Le Mans 2008 LeMans, F1, formule 1, konstrukce, | Constructors F1

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Le Mans 2008 LeMans, F1, formule 1, konstrukce, | Constructors F1 Constructors F1

Le Mans 2008

J.Beneš text/foto V.Novák | 14.5.08 | J. Beneš


At last! At last on our fourth visit of this amazing event we managed to get to the famous Parades Pilotes into the center of Le Mans at the Jacobin's Square, which we have missed for so many years. Well, we rather couldn't pick up our courage to seek a sensible means of transport from the circuit into the city center, which we had heard of many times before, but quite naively kept trying to squeeze our minibus through totally jammed streets.

Anyway, to start at the beginning, I have to remember the standard confusion and chaos preparing the expedition, completing the list of items to take, that actually had been compiled a year before, but was nowhere to find now and completing the crew. As usual the biggest question was the number of participants. At one moment it almost seemed we might need to book a full size coach, however a week before departure the team streamlined to a healthy core of five plus one accompanying car from Uherske Hradiste.The journey went pretty well, except for the number of chewed radish I should have restricted a bit, as my devastated taste had a problem telling the difference between the radish and the salt I put on it, turning a hot Hunter's Salami into a load of washed sawdust fit rather for making pressed desks than eating. Another rather traditional sight we met about 15 km before Prague at about half past five in the morning, it was a pretty badly crushed Octavia hit by a van on the right side, so that both doors almost touched the shifting stick. What the guys were doing remains a mystery. An awful experience, although the fact, that we didn't witness anything like it for another twelve hundred kilometers across Europe make you wonder about the experience and overall attitude to road driving of our "drivees".After several safety breaks necessary to pee, eat, drink and other amusing stuff, we reached Le Mans at about seven in the evening. We skipped the visit to the center and the hail to segniora Balghetti this year and full of optimism dashed directly to the camp Beause Jour, where we camped so nice the year before. Domina at the entrance waved her cared for index finger right into our faces and the machine gun like no, no, no left noone in doubts that this year again we would be trying new varieties of infiltrating the camp. Her quite long lecture on gaining some kind of a yellow label, combined with our total ignorance of the French language turned her, for sure clever, speech into casting pearls before swines. We nodded our heads like rocking horses, spitting out some general words of thanking in the end, although we had no idea what, in fact, for. Maybe for that she stopped or didn't have us whipped on a public place as a warning to the others. Merci madame. We sneaked out of her siege and went wondering around, looking for a way to acquire some tickets and an entry to some camp. The only word that stuck in our minds was something like Au, Ou r A, however that was rendered useless anyway, when the addressed organizers only shook their heads in disbelief, just like before. Today I hardly remember which particular combination of desperately put words took our expedition in front of the CITY EXHIBITION CENTRE, which turned to be the only right place to enter the circuit. We didn't get a yellow label, but for a blessed 80 EUR a blue one, bearing a familiar inscribtion MAISON BLANCHE. Having discovered that it was, in our opinion, one of the most prestigious spots for camping, there was no end of our enthusiasm. Maison Blanche Camp, located in the area of the circuit, perhaps a hundred metres from the track, is usually crowded with English fans owning various gems of the car history. This showed immediately after we parked as a beautifully blue FORD GT 40 steamed his way past us with the sight of a legendary JAGUAR E-TYPE just across the aisle. Finally a place no one can push us away from right from the start. With this thought on our minds and smiles on our faces we slowly took a look around and began to absorb the smell of a nearby racing circuit, where the traditional night qualifications were just happening.Our neighbors were a group of five young Englishmen who brought along three girls to their trip to France. They were particularly interesting by drinking themselves senseless with a third cans of beer in regular intervals throughout the weekend, when their campsite looked as if it was struck by the hurricane Katrina. The carpet of empty or not finished bottles, dirty dishes, charcoal, broken garden furniture and shrimps on sticks gave us a pretty good idea of how the feast of true Lukuls look made in England. And they say English cooking is plain. Their sixty-year old neighbour actually explained to us that that was not a standard English behaviour but we knew better.Friday morning found us traditionally on a trial ride on the circuit, mainly into the famous restaurant halfway down the Hunaudieres straight. Our youngsters were sitting in an open side doors of the Transporter, like American Marines on board a Bell helicopter searching the jungle, on their laps loaded water guns as a protection against unleashed fans occupying the legendary places. Just when we thought the trip might go without an incident and that our deference method, copied from Rambo, would be successful, the Worm's head was hit by at least a kilo water ball, treacherously thrown from the third row by a girl who looked like the Pipi Stockings. The splashed water cut our daydreaming of our mission going on peacefully and the Transporter was transformed into a combat vehicle at once. I am not saying that all that had been hit by our weapons deserved it, but these water battles traditionally belong to the racing weekend in Le Mans and therefore no one felt insulted.Having returned to the camp we had lunch and went for a paddock inspection, which is open to the public on Friday from 10am to 8pm. In front of Charouz Racing System I remembered an evening reminiscing of a French guy who, with a glass of Veltlin from Cejkovice, was talking about the Tomas Enge's debut in Le Mans, then in a Ferrari. He was stationed behind the Dunlop Bridge near the slope to the corners Esses, observing as all the GT's brake lights blinked several times, only Enge's didn't. "Tomas no brake, Tomas full gas, full gas. Very good driver." We told him that is the way we all do it in our country, but I am not sure whether he nodded his head just out of politeness or to make sure he would get another glass of wine.As the tour in boxes went fast we split into several groups. Some wanted more details and photos of the unhooded cars, some went to the museum and the rest, Tana and me, went downtown to explore the possibilities of public transport into the centre. I heard there was a bus from the main gate, so logically, that was where we started with an enquiry at the local parking lot warden. I won't embarrass myself further by repeating that the only thing I can say in French is "bonzur" and "mersee", plus the correct pronunciation of the famous straight "inadieer" I learned from the mentioned French man, but there are no other words to describe the situation. We went through this little drama three more times, until we finally found ourselves on a typical bus stop, about five hundred meters from the main gate, full of motor fans covered mainly with Danish flags. The bus appeared about five minutes later and we boarded with a feeling of comfort of having a lot of time to explore the mysteries of the public transport in Le Mans. The Danes gave away such feeling of confidence that we had no doubts they would lead us to our destination. There was a moment we were wondering whether we weren't on some tour round the whole city, however, after about an hour of going there and back, the Danes started edging away and a station appeared. Most passengers, us included, got off and set off up the hill following the rails, towards the center, the Jacobin's Square, where the Parades Pilotes takes place. A trust we were on the right track to discovering yet new facilities of the famous race grew ever stronger. The decorated streets, plenty of flowers and the flags everywhere, including ours, the Czech one. Quite a pleasant feeling. There was a circuit, made of steel barricades, lined with thousands of fans and city dwellers, where the ceremonial march with drivers in historical cars would happen. The parade starts at six, the drivers of all teams get in the historical open veteran cars, come to the ramp at the square, where they are introduced to the public, including important representatives of both political and motor world, sitting on the stalls close to the podium, then all leave in a file through the streets. The square show and the parade are accompanied by cheerleaders and many other artistic performances making it a pretty big carnival. There was even some brass band from the Czech Republic, but I wouldn't remember their name nor the town they came from. Before the teams get into the prepared cars, they are herded in a close area under the St Julien Cathedral, so the onlookers get a chance to glace upon an incredible number of famous drivers. This year, there were, for instance, eight Formula 1 drivers. We didn't wait till the end, as the last bus leaves from the station shortly after eight, but on the stroke of seven we headed back on a return trip to the circuit.After a light dinner in the camp we set off to the traditional visit to the Czech trackers to Arnage, where we, by the way, exchanged warming Starobrno from our stock for the cool ones from their fridge. We knocked back a few to friendship, which recovered our self-confidence, a bit depressed in our travels, back to its usual level. After the audience and the consequent sunset our group headed back to the camp, with all intention to continue the blessed talks of cars and their utensils, but had to teach our yesterday's Anglo/French friends to say "a cup" long into the night. Especially the French accent was a mead to our ears.On Saturday morning a warm-up was started, followed by an hour's race of historic cars the class C, from which, as an admirer of Wankel engines, I was most curious about MAZDA 757 with its three rotor motor. It looked well preserved, only the driver was weird. Instead of a real burning the rubber, he probably wanted just to have a ride, or I didn't pick up the right spot to watch. You rather use your brakes coming to Maison Blanche, which are quite noiseless, as you know, and the Ford shicanes you do not exactly approach with the pedal on the floor. Next time, I will have to go to the final straight. I wiped a tear from my face and shifted my attention to the violetwhite Jaguars Silk Cut, Mercedes C9, not to mention a heap of Porsche 962s. Very nice sight.The race finished shortly before noon and we began to ponder the best location to watch the cars in the first few laps after the start of the famous seventy-sixth 24-hour race. In the end, considering the last year's success, we picked up the PORSCHE corner, also because you can see the cars approaching from distance and you could take this stall for a boundary of a spectators' sector. Therefore we went there an hour early, to get a good place, so that we could see in our own eyes how the guys would stick to the positions they won in qualifications. Especially the sixth place of "our" Lola with Aston Martin engine kept us warm around our hearts, and proud again for being Czechs. Shortly before three, accompanied by the SAFETY CAR, the pack of anxious horses, hidden in the engines, kept down by the drivers, moved around us, only to be, with the stroke of three o'clock with the green lights on, unleashed to a long and tiring battle for seconds, on this legendary 13,629m long circuit, with an average speed exceeding 230kph, where the best ones make more than five thousand kilometers.The race is on! A helicopter following the pack tells us where the wild predators let out of the arena might be, and we mumble the famous names in our minds. The Dunlop Bridge, Esses, Tertre Rouge, Hunaudieres, Mulsane, Indianopolis, Arnage and here they come. The first three Peugeots, two Audis, the Czech Lola with them, being chased by the last of diesels, a red-silver AUDI number one. Fantastic feeling and goose bumbs even on your tongue. There is a Japanese DOME JUDD S102, number 11, keeping in touch with the first seven, followed by PESCAROLA ORECY, PORSCHE RS Spyder and a mix of GTs, lead by CORVETTEs and ASTON MARTINs, the factory ones bearing colours of the oil giant GULF. I almost hear Steve McQeen say: "The world is a race, what comes before and after is just waiting."After some time, when things started to seem pretty settled, I went back to the camp for a light lunch to gain strength before the night's pilgrimage to another borderstone, this time the legendary corner Tetre Rouge. However, having eaten several mouthfulls of macrobiotic goulash I almost choked on the spoon, just as Libor came running from the circuit making unrecognizible sounds, from which I was only able to decipher Charouz, gravel, wall, fucked, limping to the paddock. A cold shower wouldn't have aroused stronger emotions and my head immediately filled with thoughts. Are we going home, are we not going home, should I cry, get drunk, beat someone?! What if he was stronger and knocked me out? Let's calm down and wait for the end. There si a lot of time left and if it isn't anything major, the mechanics should be able to deal with that, or so I hoped. The repair took about forty minutes and the Blue-white LOLA set off for the chase with a loss of some thirteen laps. After that, the Devil himself stirred that damned goulash of a race adding a little water in the early morning and the very end, including the usual ingredients like burst tires, trips to the safety zones and other. On Sunday, as late as three in the afternoon, it turned out that Tom Kristensen with his AUDI R10TDI and two team mates Rinaldo Capell and Allan McNish outwitted the pack of Peugeots and would get top of the podium. The popular Tom even for the eighth time already. The race thrilling to the very end, and our, very sharply watched, LOLA came nineth after a fantastic chase.Having witnessed the podiun ceremony from the final straight, we walked the circuit slowly towards the camp, where we spent the evening relaxing and discussing the passed fantastic weekend and swapping experiences. There we also swore to to come back to the circuit in Sarthe next year, with as many friends as we can get in that year to come. We left Le Mans on Monday dawn, about five and arrived in Brno as usual, around nine in the evening.Jura Benes




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