Le Mans Classic customer track experience

Le Mans Classic customer track experience
Our Le Mans Classic track experience

The centre point to a recent fantastic weekend at europe’s biggest Classic car festival held at the famous le Mans race track was to take part in a parade of historic vehicles that opened up race day itself driving our ex rally 1957 MGA. It was the main focus of a fab road trip that contained lots of stories and giggles along the way, however it was all building to our big race day “parade laps”.

In the days and hours leading up to the big moment, the weather had played it’s part, – never grey, but solid blocks of isolated heavy showers one minute and bright summer sunshine the next… So with our noon start time approaching all eyes were on the sky to see whether we would enjoy a dry track.., shades on.., top down.., full on “pose” experience, – or a compromised ‘hood up’ wet display…

A solid drenching swept passed le Mans and narrowly missed the track, leaving a damp area at the far end of the historic 7.2 mile ribbon of tarmac. So the Clerk of the Course briefed everyone that the section around the end of the famous Mulsanne straight was “greasy…” – and that previous years had seen accidents that he did not want to see again this year…

“Enjoy the parade and remember it is NOT a race…” – were his final words…

The moment was upon us, and from the collection car park we were taken through the crowds to a main display and assembly area, the atmosphere was brilliant and yours truly was in 7th heaven, even Sue gave up her “car loathing” ways for a day and was grinning like a child.

About 60 beautiful classics packed in to the assembly area so tightly we were almost swapping paint; 60’s Jags.., Cobras.., “tricked up” Lotus 7s.., Race cars from bygone days.., Healy 3 litres.., Rally specials, and later MGs formed the bulk of the group, all shining like the proverbial new pins and all, (including Susan Worthy’s little MGA) drippingly gorgeous.., – the banter flew thick and fast, and it was at this point that I realised that we were.., – how car I put this..?, probably one of the oldest and therefore slowest cars out there…

Still it didn’t matter as we were all going to drive very “sloooooooooooowly” like the Clerk of the Course had said.., weren’t we..?

We even joked with another MG about stopping under the Dunlop bridge for a picnic…

It was at this point things started to get very.., er.., well.., “very French…”

Filtering through to the front of the assembly area came that same Clerk of the Course in a hot BMW followed by 8 or 9 ‘state of the art’ examples of what Mr Ferrari could do with carbon fibre and precious metal, – all howling music composed by Enzo himself and all struggling to tick over as only race engines do… Each one worth over half a million of your “english pounds” and most of the pilots in race overalls with crash helmets. They were at best, semi legal, but in all reality they were Ferrari ‘track day only’ machinery, – a couple of which had even had full bespoke open top race bodywork fitted for the full le Mans spec…

Bugger.

It was at this point I started to feel very small, very uninsured, and very vulnerable…

If I was once any good at this kinda’ thing..? – then I had long forgotten how to “do what I did,” – so to speak.., and let us not forget I was driving a car 55 years older than the; “howling, prancing, red horses…”

We couldn’t back out now and anyway whistles were blowing and we are beginning to move.., with the screaming Ferraris’ all over the back of the course car like a rash, swooping around trying to get heat into their slick tyres (!!)…

We all eventually followed out on to the wonderful track and set off past the applauding grandstands, we were on cloud 9, – it was wonderful…

All of us, at our own skill levels and various speeds set about having the experience of a life time, and as is “normal” on these occasions intense memories have no order, just random, “moments..,” – it was utterly, utterly fantastic..!!

I had intended to drive reasonably slowly and take in the memories, the detail, and the atmosphere, – however by half way around the first lap, – egged on by ‘the present Mrs Booton’ I had “maxed out” my self imposed rev limit and was already abusing a car more suited to a cream tea run on a sleepy Dorset afternoon.

Keeping out of everyones way was as much of a challenge as the track itself, – as faster cars with over enthusiastic and under talented drivers washed passed us in various states of control…

But all the while, in the back of my mind I knew the “sea of hurtling red carbon fibre” that had started well before us and was lapping at about 3 times the speed.., – would come up behind us and engulf us at some point…

Sue.., choosing to forget that we were driving a dainty classic car that needed to re-chrome it’s door handles whenever it cornered quickly was egging me on “something rotten…”

Go faster, faster..!!.., – don’t let another one by you..!!.., – take a racing line and you’ll be quicker..!! She kept yelling, unaware of the responsibility I had to my mirrors… She was expecting me to “mix it” with the Cobras and the E types.., – and whilst I did my best to find the gaps and have a “play” in the corners.., this grinning idiot was being out gunned on every level…

..and still I knew Enzo’s finest were coming…

Lap 3, – and after the Dunlop bridge and down through the fast curves we took the right hander and were off onto the famous Mulsanne straight, the MGA was flat out before we had even got beyond the painted curbs and up to the iconic line of trees.., like “Mr & Mrs Toad,” (poop – poop..!!) we zoomed past the restaurant at les Hunadieres where I had camped as a spotty 18 year old “yoof” back in 1978, and we saw at first hand the elevations to the track that send so many cars (literally) flying into the trees at 200mph.., – fan’bloody’tastic…

I took the racing line for the first chicane and then on to the bulk of the straight, waving like children to the Healy 3 litre we had chatted to in the paddock as it passed us. The far distant point in my rear view mirror still showed the very start of the straight which was probably by now a mile behind us.

However in that mirror there was a distant, minuscule flash of red, – just as I lined up to brake for the second chicane…

They’re coming…

Out from the 2nd chicane onto the final section of the straight and the miniature mirror in “TYJ” (MGA nickname) showed the distant red dot had now become a single hurtling blob in my mirrors, – one bright red car with random edges and 20 plus wheels…

Your’s truly quickly worked out that the “snarling multi wheeled red beast” – despite our own flat out top speed of about 80 mph was closing on us at a rate of approx. 100mph…

Now your toast falls butter side down and the phone goes when you are on the loo.., and in this case – I also worked out that “the prancing beast” was due to reach us in the braking zone for the tight right hander at the end of the Mulsanne straight, – that will be the greasy section then…

Deep joy…

Backing off wasn’t an option as they would just “rear end” us at over a 100mph, (their closing speed).., so “gunning it” was the only real choice.., and so for one corner only I dug deep into my own racing history and that of a 55 year old “dinky toy” with bicycle tyres for wheels and went; “Mano a’ Mano” with roughly 6 bespoke, ‘full on’ le Mans sports cars.., – for my part trying not to wash the front end across the track and clatter into 4 or 5 million quids worth of metallic pornography, – all whilst recovering from the curb hopping I was indulging in.., – and for their part, the pack of ‘Italian Stallions’ were locking wheels and dodging for gaps that were suddenly full of a “noddy car…”

Somehow we all made it, and even one or two smiles and waves from the various racers suggested that they knew enough to understand that we, and they, were all doing our best to avoid being a headline in the following weeks motoring press…

Then we all accelerated off through the tunnel of trees with the crescendo of their exhausts so strong that it was almost a physical touchable thing, and they were away, we had all made it safely and that one intense moment was utterly wonderfully fantastic, – and worth more than any number of cheap package tours to crowded, fag end strewn, european beaches.

It was of course then spoilt slightly when “the present Mrs Booton” lent across and yelled something about me making it too easy for them to get by..?????!!%@!?*&??!!!

Next time she can do the bloody driving, – or I’m at least gunna’ fit her baseball cap with mirrors..!!

I’m sure I’ve had more fun, I just cant remember when..?

Thank you Travel Destinations. We are at the Spa Classic & Le Mans Classic 2014 to do this all again.

Cheers

“Mr & Mrs Toad”
Richard Booton & Sue Worthy