21 Jun 2012

Speedmonkey reviews Le Mans. Part 2 - the race

3pm. We can't see the start as we're at Porsche curves, balancing precariously on stacks of tyres tied to armco (but behind the safety fence). A little over 3 minutes later the field streams past. First impression to note is the noise. The Audi's are super quiet. Audi obviously doesn't want us to hear their tractor engined cars too much so, being diesels and not relying on back pressure for combustion, they've silenced the hell out of them. That along with the KERS system driving the front wheels (provided by Williams F1 - hooray!) means that they woosh past, like a space ship. This makes it incredibly hard to take photos of them. They come out of the corner so fast and with no noise to warn of their advance that by the time the camera is steadying and the button pressed the car's gone.

 The rest of the LMP1's and the LMP2's make a pretty good sound - as they would from their V8s. The Porsche GT cars are basically a bit louder than their road counterparts but the king of noise is the Corvette. You can feel the Corvette approach through your feet. As it passes the feeling rises to your stomach in a growl.

 We stayed at Porsche curve for quite some time, taking in the sights and sounds like kids with our faces pressed to the fence and our camera's trying to catch that perfect shot. Later on we wondered round the entire pit straight, got lost up near the Bugatti circuit and found ourselves at Tertre Rouge where we eventually found the road train and hauled back to Porsche.

 As darkness fell we headed back to the English burger bar for fish and chips then headed into the wilderness - otherwise known as Arnage corner. Arnage is some distance away from the main spectator area and can be accessed either by bus, on foot, bicycle or car. We didn't have the gumption to have brought a bike and driving was out of the question as we'd had a couple of pints so we tried to find the bus. When we did the queue was enormous so we set off on foot. One hour and 2 miles later we found ourselves at Arnage and experienced another unique Le Mans thrill.

 It was pitch black and the cars fly into the corner, brakes glowing red, and fling themselves out the other side. All cars have various coloured lights and the race numbers glow in the dark. A spectacular experience that I shall remember for ever. And so after some time we jumped the enormous queue for the bus and headed back to Maison Blanche - feeling that as we were in France we might as well do as the French do.  At 6am we watched the sun rise from our campsite and behind the ferris wheel and took in a couple hours sleep.

 Sunday was all about walking and watching and listening and being enthralled. None of our favourites were doing that well. The Deltawing had been knocked out by an errant Audi, the Brundles were still in it but not in a podium spot and McNish's Audi was 2nd. But none of that mattered. The experience is what we were there to savour and savour it we did. Early afternoon, bedraggled and tired we watched the final hour or so from a giant TV back at the camp. McNish was in the lead! But then he crashed and he wasn't! Oh no! The race was over at 3pm and won by a group of Euro-nobodies for the 2nd year in a row. Then pack up, race for the ferry and home at 1am.   The end of a fantastic trip and one I'd definitely recommend and would definately do again. See you next year