And now back to what really matters in life: Le Mans Classic 2012

On holidays, just in case you‘ve wondered where I have been…
And now back to what really matters in life:
Le Mans Classic 2012
But before we begin, let‘s get one thing right.

You can‘t win at Le Mans Classic.
Ever.

Ok some can.

But those who can and do, are so busy winning that they lose out on everything else.

And that‘s loosing out sooo badly.
You just have NO idea how badly.
They loose out on a roaring automotive avalanche.
So overwhelming you just want to whimper and cry: Stop!!!!
Hang on!
Pause!
So you can take it in, enjoy an somehow digest.
But no the gargantuan avalanche of automotive wonders just continues to roll, and growl and shift, and howl and race and happen scorching your senses, burning up your heart.
I love it.
I love driving there in a camper van which is about twenty meters to large for somebody who doesn‘t know how to park a Fiat 500.
I love the Woodstock atmosphere at the camping site, with it´s the air of anticipated joy.
No, this is NOtT what YOU think: it´s a TENT!


I even love the burden of camping there, like going to the loo… (sorry, but it had to be mentioned here. We had to travel for half a kilometre to find a clean one. That´s a lot of loo kilometres in the day of a woman..)
 

Or the shock when you walk around the corner and run into a  Porsche 917 just being unloaded. The glimpse of a 910 behind a grimy seventies camper van.
The smell of barbecues.

The sight of obscenely big, and taste wise questionable camping homes.
 All the action rolling past when we sit in front of our camperville.
Mechanics and car wonders rolling past, an occasional  Ferrari P3 (drool droool droooooooooooool) being dragged towards the paddocks, a pre war monster announcing its passing from far away by it´s engine growl.
People hanging out everywhere, eating, drinking, exchanging hugs and kisses, clonking the wheels of the cars, towing them, letting them down from the trucks, putting up tents, unloading tools and tables, cases and cakes, Beers and Bugattis, posing and plonking, shouting and smiling.
How can anyone not find this paradise on earth?
And it´s only Wednesday.
And it´s already sooo good.

On Thursday, the atmosphere usually changes as everything however it‘s starts to become a bit more serious.
And before I now fold out the weekend‘s comedy of my A team of prime amateur racing, let me introduce the main characters:

Stefan: my cousin, owner of the beautiful BMW engined AC Bristol, I was generously asked to share.
First time racer.
Cool guy, with a tendency not to over-fuss… (“nice“ is the max compliment anything or anybody will get from him, in stark contrast to my self)

His mechanic: ah!

His support: Wilhelm, chief of the team, master of the barbecue, master of morning Expressi, master of the essentials of the team, master no idea what‘s needed in a race otherwise.

Me: female embodiment of car lover and racing hysteric. Who most of you know quite well by now.

Esther: my most beloved, beautiful, best friend in the world and my greatest supporter, with NO idea what‘s required in a race supporter, with a preference of avoiding the noise and the nightly get ups, and a great determination and willpower for shopping.Preferably food. Or skirts, all the same colour.

White Knight Steve A, who despite being dutch (still) knows A LOT about racing and saved our Arse. Totally. (And who I don’t have a picture off.)

So, now, back to thursday.

I don‘t actually remember what happened on thursday.

Apart from all the scrutineering, when we got the PILOTE bracelet, which I usually don´t take off for month afterwards.

And some delicious grilled Sardines, with some coarse salt sprinkled over them. Inside some fresh baguette. And some Champagne at night. At a cold cocktail party, where we had to cue for a long time to catch a glimpse at the  Porsche 917 Spyder. (Was it the spider?)
Getting aligned at pre-grid
and pretty red and sexy, our grid, grid 2.
Stefan and his red, too, AC, waiting for their first time racing at Le Sarthre.
so is Patrick Simon and his hat..

Mattes, Jürgen and Franco in a beautiful Masarati 300 S.

Friday afternoon race action started, theoretically, with each of the six plateaus, or grids getting two very short slots for practice.
Not only a joke if either car OR track is unfamiliar, or both, but truly hilarious if:
the first practise session is also Qualifying!
What a joke.
In a car I had NEVER driven before on a track I have driven  just a bit, with a copilot who knew the car but had never driven the track. Holy cow. 

And holy cow it was.
In the first turn the car starting rolling sideways like a capsizing bathtub on rough sea, (it didn‘t and still doesn‘t have a race set up!) and speeding down the famous Mulsanne straight  (doing what felt like 200 km) the passengers seat cover was flapping so strongly I had to hold it with my left hand.

The results of that hard boiled racing in wonderland?

We ended up somewhere in the middle.
And felt GRAND!

The night session, which I`ve always loved, as racing in the dark feels like velvet blue schmooooozing with the car, was supposed to start at 1am in the morning. But when we lined up in pre grid, the group before us hadn‘t even started and by the time it was our turn  it was 2:30.
I could only do 2 non-complete laps, Stefan  not even one, and then practice was already over!
We compensated by drinking red wine in Campville till dusk.
True sportsmanship conduct.

Leaving for night sessions.
And waiting in pre-grid.
Gullwing instruments. Quite a lot of them..
Gulling exterior. Just a bit of it..

Saturday it was pouring with rain.  That‘s why I can‘t bring any fantastic photographs here, 

Too wet to go and look at the Porsche Club for instance.

because we were virtually constrained to our camping homes, sleeping throughout the morning.

I went to see the official start, because it was grid 4 which had the honour of starting this year, my Kobold group usually, and many of the drivers well liked!
It was entertaining watching everybody from above. They were all pretending to be just so cool, detached, tranquillo!But their body language was like King Louis of the jungle book. Ha ha.

It was still raining.
All of Saturday
How unfair.

Our first race took place at night, in wet yet uneventful conditions. Stefan and I both got to do three laps.

Waiting for my turn.
Somewhere I remember being overtaken by a Jaguar D-type flying past, the colour of the sky, a beautiful sight. we still finished somewhere in the middle.

The most dramatic moment of the whole weekend came when I drove the car to pre grid at 4 in the morning, the most fearsome moment of my racing career so far, blood freezing at my veins, when I looked at the petrol gauge.

I NEVER look usually, it´s the mechanics job and it just would make me too nervous.
(Here again, man and women usually have a very different relationship with their petrol gauges…)
But I looked.
I looked out of some typically female motherly control mechanism.
Gauge on reserve!!!!
Speechless I pointed my speechless finger at the instrument the proprietor of this car, which would have NEVER made it through the race: He just looked at me and said:“ Oh the instrument“ must be broken….

Anybody who´s married hands up. Masculine denial here, or what?!!!!
I then remembered that Stefan had mentioned something about the car being able to do all races with ONE filling of the tank, but also that he wasn‘t really sure with the new engine….
IT BARELY DID six laps with one tank.
There´s forty litres in that mouse-whole of a  tank!
All the mechanics we asked just pitifully shook their heads, when we asked ….

You mustn‘t refuel during the race, and the AC could do two laps, max!

How extremely, utterly STUPID! Of all of us…..
MEGAFAIL.

And this is where Steve came in and kitted our shattered dreams… He virtually took his feet in his hands, ran all the way up to race control and found out that we were actually allowed to take petrol if we didn‘t t start  like everyone but from the pit lane.

Rally: pity lane it should be called, because it took endless time till all the 80 cars had passed and I got green light, it was also thoroughly pitiful that they had extended the safety cars phase for one more lap so I couldn‘t overtake anyone!

As the last car was slow, very very slow, (he must have been afraid of the rain and sensibly went slowly,) the rear lights of our complete grid disappeared into the far distance I could hear my teeth grinding, and felt my heart sinking…..
However in my remaining two laps I managed to overtake 10 cars, (sounds a lot? Not if there´s eighty cars in the field…) one of them a Gull-wing Mercedes. That was the best bit of the race. In fact it was a very very good bit. And I will not go into details as to why.

Poor Stefan tore his muscles during the drivers change, as he had to hop back when I banged the car to a standstill in a different  place than he had anticipated.

That meant of course that I would get to do the Le Mans start, which each grid does during some time of the three races and in case of our grid it was the last race on sunday. ( a nice wake up call after 48 hours of NOT sleep..).

Ahhhhh and the Le Mans Start. With everybody lined up opposite the cars and us being In 30th or something position, I had to see past 30 men or so to see the start flag…
 And something totally unexpected occurred.
I couldn´t see the flag.
It was blocked from my view.
Guess by what.
Guess what a lot of men have in historic motor sports? 

Don´t get me wrong, I love this GT 40.
Yes.

Bellies!
I couldn‘t see the flag because so many bellies were in my way!

That‘s why I started a second after everyone.
Plus my ignition was turned off when I finally got to sit in the car.
My fault.
God, I hate it when something is my fault!

Nevertheless, AC and I, the ice blooded team of dare and strike, pushed past a lot of others cars, in a start which is entirely for show.

After half a lap everyone is stopped and re-aligned in starting position for the proper rolling start.
But during that half lap everybody is really pushing it!
I knew it! I knew all my life I would love this romping Le Mans Start!

Thankfully Stefan could still drive his beautiful car and I took the checkered flag. With that guy being just so unprepared to pop out with words like: “great, fantastic, the best, the most wonderful, omg“ I hope he felt a little bit like me the first time.

In the end we still finished somewhere in the middle. Yet we didn´t feel grand. We felt  downright heroic, having overcome all obstacles, having finished at all, having no mechanic and mechanically useless friends, having eaten very well, having drunk very very well, and having had an unbelievable amount of fun.
Thank you my dear Stefan, for being the only sensible person and my ally in our family, thank you even more for letting me race your wonderful car, I loved it!

AC and the broken prtrol gauge, my A…….!


Thank you Wilhelm and Esther for being so useless most of the time, yet so crucially important! Without you it would have been only half as much fun.
And last not least Steve: thank you not for being useful, checking our wheels, when they almost came of, but truly: thank you so much for saving our race, our Ar…!Just do something about the colour of your numberplate.
Please?

12 Comments

  1. jj says:

    Welcome back my Dear.

    Completely different story, completely different set up this time but you obviously had a lot of fun – and that what racing is all about.

    No 3 months breaks anymore – please.

  2. Arneyb says:

    finally… she is back.

    LMC seemed to be a wonderful chaotic weekend. Great You have enjoyed it so much.

  3. Deddi says:

    Hatte mir schon echte Gedanken gemacht. Na, endlich. Und was für eine volle Ladung. Sensationell.Danke.

  4. jj:waren das drei Monate, oh sh….
    Keine solchen Pausen mehr, versprochen!
    Arneyb:merci!
    Deddi: Danke ebenfalls!!

  5. Mike Gulett says:

    It is great to see you are back and to read about your adventures.

  6. jj says:

    Hi Gaby,

    we’ve seen lots of wheels, what about some meals now?

    Too busy driving? Autumn is coming, time for cooking, and I do need some new recipes :)

    jj

  7. Wunderbar! Fantastic stuff.

    Ps. No Oldtimer GP post yet?

  8. No.No Oldtimer grandprix. To much, endurance racing and taking pictures…

  9. Keystone says:

    Wow – stunning, stunning photography! Made me miss a good 30 mins of work, ha! Making it to the Le Mans Classic is definitely on my bucket list. For now, the Walter Mittys at Road Atlanta over on this side of the pond are my consolation prize!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Just read the German. Congrats!!!!!!!!!

    You writing is incredible. You are incredible.

    xo Franc

  11. Anonymous says:

    I meant the German Octane lauch issue.

    Franc

  12. Wow, thank you Franc for the HUGE compliment!

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