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From the Archive - A members tale of Le Mans Classic (with pictures)

  • Published March 20, 2018

The Thursday was largely about getting there, and in a hot non airconditioned car with the temperature in the 30s this was quite a feat. Must have lost a few pounds! We had a convoy: Paul Walton and Ian Anderson in their 40s and Ian Stewart in his E30 M3. Ian’s boot became a Tardis with all the stuff he had to take for us luggage-challenged 40s. Lunch in Gase, the traditional stop over, then it was on to Le Mans, with Paul, Dr J, Ian and Ian going direct to their respective accommodations, and I wanted to check out our parking area and marquee. Easier said than done. The Yellow entry was closed and it took a while before I realised that the only entrance available was by the Karting Nord gate, so I gate-crashed that one.Arrived at our parking area and realized that it was just big enough for the estimated 60+ 40s I was expecting – you cannot imagine the relief I felt as I was not looking forward to advising members that there was no room at the inn. The marquee was also in place and looked suitable. Missing a floor-covering, but that would come later. Then, while wandering around the Bugatti Circuit I found an interloper car on our patch, a Mustang. Then memory clicked in. Our new Editor has one of these, so after a little more exploring I spotted a slim bearded gentleman and a lady at his side. It was then that I had the pleasure of meeting John Allen and his wife Jenny for the first time. John was planning with great detail how he would maximize his time at the Classic and get another large file of photos to add to his fine collection.

However, the Mustang was air-conditioned and I was not so I said my goodbyes and headed to our hotel at Arnage for a cold shower rapidly followed by a cold beer or three

Day 2 – Friday

Another bright, sunny and hot day and an early start to get to our marquee to sort stuff! However, the organisers had other ideas. The Yellow entrance was locked and barred with a horde of cars queued hoping to get in and on track for the early parade laps. Quite a few comments about French organising prowess were voiced, but just before it turned unpleasant the gates were opened and we were in. The marquee was sorted, with chairs, merchandise and a ready supply of old Fortyfications to distribute to the queue of new members who had assembled, yeah right! The carpet was laid, and later in the day our Exhibition Guru, Darren Cardew, pointed out that the carpet still had its protective plastic film on it! That got removed promptly. Thanks Darren.

With the club site and marquee sorted it was off to the Hôtel de France, with Bruno Bouchez in his great looking black 1046 Superformance following us, as his car was needed to ensure we had a full complement of Le Mans 1966 cars for the Ford photo shoot and lunch organised by Classic Car Tours. It was to be a large Ford Fest with Ford’s 1046 (well one of them!), and Dave Collins’s 1015; making up the three cars was Simon Kelly’s 1016 making an entrance into the square on straight pipes. That shook a few window panes! Along with many GT40s, Cobras, and a Ford GT was a certain number 67 Ford GT fresh from its 4th place in class at the Le Mans 24-Hours a month earlier. Thomas Brimblecome of Classic Grand Touring also had a contingent of special cars so the square was full to bursting with much car eye-candy! The lunch at the Hôtel de France was crammed, and included quite a few special guests including Ford of Europe’s Director, Product Communications, Jay Ward. Jay was kind enough to get our 50/40 video onto all of the various Ford publicity platforms that generated a huge interest in the Club. Also on the top table was our very own Paul Walton who sat next to Olivier Pla, the Le Mans Ford driver! John Cleland was also on hand to meet and greet the great and the good, but I had more important things to do. The evening Track Laps were looming and I needed to get the passes from the organisers and get the briefing and signing-on underway. No peace for the wicked. All those taking part, all 37 of us, were full of anticipation for what was to come, but regrettably we had a couple of drop-outs who could not take part, most unfortunate.

Great weather, with nightfall due well after the end of our session, meant all was good, only Dr John’s briefing to attend! A very necessary evil, as track manners sometimes are lacking at such events. Then track passes/stickers were handed out and the tension built. Then, a bit earlier than expected, the whistle-blowing Peter Auto official on his scooter signaled that we were off to the pre-grid assembly area to await the release of the beasts. The GT40s made a great sight formed up and ready to go, then we were off! I believe nearly everyone enjoyed the track time and I can state from my experience of having participated in most of these track laps over the years, that it is a superb experience that few get to enjoy. The full circuit, full chat, in a GT40 at twilight and not too many over-exuberant supercar drivers to cope with. A couple of very quick Ultimas, an equally quick Radical and a full blown race-spec. McLaren F1, along with assorted

Porsches, Ferraris, oh and a fine BMW M3 J. Most filled their boots; well I know I

did. John Allen, our Editor, even experienced the “punishment seat” in John Cleland’s Southern GT and seemed not too ashen when he arrived back at the Club site. There was only one thing for it. Back to the hotel for a few tubes and a debrief. ONE VERY SATISFYING, if exhausting, day.

Day 3 –

Saturday

Today dawned just as hot but with a little cloud, but that didn’t last long as the cloud soon burnt away. Saturday would be dominated by some great Club bonhomie. More track time at midday driving Peter Auto paying guests around the full circuit reasonably quickly ;-). Then park our cars and off to the GMS Club lunch in the Village. Apart from a delayed start, the meal and wine etc. were first class (Michelin Star Chef helps) as was the company which consisted of the usual suspects plus Ege Ferguson and his wife. Back to the Club area, and Simon Kelly had a problem with his car. A couple of missing header bolts looked likely to disrupt his progress. So it was off to Paddock 4, the home of a certain 1016. Simon, meet Claude Nahum and Trevor; Trevor, can you help Simon please? Of course he could, in spades. One happy Simon bunny and proof that Claude and Trevor are special guys. We were then offered a special treat. Ian Stewart knew the head of the marshals’ post at one of the Mulsanne Straight stations. We managed to get a lift to the post to enable us to view the start of the Group 4 race that included most of the GT40s. We were well back away from danger but still close enough to get some great shots and experience cars cresting the hump where Mark Webber launched his car into the woods some years ago. Truly an honour. Then to Mulsanne corner and the “Golf des 24 Heures RESTAURANT” - gate-crashing a Richard Mille bean feast! Great photo opportunities but then it was time to return to the bar at Arnage via the Esso garage at Arnage. Should have bought shares in Esso; with our thirsty cars we must have increased their profits in France this weekend.

Nothing to organise today! Yay! Managed to see some racing including the final Group 4 Le Mans start where Claude was very cautious getting away, as you would expect with such a valuable car. Met up with David and Barbara Scaife, and Brian Stewart from NZ, in the main grandstand. Brian deserves a medal for having travelled the furthest to attend the event. By my rough calculations he travelled 155% more that his nearest rival for the honour, Chris Bailey (our webmaster) and his wife from BC, Canada. Returning to the paddock with Ian Stewart, we just had to have the traditional beer in the paddock, in the sun this year. Two years ago there was a river running past the bar! Then on to see Claude’s return, but he was unusually very grumpy, to say the least. A Mustang tried to share the same piece of track and left black tyre-marks and a few scratches on the GT40’s rear clip. But, he composed himself for the interview for TF1 television; boy, is that guy a professional. The afternoon flew by, and then it was time to decant to a hotel near to the Hôtel de France, as there was no room at the inn, and to anticipate the Club dinner with guest speaker Maitland Cook. I’m told it was a great talk, but having no more organizational responsibility it was time to imbibe and enjoy, just a tad to excess. I was not alone in my merry state, was I Paul W? The rest of the evening was something of a blur, and my apologies to anyone I spoke to in this exuberant state, especially Martin Overington’s wife who seemed very interested in my ramblings, or probably was just her usual polite self. Sorry!

Conclusions:

As an organiser, always ensure you have a word with him (or her!) up there and book good weather. Always choose a great bunch of guys to share the event with. Choose a very helpful Peter Auto Club organiser to deal with – thanks Gregoire!

Easy really. Just don’t ask me to do it again!

If you've enjoyed this you can read more articles from Issue 111 from 2016 in our members area HERE.

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