  I drove us to Del Arte and on the brief journey back, just before the turning into the hotel road, I was stopped and breathalysed.  I had no worries as I no longer drink alcohol at all, but it was the first time for me since testing the machines at a police station decades ago when the process was just being brought in.  I was even given the tube as a souvenir!  After finishing my unpacking and facetiming Jayne at home it was off to bed for a reasonably early night in the expectation of a relatively early start at scrutineering in the morning.  



























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