Had a great time at Le Mans this year, accompanied once again by my good chum Doug. I suppose this is what everything had been leading up to… the new engine (and the new everything else!).
Tuesday: Met up with Andy & Lorraine Peers in their lovely LM500 (replacing the previous supercharged Mantis) at Knutsford Services on the M6. An straightforward blast down south to the Holiday Inn in Folkestone; weather was great & the M25 clear.
Wednesday: First stop of the morning was at the nearest Services where a very enthusiastic (& easy on the eye!) lady from the Channel 4 production team briefed Andrew & Lorraine on what their program was about & fitted several GoPro cameras inside & outside the LM500. Eventually I decided to kill time by… filling up with fuel (again) which is the default activity of every Mantis owner. (Or polishing, if your name is Partridge). Finally with the Borg-like LM500 adorned with cameras the two cars set off for the Eurotunnel terminal. Here we met up with a couple of older Marcos Mantulas in Eurotunnel departures car park, to travel over around midday. After a diversion to drop off the Channel 4 production company’s cameras, the four cars headed off to Le Mans. We managed to stay together for most of the journey apart from some SatNav-initiated diversions through the centre of Rouen. Arrived at Neuvillette-en-Charnie about 1900 hours & decided to drop into Chateaux Morrison to see Debbie, Darren & the Essex gang who were staying there before heading on to our own gite a mile further. Great to see everyone but then… the Mantis broke down in their driveway (blocking Darren from getting to the pub!). Symptoms were no fuel but with the gauge reading just under a quarter full & numerous fill ups on the way, this seemed unlikely to me. Eventually, given the 30+ degrees temperature, fuel vapourisation was the diagnosis. However, managed to bleed some air from the fuel lines & then filled up with some ancient fuel from Darren, allowing the car to start again & we made it to our own gite a few minutes later.
Thursday: Cleaned the bugs off the front of the car then headed off to the start point of an organised tour of the 1906 French Grand Prix. Hot! Hot! Hot! The car started overheating as we arrived in the car park, & a quick check revealed that the second fan was not kicking in due to the 30A fuse having blown. Fortunately I had some spares that SP Automotive had given me, so a few minutes later the car was sorted & we set off along the route in convoy with Debbie & Darren’s LM500 & Geoff’s ’68 GT.
In the evening there was a Hog Roast organised at the gite with many other Marcos owners attending. The highlight (of the whole weekend perhaps) was the appearance of the Yorkshire Volunteer Band in full military uniform who gave us the most fantastic performance as we gazed on in awe. I think it was probably quite hot in all that kit!
Friday: Today was the big day for the Macros owners… the Classic British Welcome! There were over 70 Marcos in attendance, & while the majority of us were parked outside, there was a fantastic display of Marcos in the exhibition hall. As well as a beautiful example of each model produced, there was also one of the two LMs that raced at Le Mans in 95 & 96. Jay swapped out my Rev Counter (reading half) for the upgraded unit from Smiths/CAI in front of about 200 people (the poser!). I wasn’t that impressed to discover the new unit over-reading x1.15 though, particularly as they had had the unit for 12 weeks.
After catching up with many of the owners & a good chat with both Cor Euser (lovely bloke) & Chris Marsh (also lovely chap!), it was time for the invitation-only Cavalcade into Le Mans… complete with motorcycle escort from the Harley Davidson club. As usual the best bit was winding through the local villages with the streets lined by primary school children energetically waving union jacks. For some reason the cavalcade seemed to be a lot slower than my previous experience in 2004, & the engine temperature started to climb as we reached the outskirts of Le Mans. The weather was HOT but the car was definitely HOTTER! A few minutes later the temperature was around 115 degrees & we reluctantly pulled out of the cavalcade into a side street. Bonnet up, coolant all over road & another melted 30A fuse. Doug & I were philosophical about this as we’d experienced the best bit of the cavalcade, so it was a simple matter of waiting for the engine to cool down, topping up with some precious drinking water (Evian of course… nothing but the best for my Mantis!) & then fitting the last of my spare 30A fuses, before heading back to the gite.
I am of course, lying. There was plenty of swearin’ & cussin’ from me but… heigh ho. I was really frustrated that SP Automotive had not fitted the 50A maxi fuses as requested (although to be fair they didn’t want my car to catch fire!). Jay had not had a single problem with his cooling & had been running with a 50A fuse since day one. ‘Nuff said. You can see more details & lots of fantastic photos on Marcos@CBW here.
Saturday: That very nice man Mr Sherwin whipped out a soldering iron in the morning & replaced the crappy 30A blade fuse with a manly 50A maxi fuse. Job done & no more cooling fan problems. Went to the race & parked with minimal queuing in Parking Rouge. It was Doug’s first time at the 24 Hour after a few visits to the Classic with me, so we wandered around a bit then found our Grandstand seats & settled down for the start of the race. After a few hours we decided to stretch our legs & ambled off along the edge of the circuit, stopping off every now & then to watch the race with the great unwashed. For some reason I then decided it would be a good idea to walk down to Arnage Corner (I blame heatstroke), which was a bit further than I thought! The clue was in the multitude of people on bikes, the stream of shuttle buses & the absence of any other pedestrians I suppose! D’oh! Anyway we got to Arnage Corner eventually & it was packed! An cold beer got Doug back on track & I put away a few bottles of fizzy water as I would need to drive back to the gite later that evening.
The night racing was good fun. We stayed a lot longer than planned which meant queuing for over an hour after midnight to get the last shuttle bus back to the main circuit. As it turned out the bus didn’t go quite that far so we had few minutes wandering around the circuit perimeter before we found an entrance & headed back to our grandstand seats. A very handy landmark that Ferris Wheel!
Sunday: Watched the racing for another hour or two from the Grandstand then returned to the car about 0300 hours & set off on the 45 minute drive back to the gite. Top down so happy days. Slightly less happy to discover we had been locked out of our room at the gite (!) so at 0500 hours Doug & I tried to get some kip on the floor of the dinning hall. This wasn’t particularly successful so we were rather pleased to see Mr Barlow wandering around about 0700 hours, as he was the proud owner of a key. Que a couple of hours zeds before jumping up & heading back to the race. Reached Parking Rouge without mishap & went straight to the grandstand seats (via a bar) to watch the last 2 or 3 hours of the race. Then back to the gite for a posh dinner. The band played again & were awesome again. Lots of nice speeches from lots of nice people then it was off to bed as I was bloody knackered after getting no sleep on Saturday night!
Monday: A quick breakfast then we headed off to Dieppe to catch our ferry. Event free motoring except the stereo had stopped working (?). We arrived in good time then it was onto the ferry & some welcome repast. Offboarding took over an hour & the car was getting hot again but the 50A fuse held up. Finally got through Passport Control then it was a four or five hour drive back to Manchester, dropping Doug off then getting home about 2000 hours.
Had a good time. A lot of driving. A lot of Marcos. Time for a break…