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Region 13 Le Mans 2016 Gallery

Region 13 trip to Le Mans 24 2016

Three men in a tent (and two in a camper) or Region 13’s visit to Le Mans

Back in September 2015, Steve Cutler, Region 13 RO, announced that Region 13 would be going to Le Mans 2016 and he had teamed up with Lycian Events.

During our region’s October trip to Germany and Austria Steve asked me if I was interested in accompanying him on the Le Mans trip as his wife Helen wasn’t into that sort of event. After a little thought and the offer of being able to assist with the driving of his newly acquired GT4 (so not much thought required) I very “reluctantly” agreed to go. At this stage we were planning to stay in a 2 man tent on the official Porsche camp site at Porsche Curves.

That just left sorting out what our respective wives would be doing while we were off enjoying ourselves. We needn’t have worried; they had already decided to have some Spa treatment. No, not the one in Francochamp, but Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire!

Between November and March, two other region members announced their interest, with the result that Ian Crosskell was to share our tent and Robert Teague would be going in his camper van with his son Lewis. With Ian’s inclusion we now opted for a 4 man tent.

Steve and I left on the Wednesday night prior to the race to drive down to Ashford for an overnight stop close to the Tunnel in order to catch the 8.50am train under the channel on Thursday. Robert and Lewis also departed on Wednesday to catch the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen. Ian meanwhile was already in France at his residence near Beaune.

On arrival at the tunnel Terminal in Ashford there were long queues to get through the checking in booths, which resulted in an hour and a half delay boarding our train. The delay was due to not only the increase in Le Mans traffic but also fans going to the England v Wales Euro 2016 match being played that day somewhere in northern France (you can tell I’m not a football follower).

Our drive down to Le Mans was straightforward with little traffic and only one minor detour for road works on the A28 between Abbeyville and Le Translay. Ian had a similar journey across from Beaune apart from losing his rear number plate somewhere along his route. Robert and Lewis also had an uneventful trip apart from heavier than usual traffic all heading in the same direction.

On arrival at the campsite aptly named “The Village on the Curves”, we were greeted by some rather un-nerving scenes of waterlogged fields with tents and abandoned cars up to their hub caps in mud. This wasn’t quite what we had expected but the officials of Lycian explained that France had experienced unprecedented rain in the previous few weeks and after bringing in over 100 tons of bark they had tried their best to make the site useable. The GT4 and Ian’s 996 Cabriolet were duly parked on some very welcome hard standing and didn’t turn another wheel until departure after the race. Robert arrived slightly later and eventually parked the camper with the aid of the organisers 4x4, during the first 24 hours we found another 4 region 13 members on the same site.

After an evening meal in the campsite food hall we went up onto the Porsche Curves viewing banks and watched free practice until heavy rain brought out the red flag. At this point we all retired to the food hall to partake of the alcohol on offer and watch Eurosport showing the Safety Car getting very sideways as it went around the circuit to see if it was suitable for Free Practice to continue, but it obviously wasn’t.

Following a night wobbling around on an over-inflated air bed, with disco accompaniment from a neighbouring field and fairly regular blowing of a Kazoo (or some other kind of horn) lasting into the early hours we were up bright and early on Friday. Our first objective after breakfast was to try and acquire a new rear number plate for Ian’s car but this proved impossible even after appealing to a very helpful lady in the Le Mans Porsche Experience Centre.

After a walk along the front of the pits to look at all of the teams preparing their cars for the race, and a little retail therapy (nothing extravagant), we decided that lunch would consist of crepes, muffins and a glass of champagne. Well, when in France, do as the French do!! We then wanted to go down into Le Mans town to watch the driver’s parade. Whilst travelling on the very crowded (rammed would be another word) tram I had my wallet removed from my zipped up “Manbag”. Luckily I discovered this immediately we got off the tram and was able to cancel my credit cards before any harm was done. However, I still lost a lot of money, driving license and various other cards.

The driver’s parade was a bit of an anticlimax as far as we were concerned and seeing the Porsche Team drivers  we cut the viewing short in preference for getting an early table at a restaurant for our evening meal. After catching the tram back to the circuit and a good 2 mile walk back to the paddy field, sorry “Village on the Curves”, we were ready for a good night drink and off to bed again.

Saturday started with great expectancy. After breakfast we headed off towards the start area and a further walk around the trade stands behind the pits, also called The Village. After watching the Race to Le Man support race the lure of the Pommery champagne bar was too great and a repeat of the previous day was enjoyed. We decided to take up a position on the inside of the track leading up to the Dunlop Bridge chicane to watch the start of the race. You will have no doubt read about the start behind the safety car due to the very heavy downpour of rain just prior to the start. We watched from this vantage point for about 2 hours before returning to the Porsche Curves to watch the racing into the dark and up to midnight. The atmosphere was very exciting as the number 2 Porsche, Toyota and Audi’s raced close to one another into the night.

Strangely, although our tent was no more that 100 yards from the track, and with all the noise of the competing cars, we all woke up on Sunday morning having had the best night’s sleep of the whole trip!

In order to get as much of the atmosphere as possible we decided to spend Sunday morning spectating at Arnage corner. After a lengthy walk, including a stop off at a very pleasant boulangerie we were unexpectedly offered a lift by a friendly local Frenchman who lived almost adjacent to the track at Arnage. We stayed here until around 1.00 pm and then decided to make our way back to the start/finish are to watch the conclusion. After squeezing into the area in front of the main grandstand we were able to watch the unbelievable climax to the race both on the big screen and in front of us. It was an amazing experience to witness history such as this in the making and something that in years to come we will all be able to say “I was there”.

So, with Porsche having done it again, we set off back to the camp site with an even bigger spring in our step for a beer and Sunday roast in the food hall. There was much chatter amongst everyone about the outcome of the race and, not least of all speculation as to what had led to Toyota’s number 5 car not completing the distance.

At this point Steve and I decided that we fancied an early departure so, after dinner and a shower, we packed our bags and set off for Calais, leaving Ian to a final night on the air bed on his own in the tent and Robert and Lewis also to return on the Monday.

The GT4 proved to be an excellent cruiser and after an uneventful run back to Calais we joined the back of the queue of the returning throng, eventually catching the 1.40 am tunnel crossing. Our time on the train was taken up by a very interesting debate with a fellow traveller in a brand new 16 plate 991Turbo S Cabriolet discussing the benefits and features of each vehicle and both drivers admiring each others choices.

We eventually arrived back in Stourbridge at 5.00 am to a very welcome “proper” bed and slept until 10.00 am.

Needless to say, at breakfast there was much discussion with our respective spouses about the happenings of the weekend, oh, and the girls enjoyed their pampering too.

Region 13 Le Mans 2016 gallery contains 45 images and is part of the PCGB Hereford, Worcester & Shropshire region activities from August 2016

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