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Oct
01

Le Mans

With Le Mans moving from its usual springtime slot in the calendar to September, Les sets his sights on another trip, some 15 years after his last visit, his business, Short Stop Tyres ( 01704 573022 ) keeps him busy early in the year fitting tyres and fettling bikes for the summer.

I could hardly let the lad travel alone now could I?  The bikes racing over the weekend may well have changed but we're going old school on air cooled Kawasaki's.  Ferry's booked, tickets bought we both just need some shake down miles before we head off, I finish running in a 1075 kit on the way down and Les more than doubling his miles on the trip down to Portsmouth.

The roads have changed a bit, the new autoroute from Caen offers the speedy option with the old roads the traditional French villages, albeit with some new ring roads thrown in.  The cafe with round windows in Alencon, a traditional stopping point for us remains unchanged with eye ball popping coffee served up.

There's been a few changes down at the circuit too, no cars are allowed into the traditional camping areas in an effort to cut down on thefts and too much ghia being taken in, park and walk being the only option for 4 wheels.  The bikes are stickered up with corresponding helmet numbers, alcohol restrictions are in place with only two litres of beer or wine per person allowed and no bottles, time to get creative!

Tents pitched, darkness falls and its Thursday night practice, Endurance racing rocks.  As we watch practice the campsite contiues to fill and the noise levels increase as exhaust cans are removed and the traditional battle rages across the campsites of who can rev the knackers of their bike the most, brilliant!  The racers may well test their own and the bikes endurance over 24 hours but the paying punters equal their feats with late nights, little sleep all fuelled by alcohol with precious little sign of the restrictions having any effect!

 

 

5 hours in and night begins to fall and the real racing starts, who can lap at times similiar to the daylight hours (low 1,40s, under 1,40 is proper quick) and who will be caught napping in the pits in the early hours? The factory teams have 20 mechanics, working in shifts, the amateur teams just a little more than one man and his dog.  Team catering or nipping out to the nearest Frite and dog stand?

 

Races can be won and lost in the pits, Endurance isn't about the fastest bike and rider, more the team and how well it works together, the bike, how long the fuel and tyres last, how quickly the team can change wheels, brake pads and re fuel.

At 7am, Kawasaki had been in the pits for 15m10s, Suzuki, 13m16s, BMW 39m52s

At 8.20am, 9 seconds separate 1 and 2, by the end, its one lap, Kawasaki with 834 tours and Suzuki with 833.

Team managers watch the monitors constantly, looking for weaknesses in the opposition working on their strategy, which rider has to go out next, have they got a buffer to rest the faster riders or do they need to tell the incoming rider that he's off out again, back to back sessions, the riders, well there's three of them each with their strengths and their weaknesses.

Who can be relied on not to get carried away and bin it on the first lap, who is faster at night when perhaps consitency counts more that outright speed.  The riders stay in their leathers for 30 minutes after their session and must be ready 30 minutes before, in case of any problems, rest? I dont think so!

 

 With the mayhem on the circuit keeping most occupied, Status Quo provide some of their own mayhem!  Can it really be them? I saw them on their End of the Road Tour in 1984, their last ever gig at Milton Keynes Bowl!!

The Portsmouth boys create their own entertainment, one of their number waking to find his world is considerably smaller than when he went to sleep!

Not the winner but happy to finish the race

Kawasaki and Suzuki were nip and tuck throughout with Kawasaki coming out on top.