12th August 2010:
Oops! Can't believe I forgot to post the link to the Classic photos! They're over on my photography website at http://www.maisonblanche.co.uk/rickwilsonphoto/2010_Le_Mans_Classic.html.
It was an incredible weekend and 'our' car ran beautifully, despite the incredible heat. I overdid it (and underestimated my water requirement) on Friday afternoon while shooting out at the Playstation chicane on the Mulsanne for the practice sessions, to the point where a marshal took pity on me and poured some water over my head! Don't worry, he did gesture to me to put my camera down first!
Other parts of the circuit I shot from were the pit straight, Dunlop chicane, Indianapolis, Arnage, Esses, Tertre Rouge and start of the Mulsanne. No time to get out to the Porsche Curves this year!
This all ended with a well earned pint (or should I say half-litre) at the Stella Bar come Sunday afternoon at 4pm. Think I earned it! Anyway, please check out the photos and spread the word....
27th June 2010:
Think I've just about recovered now! Just in time to start preparing for my next visit to our favourite circuit, in just over a week's time!
Yes it's an even-numbered year which means it Le Mans Classic time! With a bumper entry yet again, we can look forward to an action-packed weekend with some of the most mouth-watering machinery ever to grace the track over the years. As in recent years, the cut off is 1979 but that still gives us an incredible field of over 300 cars again.
Very exciting for me though is that I shall be part of the Jigsaw Racing team for the whole week! Entered in Grid 4 with the beautifully reconstructed ex-works Triumph Spitfire ADU 1B, I shall be joining up at the factory on Tuesday 6th July as they load up and depart Francewards.
This will be the longest I've ever spent at the Classic as we don't return back to the UK until Tuesday 13th, so plenty of time to relax and take simply thousands of photos! I'm officially there on behalf of DailySportscar.com and will be trackside to capture all the action as well as write a diaried article of the week's events from the team's point of view.
I visited the team earlier this year as they were preparing the car for a test run and can't wait to meet up again next week! Check back here in a couple of weeks for the full story....
15th June 2010:
Wow! What a race! Just back from France and still breathless thinking about it all!
After Peugeot dominated practice, who would have predicted the Audi dominated result? At least we now know why the Peugeots backed off after the first hour's 'show' for the TV coverage rather than press home their advantage. They may have been fast but they knew they were fragile too.
We certainly had a mixed bag of weather, which certainly made things interesting on the campsite at times! Although it didn't have the effect on the race that we thought it might. But how many punctures? You have to feel for Team Mansell too, a very disappointing end to one of the most talked about entries for years .. and so soon into the race. Here's hoping for better luck for the team next year.
With the much anticipated GT2 battle living up to expectations of excitement and drama, it was Porsche who came through here. Strakka were most impressive in LMP2, but not without a long challenge from the sister HPD car of Highcroft Racing. A most interesting battle for many, many hours. And with the singleton Saleen bowing out in fitting style after a strong steady run as all around them in GT1 pushed the self-destruct button, it was an incredible year even without the battle at the sharp end.
Peugeot were seemingly dominating proceedings as night fell. We had to admit defeat in the early hours (my triple stint through the night to virtually 'non-stop' between Calais and the circuit catching up with me!) but awoke to find Audi's 1st and 2nd! What followed was several hours of incredible catch-up driving by the crew of the no.1 Peugeot (although a certain Radio Le Mans commentator was a little more critical of Anthony Davidson's driving at times!) and with their quarry almost in their sights, that fragility factor kicked in again, leaving the challenge to the 4th 'non-works' Oreca-run 908 which was making up handfuls of time on the Kristensen/McNish/Capello Audi which now ran in 3rd, but was definitely under threat from Hugues de Chaunac's final French roll of the dice.
Lapierre sneaked past Dindo to huge approval from the partisan crowd around us only to pit the next time around and hand 3rd back to the four-ringed masters of reliability. As the no.4 908 emerged from the pits I turned to Mike and (jokingly) suggested it was about to follow its sisters ... within half a lap it had, as it too broke in a cloud of smoke. I think I should have done the lottery ....
Ultimately though, Audi's experience and incredible reliability came through .. and a new distance record too, finally beating the 39 year old record of van Lennep's and Marko's Martini Porsche 917 .. what a performance!
Team MB elected to watch the finish from "La Roue Parisienne" by the Ford chicanes and timed it perfectly to be at the top as the Audis crossed the line....
9th June 2010:
So we now move into the build-up 'proper' with the first practice and qualifying sessions this afternoon and this evening.
No dramas to report from scrutineering so all 56 cars should take to the track today (please no repeat of the JLOC Lamborghini farce last year!). The weather is now forecast to be slightly less inclement although it's still supposed to be torrential when we're putting our tents up tomorrow morning!
Yes, our departure day is finally here! Rich, Mikey and I leave MB Towers about 9pm this evening to then catch the 01:23 'Le Shuttle' through the Channel Tunnel and drive through the night to arrive at the circuit in the morning. Our party is complete when Mike flies in from Madrid at lunchtime.
Currently I don't have the technology sorted so that I can blog from the circuit but rest assured the camera will be well and truly wielded over the weekend and many photos will be posted here next week!
Enjoy the race whether you are there or in the comfort of your armchair. For those of us in the UK, good old Eurosport has probably their biggest coverage scheduled yet.
7th June 2010:
Just a few days to go now for me, although proceedings are already well under way in the city centre with scrutineering, which began yesterday and finishes today. I always feel so frustrated at this time of year. One day I will make the WHOLE race week, maybe for that landmark 30th attendance next year?
No news yet of any glitches/problems encountered. Should all 56 cars pass scrutineering and qualify within limits avoiding major accidents, then this will be the largest field to take the tricoloured start since the 60 starters in 1955!
One word that is on everyone's lips at the moment though, and it's a traditional topic favoured by us meteorologically-obsessed English, is the weather. Very mixed reports on various websites but it seems sure that we'll get some serious wet stuff at some point. Currently predicted for qualifying and race which will certainly mix things up a bit!
This is all building up to be a corker!
4th June 2010:
OK so the harsh realities of day to day life mean that I am unable to keep up with regular news feeds so I will leave that to the big boys from now on (try those fabulous chaps at www.dailysportscar.com).
Anyway here we are, just a few days away from this year's race. This year will be my 29th attendance (must sort something a bit special for next year!) and with accreditation harder to come by every year, this will be another year that I'm "beerside" of the fence. Although thankfully the ACO have created a handful of great places that we can shoot from in recent years.
We're camping just inside the Tertre Rouge corner this year on the excellent Team Langoustine campsite, so will be handily placed for Thursday evening qualifying from the Tertre Rouge banking. We don't arrive until Thursday morning so sadly will be confined to watching Wednesday practice courtesy of Eurosport before heading off to Folkestone for Le Shuttle in the very early hours of Thursday.
This year though, I do have a small commission for Travel Destinations to shoot atmosphere shots of people enjoying themselves - so anyone going, you have been warned!
So an interesting entry this year. Yes we still hanker after the likes of 1999 when we had Toyota, Mercedes and BMW fighting for top honours, plus Audi, Panoz, Courage, Lola and Nissan in there too, but still an entry to whet the appetite. I've counted over 20 ex-F1 pilots (might have missed one or two!) and we even have two of them in one car - Fisichella and Alesi in one of the AF Corse Ferraris in GT2. Talking of which, this is sure to be the most exciting category this year, with Ferrari, BMW, Jaguar, Corvette, Porsche, Aston Martin and Spyker Squadron all in the mix. Anyone who witnessed the GT2 battle at Laguna Seca recently will know exactly what I'm talking about!
Personally I'm rooting for the number 7 Audi; huge fan of Tom K, Nishy and Dindo. Just as long as a certain local lad and French favourite in Peugeot number 3 doesn't win I'll be happy anyway; never forgiven him for his arrogant self-important attitude after unceremoniously shoving Martin Short's Rollcentre Dallara off in 2004. Sorry Pedro and Simon!
Before I sign off to go and check my bags one more time, I can't go without mentioning almost unprecedented happenings at ACO Towers last week. With just days to go, all of a sudden they build an extra garage and allow another car in! I feel so sorry for all those people and magazines who have printed race guides well in time for next week! The inclusion of a car that wasn't even in the original selection breaks all of the ACO's own rules in recent years. But hey, we still love 'em ... don't we? I'm sure Pierre Bruneau does as it means his Radical SR9 gets a very eleventh hour nod and is in!