Rev heads paradise
Trip Start Feb 15, 2012
191Trip End Sep 17, 2012
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After missing tickets to the French Open Tennis and hearing Will Hagen on ABC Radio saying that the Le Mans 24 Hours is "an amazing experience", we made the plunge on Wednesday last and booked some tickets. So we joined the great unwashed of 250 000 and watched an amazing race. The logistics of just booking it was tricky...where do you sleep?? Hotels were all booked out in Le Mans. If you don't stay overnight, do you watch the start at 3pm or the finish (at 3pm next day)
Well after a little research, we decided that we'd drive down early on Saturday, watch the start plus a few hours, then drive back to Chartres (only 120 km, just over an hour), sleep the night and return to the track on Sunday morning. I should have added that Le Mans is 3.5 hours from home
So we left home at 7:15am Saturday. First problem was rain....it rained heavily for the first 2 hours of the drive. Not only did that mean that we may have a miserable watching experience, it meant we had to travel at 110kmph and not 130 kmph. So the 3.5 hours becomes longer!! Every time I said, "look it's clearing", around the next corner was a dark cloud. The plan was to stop at Chartres at around 930am, check in and make sure we'd have no issues when we returned at ??? We stopped there and the rain had stopped....phew
I forgot to mention that when you buy your tickets online at the last minute, you can print the grund entrance tix at home but you need to collect the grandstand tix AND the carpark tix. I could see a slight problem...where do I park when I go and pick up the tickets?? I could see a bigger problem when we got to within 5 km of the collection point, dead still traffic. Well almost, it was really a slow crawl. My next thought process was, if we drive all the way to the collection place, and get the car park tix....then we have to drive back out thru the slow traffic to the carpark!! We got sort of close and I saw room for a small car to squeeze up on the footpath...voila. I parked our SUV there and prepared a note to show any police officer who came along that said "I am waiting for my wife who is collecting car park tickets". All written is google's best French. Sandy jumped out. Afte 10 minutes she was back with the goods.....she is very good xxx
All then went according to Hoyle (not the Ian one, the other one). Carpark was pretty muddy but we got in and settled ok and it seemed like the rain had gone for now
Now, i am enjoying France and I guess they just do some things differently but a couple of things amazed me. There were 167 drivers from many nations, they played a fair chunk of EVERY national anthem of a driver who was racing. Luckily there were a stack of French, Brits and Yanks, else it would have taken more than the allowed hour.
Next thing that I discovered is that, despite having an attendance of One quarter of a million people, mostly men, the toilets didn't have urinals but cubicles!!! It was quite a sight, no queue at the ladies but maybe 50-60 guys queuing. Needless to say many gents found convenient walls (sandy had more than one wry smile when she sailed straight in, but the men just had to hold on! Tables turned for a change)
So the race is underway. The event is really an Audi marketing exercise with the pace cars, safety cars and top four race cars all from Audi. Other main entrants are toyota, nissan, camaro, porsche, ferrari. Some more surprises soon though. Audi had two hybrids and two diesels entered. The noise was very much like an F1.....except the silent Audi's, all four of them made little more noise than a normal car, swishing along??? Incredible
The 4 Audi's were the favourites and started from the front of the grid. I was shocked to see them lapping cars within 20 minutes of a 24 hour race. No wonder they have soooooo many prangs, these guys are passing a gazzilion cars, some driven by amateurs...v scary.
The race was interesting and enough happening to keep me (and sandy) interested. We had great seats on the final chicane before the finish line. A good example of the entertainment was this slight accident
The Toyota guy ended up with 2 broken vertebrae. I thought he may have died as they took forever to get him out and then carefully wrapped the broken car in a tarp...I thought it may have been for the coroner!! The race was under pace cars for best part of an hour. And yes they use multiple pace cars. Took me a whole to work that out (they did have Car A, Car B and Car C on them when I looked closely). The cars slip in between one of the three pace cars and all pace cars peel away in sync....never heard of that before
A really clever innovation is that all cars have 3 lights on the drivers door. The color of the light matches the class of the car...the main class all have three red lights. As you imagine, it gets hard to work out who is in what place. Well with this simple system,the lead car one light, second place two lights, third three, four onwards nothing
We watched til about 10pm, so we saw a little of the dusk racing. Drove to the hotel and got back by 10am Sunday. Even had what seemed to be a very good nights sleep! And Sunday was 25 degrees and quite warm.
Unfortunately the racing petered out a bit in the last couple of hours with it becoming clear that one of the hybrid Audi's was going to win. Audi in fact managed first three places.
The drive home was uneventful but very busy and I couldn't help but think that many of these drivers have not slept much and been drinking solidly for 24 hours....and no sign of a booze bus or speed camera! Home safely at 8pm, afte doing 1100 kms!
Other disappointment was that we discovered that a town near Le Mans had a 50th anniversary dedication to Triumph Spitfires on Friday. in case you didn't know, I had one when sandy and I met....and my Mum still has one!