Aysedasi's Le Mans

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Le Mans 2022

Le Mans 2023

Le Mans 2022 Ayse's Story

Page 5 - Sunday 5th June - Test Day at the Auberge



As I 'reported' last year, while I was sitting at home James and Tony were at Le Mans doing the event a little differently.  The primary difference was that they were present for the Test Day on the preceding Sunday.  One of the changes made as a result of dealing with the Covid situation was that the ACO had compressed the Test Day into the race week so that it was held on the Sunday prior to race week, instead of a week earlier.  This rendered it 'doable' by just extending the trip a little.  This is what James and Tony decided to do.  The Test Day wasn't open to the public however undaunted by this James had made contact with M. Trotté at the Auberge des Hunaudières and arranged to spend the day at the auberge to watch the Test Day action.  When it was suggested that we do the same this year, I was definitely up for it...

The Test Day would be run in two four hour sessions, 9 am to 1 pm and then 2 pm to 6 pm, so a full eight hours of running.  With a reasonably early start for the teams and drivers and we were up and on the road much earlier than we would normally be on any day at Le Mans!  We arrived at the Auberge just after 8.30 and parked up.  The place seemed deserted.  We made our way in and finally found M. Trotté who welcomed us and showed us up to the first floor from which we would be watching the sessions.  

It was as we were looking in the rooms upstairs that I paused to look at some of the many prints of Le Mans racing scenes that adorned every wall in the restaurant.  I recognised them immediately as the work of Ray Toombs.  I first encountered Ray and his work many years before in the early days of my website when I used to spend a lot of time researching any website that had a connection with Le Mans.  Ray had painted many watercolours of Le Mans scenes over the years.  We exchanged some emails as well as links on our respective websites.  As we all stood there looking at the prints, I happened to mentioned to James and Tony 'Oh those are by Ray Toombs, I know him' and M. Trotté was immediately interested in how I knew him.  It turned out that M. Trotté and Ray had been good friends for many years and the restaurant was an exhibition site for Ray's work.  I explained in my very poor French that I had known of Ray for many years and that I had been coming to Le Mans since 1986.  He then immediately told me that there was someone else at the restaurant that I should meet.  It turned out to be Robin Donovan, a former racing driver who by coincidence, raced at Le Mans for the first time in 1986 and who finished 3rd in 1994 in the 'chopped' Kremer K8 Porsche with Derek Bell and Jurgen Lässig in 1994.  

M. Trotté kindly supplied us all with coffee and we settled down for the cars to be released onto the track at 9 am.  It was great to hear the cars approaching and then roaring past with no unnecessary wittering from a commentator as they did so.  It was fantastic to be standing there in a restaurant watching cars flying past just a few feet away.  I had been to both of the restaurants before with the Tourists, but that was years ago, the last time (I think) being in 1994, the year that the pictures (above) were taken but this was a completely different experience.  

In truth, from a photography point of view being at the restaurant wasn't so rewarding as it wasn't possible to get out far enough from the windows to get a good shot in either direction and the debris fencing in front of the restaurant prevented any panning shots.  That's why there are so few photographs here resulting from eight hours viewing.  The enjoyment was far more about the atmosphere and the sound of the cars.  

I did however take quite a lot of video and the videos begin with the release onto the circuit of the cars at the start of the first session.  Those who have read my Le Mans stories in recent years will know how I love that first lap of a session when we are out at the back of the circuit at Indianapolis or Mulsanne Corner where you can hear the cars at distance as they travel around the circuit towards you.  Sadly these videos are often spoiled by the inane twittering of the circuit commentator over the public address however while at the Auberge we had the perfect aural experience of Le Mans - just the cars (and the birds, when there were no cars!).  It was wonderful...  As it was difficult to get photographs I spent more time on video and I've edited what I shot to avoid having about 30 very similar videos!  

The session finished on time and we took an excellent lunch in the restaurant, beginning with fois gras, monkfish for main and finishing with a red fruits dessert.  The restaurant has a reputation for good food and fully lived up to it.  

The cars came out for the afternoon session while we were still finishing our meal.  It was a shame that we didn't have any view, but we could see the sheeting outside being moved by the cars' wakes and of course the sound was worth just sitting there and listening to.  The afternoon session was largely a repeat of the morning and although I kept half an eye on the times being set we all knew that this was very early days.  As expected, a Toyota headed the field, however the two Glickenhaus were right there with them in 2nd and 4th after the sessions had finished, while the Alpine was beaten on pace by a couple of the P2s.  

The Test Day sessions having concluded we said thanks and farewell to M. Trotté and headed back to the hotel.  It had been a splendid day, a wonderful chance to watch the cars from somewhere completely different.  Dinner that evening is, I'm afraid, now completely lost in the mists of time!



























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