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Oct
01

Le Mans 2013

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Endurance racing isn’t just about the racers suffering hours of discomfort, sweat and tears, the spectators go through it too and that is the whole point of 24 hour racing. The race may last a day but the preparation by the teams and those that come to watch starts long before the the flag drops on a Saturday afternoon in September.

Just to complete a 24 hour race is an accomplishment and one well recognised in racing circles, to win, well many aspire but few achieve. Kawasaki notch up their fourth consecutive win at Le Mans but its not enough to win the championship, that glory goes to the Suzuki Enduranc Racing Team, also their fourth in a row and even more of an achievement as they stripped and re built the engine in under an hour after an early spill damaged their cooling system on the GSXR1000.

Team R2CL with Guy Martin riding in his first endurance race came in second in the race, 7 laps behind the leaders. TT Legends lying in third spot in the night suffer the misfortune of crashing out with Simon Andrews on board. A multi bike pile up leaving Andrews with multiple injuries, but as I type this he has tweeted today to say its bed bath day, good to see the lad is keeping his British spirit up, as well as other things no doubt, nurse!

Off the track, I crashed an burned on the Friday night after the pit lane walk. A first for me this gave us the opportunity of seeing bikes riders and chicks on bike up close and personal.

Red wine in the form of a 3 litre box can be a dangerous thing in the hands of Penso, all sense of what has been consumed is quickly lost as we jostle our way round the bikes, ooing and ahing at the bling on display, the girls don’t distract us, at all, well hardly at all.

Saturday afternoon and Sean steps up to the plate, his 3 litres of wine is consumed in double quick time and by hour 3 he’s in the pits for repair, a seasoned veteran of 24 hour spectating he makes a remarkable comeback early evening, as I collapse early, to wake again and wander over to the pits in the early hours. People take it in turns to catch a few winks as and when festivities allow.

At 3 am Damian is sat in his chair at the campsite, by himslef, away from the fire, he’s just soaking up the atmosphere of the place, the noise of the bikes circulating is now merely incidental to the off track chaos, revving bikes bouncing off their rev limiters, fires, conversations, all to be appreciated.

The Saturday night bands were passable, apparently, seen better, seen worse, bring back the Quo is all I can say. Action off the track is quieter than it used to be, fires dont seem to get as out of control, although there is a video kicking around on you tube of a bike in flames, subsequently exploding petrol over the on lookers, so I guess that counts for something.

Numbers are down, the French economy is not that clever and this is apparent in the numbers attending. We amble down to the start 40 minutes before and secure ourselves a spot half way down the pitlane, 20 years ago that would have needed to have been 2 or 3 hours earlier.

The traditional Sunday night has changed, the Brits used to stay down at the circuit and carry on partying, now by 5 the campsite is empty, we join the masses and exit to Vero’s house nearby where red wine, beers and a BBQ await. Its not a late night as people fall over all over the house.

By the time we wake Vero is away to work and all we have to do is deliver Zoe safely at School, with the van having a flat battery the only option is bikes, Sean leads the way to the first cafe of many during the day. Super strong coffee wakes all and Zoe is deposited outside the main gate of her learning establishment to the amusment and confusion of her mates, the coolest kid in town for the day.

Mid afternoon see’s us heading to the port, The cafe with the round windows hoves into view, you know the one, its the one with the round windows, it was there when I first went and still is, a recognised meeting point described as, well, work it out, you’ll know it if you see it I’m sure.

IMG_2254 IMG_2257Old Skool trick Bimota with carbon air in takes, mix in the new tech with the oldIMG_2255IMG_2261Air intakes cool this side car front discIMG_2274 IMG_2267 IMG_2262Electric bikes weigh more than their petrol driven cousins, stiil not sure!IMG_2277A very highly desirable Paul Smart Ducati, we want one…………….IMG_2292 IMG_2286YumIMG_2349 IMG_2366IMG_2324 We just love old air cooled Kawasaki’sIMG_2338 IMG_2344IMG_2432Even a Honda appeals, the brakes look a bit on the inadequate side tho, modern day bling brakes, highly desirable shiny stuff, radial calipers offer more braking than ever, dear Santa, can I please have?IMG_2398 IMG_2395No igntion switches, just buttons to make it work, self explanitory for the most tired rider, all they have to do is remember which button does what I guess IMG_2468Quick fillers for those all important fuel stops, dump fuel into empty tanks, fuel in air out.IMG_2463IMG_2464Bikes sport quick release everything, brake pad changes now can be done by changing the caliper, quick release hose fittings secure fluids, axles sport locating devices to help the mechanics centre spindles on wheel changes, whole bikes are lifted on jacks located in fairing/frame panelsIMG_2310 IMG_2317IMG_2376 IMG_2384IMG_2453IMG_2470IMG_2556  IMG_2681I don’t recall the circuit being as well lit in earlier years but this photo typifies night racing, its steeper than it looks over a blind crest, awesomeIMG_2631Happy to finishIMG_2702IMG_2719By the time we return to the campsite its pretty much devoid of tents bikes and people, we get destructive before we leaveIMG_2745    IMG_2753IMG_2757Guess where this is?IMG_2761 IMG_2765