Forward planning

The planning for the 2019 Le Mans 24h has officially started to day for me. It will mean a lot as it will be the 50th anniversary of my first of many trips to the 24h.

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1969 – 2019 Celebrating 50 years

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Next year will mark the 50 years anniversary of my first to the 24h race which will call  for some serious celebrations together with my friend Chris who actually initiated this epic weekend.

Friday June 14th

Chris turns up from England at our house near Paris as planned. Not too sure what happened that evening but going out with my friends was the most likely scenario. Our planned escapade to Le Mans was kept a secret due to the fact that it was the 1st communion weekend for my younger brother and family and family friends were turning up from all over France.

Saturday June 15th

Everybody is dressed for the occasion, ready to go to church ceremony. I have to follow my parents. However at the church, as expected, there is such a crowd that I can easily get away unnoticed. My friend Aline is waiting as arranged round the corner and she gives me a ride home a couple of miles up the road on her moped. We meet up with Chris and Brigitte. Time to change for me and finish packing my rucksack.

The girls give us a ride to the local train station without forgetting to stop at our local grocery store to purchase a few provisions on my parent’s account.

First step: The 20 minutes train ride into Paris.

Second step: The 3 hours train ride from Paris to Le Mans. It was a dedicated train scheduled to arrive a couple of hours or so before the race start. And indeed it did.

Third step: The bus ride from downtown Le Mans to the track. Again, dedicated buses dropping you at the track entrance.

At the track: The tickets are bought in a jiffy and inside the track we walk in. What an atmosphere! The place is full of people. There is smoke everywhere and unexpectedly, the predominant smell is the one of merguez grilling on the dozens of barbecues along the ways. It used to be the main source of food and has completely disappeared in the meantime.

I cannot remember where we were to watch the start. I believe it might have been on Brit’s hill. It became one of our favorite spot for years to come. Brit’s hill was the nickname given to a spot at the Esses de la Foret.

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The start was kind of special because it was the penultimate “Le Mans start”. Starting in 1971, the “Rolling start” also known as the “Indianapolis start” became the rule for safety reasons.

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After the start we decided to go to the Hunaudières more or less midway down the famous straight. No chicanes in the days. We made our way from the Tertre Rouge crossing fields, climbing fences, following paths always with the roaring sound of the cars on our right showing us the way to a certain extent.

We had the crazy idea to try and go to the trackside. One has to remember that in those days there was hardly any protection. Only straw bales on both sides of the road. So only certain areas were allowed and closely watched by the gendarmes. Anyway, decision is taken to make a dash for it. One look to the left, one look to the right and we ran like crazy towards the track. We did not get far…  A loud whistle told us we had been spotted. We had to walk back to the path to a fairly angry gendarme.

Not too sure what made me do this, but I pretended we could not understand english. Easy thing for Chris to do when he showed as requested his passport which was British. However mine is French. Nevertheless I kept talking to him in English. He was not amused. He eventually let us go with a stern warning.

We made it to the restaurant in the middle of the straight. Not too sure if we ate there. Most certainly we had a drink and a rest and enjoyed seeing the cars flying by a few meters away. What a noise.

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The fastest speed during the race of 319km/h was reached by the new Porsche 917. To me the best noise was from the Matra V12 engine. Absolutely amazing.

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Night time came and it was getting cold. We decided to make it back to the

 

Walking, walkin

Twisted ankle

No toilet

Hot chocolate

Some of my favorite cars on the track were:

 

 

 

(More to come)

1st race of the WEC season 2018

Only a few days left before the real start of the super season and the first race in Spa.

 

 

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Having seen the cars earlier this month at the prologue in Le Castellet, I am really looking forward to see if the Toyotas will have an advantage on the privateers LMP1. I am also looking forward to the newcomer BMWs in LMGTE Pro. The whole LMP 2 field is also exciting as usual.

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Anyway this is always exciting as this is the real race conditions before Le Mans 24h in June. And as we all know, nothing is comparable to Le Mans.

WEC Prologue 2018

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Last weekend saw the the opening of the 2018/2019 opening of the WEC super season with the prologue / tests taking place in the Castellet Circuit Paul Ricard.

I was there and it was good to see the cars again and the great sounds. The car parks and entrance to the track as well as the paddock were all free of charge.

The results, with the Toyotas leading the pack in LMP1, can be seen on the FIA WEC Page.

I was quite impressed with the Rebellion cars. They sound ever so smooth.

First race is in a few weeks and namely SPA on May 3rd

 

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2018 Season getting ready to start

First we can look forward to the 12 hours Sebring.

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On April 7th, the WEC prologue will take place in Paul Ricard. I think I might make it there. Not too far away and the ideal opportunity to visit friends who live in the area.

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Not to be forgotten, the week on Friday February 9th, the participants to the Le Mans 24 hours will be announced.