Le Mans 24 hour 2017

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…

All hot air

Le Mans is less than a week away. I am excited. CBW/LM24 2017 regalia is on order and extra large door stickers requested.

Is the car good to go? Not quite… I am still waiting for the fans to arrive at SP Automotive, & have had to source the Maxi blade fuse & in line fuse holder myself. As soon as I hear the fans have arrived it’s a quick drive over to Tattenhall and what I hope is a straightforward fan swap & opening up of the rear bonnet vents.

Like I said… Le Mans is less than a week away!

An exhausting wait

So…  JP have only just started working on the Mantis exhaust which is pretty disappointing & puts things back at least two weeks.  I will now be lucky to get the car back in February. Inevitably it has been unseasonably dry & mild this week i.e. perfect driving weather. Oh well! In the meantime I have decided to go for an unbranded aftermarket button for the Engine Start. It’s quite low key (pardon the pun) & with a red LED; the black collar will be similar to the Smiths gauges. There were nicer buttons but they were stainless steel which doesn’t really match anything else on the facia, & a gorgeous black anodised billet aluminium one but… I need to import it from the States & it would have cost over £100. Yikes!

Looking on the bright side, travel for the Le Mans 24 Hour is now booked with the outward bound crossing courtesy of Eurotunnel & hopefully in convoy with another three or four Marcos, all in time to get to the gite for a good night’s sleep prior to the tour of the 1906 French Grand Prix circuit on Thursday morning. The return journey was harder to choose but eventually I went for the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry which should mean travelling with some of the Essex owners & also arriving back in the UK at a half decent hour to then slog our way back to Cheshire.

We also have a design for the Marcos LM24 decals which incorporates the Classic British Welcome logo. It took a few iterations but I think the final design is splendid – thank you Lou & Phil in Luxembourg!

 

Cavalcade

Aside

Fantastic news yesterday – it looks like we are in the running for inclusion in the CBW (Classic British Welcome) Cavalcade between St Saturnin & Le Mans. Motorcycle outriders… Awesome!!!

Le Mans Classic 2016

Back from this years Le Mans Classic & it was a blast! I had a great time with my chum Doug, & below you can see him piloting my Mantis past the famous LM clock into the straight between the grandstands. Whoohoo! Photographer Mark Scarrott you are a very nice man!

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The drive back today, Monday, was generally uneventful, making the Roscoff ferry in good time & a decent crossing to Plymouth with a bracing sea breeze under a grey sky. The hood stayed down all the way, despite hitting heavy rain just south of Junction 19 on the M6. Tiredness & mediocre visibility led to driver error with my prematurely turning off the roundabout &, after around 600 miles and just 10 miles from home we found ourselves back on the M6 heading north again & now away from home. D’oh! An interesting development over the previous few miles had been a growing lack of stopping power, with the brakes becoming increasingly ineffective! I decided to figure out what was going on the following morning & continued home using the engine to brake. Feeling more than a little sheepish, it was off at M6 Junction 20 & (with apologies to everyone in Lymm for driving a very loud sportscar through their village at about 0200 hours on Tuesday morning), we finally got home. It’s fair to say I slept well!

The race… Saturday

Today was race day at the 2016 Le Mans Classic, but before heading off to the circuit again to park up on the Bugatti Circuit there was time to get some unusual shots of the cars from above, courtesy of Darren & his cherry popper picker.

The race itself was enjoyable & I was pleased to have Grandstand seats after a fair few hours wandering around looking at the cars, stalls & the odd bar. Lots of big screens make following the rcase a lot easier & the weather was better than 2014! Yay!

We’re off to Le Mans!

We’re off to Le Mans! Day 1 saw Doug & I hit Folkestone Wednesday evening after a leisurely drive down from Cheshire (i.e. nothing fell off) & we checked into the hotel which was a pretty cool Victorian pile on the coast. The obligatory tour of local hostelries followed, & a quick call to Jay Sherwin who was due to meet up with us outside Calais in his rather cool fliptone converted Mantis Challenge car. The conversation with Jay quickly moved on to whether he had gone ahead & swapped out the original 4.6L Ford Mustang engine for a GM LS3. The answer was that he had , & I was rather amused to hear that he had only finished & MOTd the car that day, with the test drive being our 400 mile trip to Le Mans. Excellent! Bravo!

Le Mans Classic 2008

I will admit to having got a bit nervous about getting the car back from Lee in time for Le Mans, but he has come through!

The 2008 Le Mans Classic has been something of an adventure. Having got the Hull-Zeebrugge ferry over & headed down to Le Mans to stay at the Morrisons farm again, all seemed well. I was accompanied in style, nay, overshadowed with style, as Caz brought along his newly restored a la ‘Christine’ Plymouth Fury. Cor she’s gorgeous!

The Le Mans Classic itself was very different from the 24 hour & a bit more to my liking if I’m honest. Ignorant fellow that I am, I can appreciate the much older cars more than the very latest diesel / hybrid technologies & on balance find the coachwork of an old Bentley Blower more interesting than the spoilers on the Audi R8. Oh dear! It was also great fun to get up close to the race cars, something you certainly can’t do at the 24 hour. There was in-field parking for Marcos, which although pretty dusty & a little off the beaten track, was pretty cool as you got to drive through the crowds & tunnels that are completely off limits during the 24 hour.

The highlight has to have been driving two laps of the full, official & current Le Mans circuit, with Dave Parslow kindly fulfilling media duties. It was fantastic driving round the track but spine-tingling stuff roaring down the finishing straight & over the line between the grandstands.

                                                                

 

The lowlight was buggering my engine somehow. At one point I was throwing neat oil out of the nearside exhaust on my track laps which was a bit of a worry. However, once parked back up again in-field, the general consensus from people who know a lot more than me about engines (including a few people who built Mantis’s for Marcos!) was that the Ford 4.6L Quad Cam was pretty much bulletproof & even the race teams hadn’t managed to break them. Hence… I should be fine! On this basis I carried on driving the Mantis for the rest of the weekend, conscious that whilst all was not well I could enjoy LMC & look into things when I was back home.

The trip back up to Zeebrugge was not without incident. Caz’s Plymouth gave up the ghost whilst still in France, & I was beginning to wonder if I would make it as the car guzzled oil at an eye watering rate. By the time I was approaching the ferry terminal, I was stopping off at every garage I encountered to buy more oil, & arrived late (but not too late!) & with plumes of white smoke coming from the back of the car. By this point I was just glad to have made the ferry & looking forward to getting back to the UK. Upon arrival in Hull, a sympathetic ferry crew cleared the level around me of all vehicles & I was last off, trailing smoke again like a poor man’s Red Arrows. Having limped off the ferry & got through passport control, I pulled over immediately & called The AA. The car was flat-bedded straight to Topcats Racing who I felt were best placed to investigate & resolve the engine problem, whatever it was.

After a thirteen month wait, I had the car for around 10 days before it has become undriveable again… At least I didn’t have to worry about the chassis anymore!

Le Mans 24 hour again

Back from the 2007 Le Mans 24 hour. The itself race was… okay. Diesels won & you can read enough to make your eyes bleed elsewhere on the Net about whether this is a good thing, bad thing, next big thing & so on. I have to say that the event seems to be getting increasingly ‘Chavvy’ & there were numerous ‘organised’ Stag parties present with nobody interested in cars at all really (& that’s coming from me! lol). No problem there until this manifests itself as a lack of respect for the cars & owners; emptying gallons of water into an open car is criminal damage & wouldn’t be tolerated elsewhere (I’d like to think). Ditto kicking someone’s car just because they won’t do a burn-out for you & your mates (& there still seems to be plenty of drivers who are happy to do that kind of thing). Has Le Mans become too accessible, with the wrong kind of people attending? Surely there are more interesting places to go & get pissed if that’s the only thing on your mind… Pricing people out doesn’t work (just look at horse racing in the UK) & penalises car enthusiasts who don’t have a lot of disposable income. Besides, I can only just afford to go myself – after fuel, travel, accommodation & beer money there is nothing left for repairs caused by other people. Sorry… rant over.

Despite not being as relaxed as in previous years & prompting some pondering as to what to do in 2008, I ultimately enjoyed myself once again. The race was only a minor part of the experience. The journey, the company, the accommodation, the food ‘n’ booze & the ‘incidents’… these are the things that define Le Mans for me, & that makes 2007 a success!