Monday, June 13, 2011

We are at a hotel at CDG since we have an early flight tomorrow.  I won't post pictures until we get home because the Internet here is slow.

-  The length of this post got a little out of hand, but it was fun to write and I barely scratched the surface.

we got to Le Mans Thursday early afternoon, checked into our box and went to the museum and thought where are the people?  No people!  We walked throughout the ACO village, which had no Hermes store, a big disappointment to some one, and ate lunch behind the garages.  Follwing was the historics practice which was cool, we watched from the seats over the garage.  The seats are really steep and you can hang over the edge and take pictures.  We saw Stirling Moss leave the pits and then drive back in and heard him say to Radio Le Mans that he was done racing because he was too scared and he wouldn't drive again.

The highlight of the whole trip came when I was hanging over the garages for practice 1 on Thursday and got a picture of the infamous Spikey Haired Risi Guy working on the front left of the Luxury Racing Ferrari.  He was in his Risi overalls, though it looks like he's let his hair go to its natural color.

After that we went to the Porsche curves and then for Practice 2 we went from the Dunlop Chicane all along to Tetre Rouge and watched the cars leave down the start of the Mulsanne.  At this point the people had arrived.  Everything was packed with people, you'd think it was race day at Sebring.

Friday morning we did the pit walk, which was fun.  A lot of crazy Dutch people.  The Corvette garage blared their train horn.  Walking back to the box we saw Adrian Fernandez heading to the Aston Martin  souvinier stand and were able to go there and get a cool poster from some very depressed looking AMR drivers.  Then we walked by Corvettes stand and they were there signing posters with the shortest line I have ever seen.  They talked to me a bunch, OG asked if i was from the US and where and I said near Lime Rock. They had just tested there.  They proceeded to complain about the changes to the track, I told them at least they paved it.

Then we got to meet all the Radio Le Mans guys in our box area, which was fun.  We got an invitation to the TV compound at Lime Rock from. Jim Roller.  

Then we went to the city of Le Mans for the driver parade.  This was the biggest surprise of the weekend.  The old city of Le Mans is absolutely amazing.  It is an old Roman City with a massive cathedral and winding, narrow streets with really old houses.  Cyndy said, 'this is what Disneyland was supposed to be like.' It felt like you were in Grimm's Fairy Tales.  

For the parade we stood in a big tunnel thing.  It seemed to be starting late and we were bored and then an Audi safety car flies by us followed by the amazing sound of Patrick Dempsey driving the 1991 Rotary Mazda prototype through the tunnel.  Cyndy recorded the sound on her camera to be posted later.  It was incredible.  The rest of the parade was boring, a bunch of supercars and then very slowly all the drivers.  We gave up after about 12 cars worth of drivers and 2 hours and went and had dinner in the old city before the crowds.

Saturday morning we woke up to the sound of the warmup session.  The Lola Aston Martin sounds great from bed. We got up and watched the historics race on TV during breakfast.  I had to concede that we couldn't watch it trackside if we were going to make the whole 24 hours.

We watched the start of the race from our grandstand seats just after the start line.  After the McNish brainfade safety car we decided to ride the ferris wheel...  We got in and the proceeded to wheel around about 90 degrees and then we suddenly started going the other way.  As we went by the bottom all the workers were scrambling and yelling in French.  Hmm.  Then we stopped about 20 degrees the other way.  Lots of yelling in French.  Then they turned the wheel by hand so we could get off.  As we walked away there was about 20 gallons of hydraulic fluid on the ground.  We got our money back and were done with the ferris wheel, though it was running later in the day.

After a short time out and getting our carrefour blanket and warmer clothes at our box we headed for the bus to Mulsanne Corner.  The line for the bus wasn't too long but we realized we were in trouble after we saw that they didn't allow standing on the us and the loading process was painfully slow.  The whole thing was a French organizational nightmare.  Between the long wait time and the long drive and the change in landscape I wondered if we were still in France.  We saw the cars flying away from the Mulsanne corner as dusk settled in, it was awesome.  We then sat on a mound among a whole bunch of quiet and cold French and Germans.  Then we saw Rockenfeller's accident just down the road on the big screen and felt sick.  An army of emergency vehicles and trucks headed past.  After that we got up for the trek back to the main part of the track.  We had to abandon our hopes of going to Arnage because of how much time it had already taken to get to Mulsanne, and horror stories about the shuttle biases shutting down for the night without warning.  We stood in line for the bus with some very entertaining Germans.  We made it back just before the end of the safety car. 

After our journey and watching some green flag laps from the Dunlop bridge we headed for another time out before spending the early morning in the grandstand (2AM). It was very cold, the whole weekend was quite chilly.  Cyndy finished reading one of Mother's books on the iPad.  Then we got tired.  At 5 it got light out and we headed back to the Dunlop bridge for the sunrise.  We then had another timeout for breakfast.  At 7 we headed back out and walked from Tetre Rouge down to our grandstand seat.  By 9 we were really tired but finally warm.  We needed another timeout.  At 11 we were back in our Grandstand seat, to sore to move and had some Crepes and Waffles for energy (the actual food, not the South American chain).  The excitement at the end of the race kept us going until the flag.  It was a lot of fun.  I was happy to see the Robertson Ford finish the race and the right Audi win, though I would have been happy to see Si Pag win too.  Big save by the 73 for Corvette after Jan's wreck.  We got to walk back to our box on the track through the Dunlop chicane and the Forest eases ( a bunch of people looking for Audi bits in there).  

Then we slept only to wake up for the people screaming after Jenson Button's win at Montreal and non stop ground shaking amateur fireworks.  We had been awake for 32 hours and on our feet for at least 20.  

We packed up and headed to the train station Monday morning.  At that point the place was dead again.  I saw a guy with Audi Sport stuff that looked like Brad Kettler one of the Audi engineers.  Then on the platform he approached us and asked us how we liked the race and if it was our first time., etc...  Then, I asked if he was Brad Kettler, he said yes, and I asked what car he was on, he was the engineer on the 2 alongside Lena.  He said it was a day he will remember forever.  He said he is in charge of the installation of the driver safety systems on all three cars, and he knows McNish and Rocky's families very well and it was really hard to have to wait to hear they were okay.  He also mentioned that before the last stop they had a slow leak on one of the tires and they had to send the car on one more lap and tell Lotterer? that he had to do a 3:27 on a leaking tire to keep the lead after the pitstop.  They had planned on doing 5 stints on the tires.  Talking with him was a great way to end a fun weekend at Le Mans.

1 comment:

Joel said...

I was listening to Radio Lemans at work when they spoke to Sterling Moss and he announced that would be his last time in a race car. They kinda over dramatized it. They also make sure to stop talking when the mazda 787b was going by.
It bothered me that audi boss Frankenstein Ulrich and Capello made no comment about hoping no spectators were injured during the crash, just chosing to mention that the ferrari closed the door and they were glad to see McNish get out. Andy Priaulx was the first to mention the safety of the spectators, which is important given the notoriety of Lemans. The Speed broadcast interviewed Brad Kettler and mentioned his background with Champion Audi. They also explained how all the pressure was on Lena and the #2 crew. I went to a Carrefour in Colombia... also I was pretty happy with the F1 race and result, despite the 2 hour rain delay.