Le Mans Classic 2008 F1,Formule 1, construct, konstrukce | Constructors F1

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Le Mans Classic 2008 F1,Formule 1, construct, konstrukce | Constructors F1 Constructors F1

Le Mans Classic 2008

J.Beneš text/foto V.Novák | 15.5.08 | J. Beneš

Le Mans

We saw Mr Bean! Really, no kidding, just standing there, as the God created him. Well, I mean he wasn't naked, of course. He was standing there in white overalls, helmet in his hands, white JAGUAR E-Type next to him, with a tag Rowan Atkinson on the panel and the number sixty eight on the door. Fantastic.

It has not been a month and I am speeding on a highway to Le Mans again, with my car full of friends of classic cars, this time to the event called Le Mans Classic 2008. The veterans used to be a part of the famous 24-hour race, but the number of cars grew and could not fit into the area around and on the circuit. Commencing with the year 2002, the organizers decided to make a special meeting focused exclusively on the classic cars, that have ever appeared in Le Mans, and to take the opportunity to invite a number of clubs to present their archive darlings. At the beginning of the year they publish a list of cars they would be interested in, the applications are sorted out, and there is no guarantee that if you apply, you can go. The main reason is to keep the variety and prevent some class from becoming a one manufacturer's cup. The cars are distributed to six categories depending on the year of production, beginning with 1923, when this amazing race happened for the first time, and the sixth "plateau" ending in 1979. There are about sixty cars in each group, which are assessed using various coefficients depending on the age, displacement and other, to us mysterious, data. The groups change in roughly hour intervals, so that each of them gets three times on the circuit. Also the drivers must change, otherwise the first one must spend one minute in the pit stop, when the other driver is not interested. The first start is done in the way of Le Mans, when the drivers stand on the opposite side of the track, after the signal they must run across the road, get in, start the engine and then set off for the race. The overly developed drivers experience quite a handicap with the jog itself, let alone getting their bodies in tight overalls into their precious old darlings.Once more, our biggest interest was in the second group for the cars from 1949 to 1956. By the way, that is when I was born, however I do not really feel I would be getting any more valuable with the age. I am rather ready for some general maintenance. The reason was that our old friend from the last event in 2006, glittering beauty and the pride of the Czech post-war car industry SKODA 1101 SPORT would take part in the race. It appears that Skoda really liked Le Mans and, following the last success, she might participate regularly. The Egidy Team prepared the car with proper care again and the optimistic feelings in the camp indicated a possible move upwards in the classification.The event itself is rather a social occasion, which is obvious when you look at the tickets, where you can find crossed icons of undesired clothing items. It aims mainly at bare upper parts of the body, worn out T-shirts and beach foot wear of Vietnamese style. Of course, no one would actually send you home for something like this, but on the other hand, it is remarkable that organizers remember such relatively unimportant detail. In the inner parts of the circuit, bearing a poetic name "villages", you can find a number of stalls with miscellaneous things, reminding the visitors just how long has the car industry been ruling this world. Or strangling? That is probably a matter of opinion and the angle of view. Anyway, you can get anything from walking sticks with ivory handles, women's steering gloves from the high-quality leather to SHELL fuel pumps from the beginning of the 20th century. Not to mention the variety of car model's stalls. As we were in France, at the celebration of taste, gentlemanship and charm, you could not miss the shops with chosen kinds of Champagne. A bottle for fifty EUR, but priceless atmosphere and experience. Upholstered armchairs, wooden tables, white tablecloths, tall glasses, who would resist? You could also have a decilitre for ten, but for a group a tube is definitely better. Excuse me, I mean a bottle, of course, we are in high society, aren't we?From the July's visit to the 24-hour I had new knowledge of the public transport and therefore, together with Mila and Mirek, who, by the way, drove the mentioned Skoda in 2006, we set off for the centre to explore some new sights of this amazing town. This time we picked up the tram and full of expectation headed to the stop. It is located about three hundred metres from the east gate of our camp Houx. The ticket dispenser stubbornly rejected our banknotes, even though we asked it nicely, however, after a while of turning our pockets inside out we managed to satisfy it. To prove its complete bliss from our coins it gave us six tickets for the total of 7.50 EUR. After a moment of waiting a glittering electric carriage appeared, in a decent shade of red-brick metallic paint with a dim black accessories. The interesting thing about the local trams is, that each of them has, apart from its number, also a name after a famous personality linked with the local region. Ours bore the name of Wilbur Wright, after the older of the Wright brothers, who tried to sell his brand new invention to the French Army by a number of demonstration flights around Le Mans. Having conciled shortly with the local retired people we succeeded in marking the tickets and in about fifteen minutes we got off at the Republic Square in the centre of Le Mans. It is much better and also much faster than the round trip by bus, moreover the trams run till about an hour after the midnight which makes it definitely the preferable type of transport.We popped into the information centre to get a map and off we went to the Jacobin's Square, to the famous Cathedral St.Julien, which we intended to explore from the inside. There was no victory arch this time, nor stalls for the local bigwigs, just the combination of cars parked in the central part gave a hint that there might be something petrol stained going on. A Ferrari cabriolet from the 90s, Hillman Imp from the 60s and Renault from the beginning of the century, all with licence plates, of course. Just the emissions stamp were perhaps a little shabby.Having climbed some thirty stairs we came to vicinity of the cathedral and also into another world. Narrow curvy alleys, cobbles, slate roofs and stone houses with tiny windows, balconies and balustrades arose memories of the king's musketeers. Should d'Artagnan or vinous Porthos appear, we would not be probably surprised.The inside of the temple than made me feel similar to all other church buildings, which is small, nil and humble in the world. I am not learned enough to describe all the details, moreover there is no place for this now, but the visit was definitely worth it. We had a beer and coffee in the square to kill the time before returning to the circuit, where we wanted to witness the start of our favourite group two.On the stroke of four the show started moving and lasted non-stop till the Sunday afternoon, when the Rolex clock on the timekeepers tower, again at four, put a stop to this spectacular piece. In the meantime, our group kept gathering and breaking, like an Italian couple, taking handfuls of the motor racing delicatessen. Often one truly didn't know where to look first. Whether to watch passing by Fords GT 40, Porches 917 and other legends on the track, or wander through the parking lot of the competing cars divided into the year's groups and get the real feeling for the them. That was also where we met Mr.Bean. Or was it on Friday before the race? I can not remember exactly now, but perhaps it does not matter. He was there!We also must not forget the Skoda, for which we kept our fingers crossed, or fists clenched, as little Annie says, as it held on bravely all the time and, obviously, it learned a trick or two since its debut two years ago. Or it was rather its support team working hard so that it could reach an excellent result in such strong competition. The eleventh place out of sixty speaks for itself, especially if you consider it left legends like Jaguar, Maserati or Porsche behind.In the camp afterwards, there was a lot of discussions, often fuelled by plum vodka, while I was taking some rest in my tent to be ready for the journey home. That went easy on the familiar roads, without any excitement and therefore we were back in Brno on Monday, around nine in the evening. I need to thank specially to Mila, who kept me fed with vitamins and changed CDs with Simek and Izer all the way home. As well as for the supply of "still chaining vodka", which brightened our evenings and made some men drift from articulated speech to the sign language, until they looked like rather a wind mill than steady fathers of families.Jura Benes




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