Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Le Mans postscript

Whale, it took me nearly one week to finally manage finish wading thru the ten plus hours of videotape I recorded for this years 76th running of the 24 Heurs du Mans, as although I knew which manufacturer won, I didn’t know which drivers…

As I made the mistake of trying to watch some of the race coverage late Saturday evening with my nearly 89 years young Auntie Harriet, who’s still recovering from her cracked ribs and sore lower tailfin…

When I arrived, she asked me; Are there any races on today? Yes, the 24 Heurs du Mans… Oh? Where’s that at? It’s in a place you once had an alleged beer in Sir Frank’s motor home at… You know, Le Mans, France…

As for several years it was recounted to me how she’d been invited into the inner sanctum of Sir Frank’s motor coach to indulge in a Fosters… Although the big man himself wasn’t present, nevertheless, Frank’s coach driver had given them the pleasure, but I digress…

Back to what would become a constantly droning on monologue… As “Auntie” said; Oh? What type of cars are they? They’re Sports Cars… So… What time is the race on at? 6PM… Where’s it at? Le Mans. What time is it in France? I don’t know. So, why can’t we watch it right now? Well because they’re (SPEED) showing some other racing series called RASSCAR right now and I don’t wanna watch ‘dat! So, how long is the race? 24hrs; What time is the race on at? 6PM and where’s the race at? Le Mans… Oh? What type of cars are racing there? What time is it in France? (Are you sensing a pattern here yet?)

So, we finally succumbed to turning on the Telescreen around 7PM to which I was immediately asked; What type of race cars are those? And what time is it in France? (And NO! I didn’t make any wisecracks ‘bout London and underpants… As I was starting to get a headache) When did the race begin? 6AM; Oh? You mean I could have been watching this all day? NO! Where’s the race at? Le Mans; Oh? What type of race cars are those? They’re Prototypes; What’s a Prototype? Who makes those silly ‘lil cars?

When did the race begin? 6AM; You mean I could have been watching this all day? What type of race cars are those? What time is it in France? It looks like the sun is coming up over there… You mean the race goes on all day… What time is it in France? Well, lets see Auntie, its 9PM so there’s another 9 ½ hours of race coverage. You mean it goes on all night? (SHEISA!!! Somebody get me a Fosters…)

And then it was over as surprisingly (Nod Nod, Wink Wink) Auntie Harriet hadn’t woken me up at 5AM to see the finish of the BLOODY Endurance race, go figure, eh?

And what a gripping race it was, eh? As the two main protagonists did not fail to deliver, as this epic battle of the tortoise and the hare was even more pronounced by the constantly changing weather… Although I’d hardly call the Audi R10’s SLOW! But, that said the closed coupe Peugeot’s are just simply stunning and thus we were treated to a real barn burner that went all the way down to the wire…

Yet, while all of the competitors pounded ‘round the clock, here’s just a few of the numerous tidbits I gleamed from the elongated television coverage.

Ex-endurance racer David Hobbs noted how he’d driven a Lola very briefly at the Circuit de la Sarthe back in 1967 as the British specialty auto manufacturer Lola Cars was celebrating its 50th Anniversary… As the future shape of the top echelon of Le Mans prototypes was being displayed by a very slick looking Lola/Auston Martin B08/60, which was described as all Lola from the nose back, and all Prodrive, nee Auston from the rear bulkhead, with the same massive 6.0 liter V-12 that its GT1 cousins were utilizing…

The Charouz Racing Systems B08/60 was the very first Lola produced and its three drivers; Tomas Enge, Stefan M├╝cke and Jan Charouz are all contracted by Aston Martin Racing. (AMR) which impressively split the Audi R10 TDI’s in qualifying with its production based gasoline engine…

Another interesting storyline was French driver Jean de Pourtales, who competes with an prosthetic left arm, which led “Hobbo” to launch into discourse about another hugely successful Sports Car driver; Archie Scott Brown, who gamed fame during the late 1950’s as an Lister “Nobly” pilot who raced with a right arm stump and needed to shift with his left hand before perishing at Spa in 1958. Even more impressive was the fact that De Pourtales Kruse Schiller Motorsport Lola/Mazda LMP2 entry was even able to compete after the massive cart wheeling escapade Hideki Noda had endured on Thursday night…

And a number of first’s were occurring, when Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnessen scored Corvette’s first GT1 pole position since 1976, although it would be for naught, as the #009 Aston Martin DBR9 would emerge victorious for the second year in a row, with drivers David Brabham and Darren Turner repeating…

Interestingly, Calvin Fish noted several times during the broadcast that “MAG’s” only has one requirement when getting a seat fitting. Can my right foot go all the way to the floor!

There was also the very first Chinese driver competing, along with the very first Spanish chassis entries since 1952 and the first husband-wife driving duo since 1993 on tap…

And talk about making a splashy debut, as Jos “The BOSS” Verstappen was interviewed about his stout driving performance, having driven approximately half of the event for Van Merksteijn Motorsport, which took its purple Porsche RS Spyder to its LMP2 class victory upon the teams, drivers and chassis debut…

And it was entertaining to hear Mika Salo vainly pleading to NOT have to go out again and drive the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 anymore… Although the Finn claimed he’d gotten 4hrs of sleep, as Mika would indeed pilot the class winning #82 to the chequered flag in a Ferrari GT2 whitewash, seeing the Maranello brand taking positions 1-5. It was Salo’s first win in his third start…

Yet, it was amazing to think that at the 22+ hour mark, the #2 Audi was leading the #7 Peugeot by less than two minutes, before the inclement weather struck the French countryside once again… As apparently Nicolas Minassian made a strategic blunder by opting to stay on slick tyres instead of switching to intermediates as the Lord ‘O Le Mans had elected, which would see Peugeot’s chances of overall victory slip from its grasp literally… With Minassian slithering all over the 8.5 mile circuit… And then another very curious call was made when the French team elected to go onto full wet weather tyres as the track was drying!

Thus, Tom Kristensen was able to “cruise” to his record eighth overall victory at Le Mans, alongside co-drivers Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello. As it was even more impressive that Kristensen had gotten away with two mistakes of running into competitor’s and has now run his staggering victory streak to 8 wins in 13 starts…

And while I’m always suspect of publicity inspired, headline grabbing attendance figures… Nevertheless it was noted numerous times how the circuit attracts a quarter of a million attendees, with last year’s record being set at 270,000! Look for an even more epic battle between the French Blue and the Teutonic German “Silver Arrows” next year…

No comments:

Post a Comment