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Slipstream - September 2005

The monthly newsletter of the Maverick Region of the Porsche Club of America

The Fricks Go To LeMans

The Fricks Go To LeMans By Jean Frick When we found out we were # 390 on the wait list for the Hershey Parade, we decided to be realistic – we looked at our “Do Before We Die” list and chose the 24 hour LeMans. We read the Slipstream article written by John Evans (Maverick member from Flint) after he went last year, and found out by e-mail that he was going again this year. We talked to Linda Bambina about the trip she and Alan made several years ago. Both conversations added to our excitement, so we started the months of planning, list making, sorting, organizing…all listed on a spreadsheet, of course. We left DFW on June 15 at 5:50 pm. It was an overnight, straight-through flight to Paris (CDG) arriving at 10:00 am on June 16. We found our way to the train station at the airport and waited around for about 3 hours, had lunch, Dave took a picture of an abandoned suitcase right before the police detonated it (never a dull moment). We boarded the 1st class coach at 13:37 (had to get used to the 24 hour clock) and finally arrived in LeMans at 15:10. So far, so good. We waited in line for a taxi to take us to the Campanile Hotel, our home for the next four nights, and we arrived there at 16:30…about 25 hours after we left DFW. Photo provided by Dave Frick Dave and Jean taking it all in. The French bus system leaves much to be desired. On Friday, June 17th we started out right after breakfast to ride to “the Circuit” and have a look around. We started waiting for Bus #17, but each bus driver stopping by told us something different in broken English and gestures. We wound up going across the street to catch Bus # 4 into City Center. Again, conflicting directions, so we went to the bus station office, and a man who spoke NO English. We finally found Bus # 6 – that driver didn’t understand us either, but he took us to the end of the line and then we walked 3/4 mile to the track entrance, arriving about 10:30. There was quite a crowd assembled already, since the pit area is open to the public the day before the race. We walked past the bleachers and through a tunnel to the pit side, where we met some blokes in Club Arnage T-shirts. These were the Brits who invade France for the race each year. One of them told us it was his 8th time to come to the race, and that all of the estimated 100,000 visitors from the UK think it’s mighty nice for France to throw this party for them every year! John Evans stayed in their camp last year and had told us that he would bunk with them again this year. They gave us directions to the Champagne Bar and invited us to join them when they all meet there about 9 pm Saturday night, during the race. We found our way up to Suite # 117, the Porsche AG office in the grandstand, and visited a bit with Mr. Kristen and Mrs. Schuh. Their window on 2nd floor looked right out on Pit Row and to the track beyond. We were directly above the spot for the Porsche # 71, which later won its class. If you remember, June was a hot month everywhere, and especially so walking around in the sun. I’ve never seen so many men without shirts except at the beach. Many of the shirts became headbands to absorb the sweat. And everyone cooled off with a cold beer. Many folks walked the pit area looking over the cars, most of which were in pieces for the final “shakedown” before the race. After checking out the cars we walked to the most famous spot seen on TV, the Dunlop Bridge, where Dave enjoyed taking pictures from different angles. By now we were ready to go back to town for the Parade, so we went out front to stand in line for the bus. The purpose of the Parade is to introduce the driving teams, made up of three drivers (or “pilots”) for each car. They would share the driving time for the 24 hour period. All the teams were riding in antique cars from the museum. Each car was preceded by a motorcycle with an attractive female passenger holding a sign with the names of the “pilots” and their car make and number. Things came to a complete stop as fans rushed up to the cars for autographs. Several marching bands and dancing groups were mixed in, and a few actual race cars. The Parade was still going strong, but after 2 hours we were tired of standing and very hungry, so started looking for a place to sit down and eat. A cold beer improved things a lot, as we visited with a nice couple from Denmark. Tired of the bus routine, we decided to take a taxi back to the hotel. We are convinced there are only 3 taxis in the entire city, but we finally got one and arrived back “home” at 10 pm. Tired, but happy. Saturday, June 18th – the race starts today at 4 pm, but there is much activity before then. At breakfast we visited with two gentlemen from Audi (which had a HUGE presence at the track) and they gave us a ride to Lot 12 where they had a parking pass. Traffic was really heavy. We watched the Le Mans Legend Car Race, where we saw some really neat cars and watched as 75 year old Sterling Moss, a racing legend, drove a 1952 Jaguar C-Type to 5th place. The crowd was really picking up, and everyone was carrying chairs and beer. After sitting on the ground and on the curb to rest, we purchased a couple of three-legged stools, which turned out to be a very wise investment. It was still hours before the race would start at 4 pm (pardon, I mean 16:00). As the crowd grew much larger during the day, the temperature continued to rise. By race time it was 95 degrees F, with high humidity, so we got no break from the Texas heat. Finally it was time to “start your engines.” And they all started, except for one Audi – it just wouldn’t start. We had our little radio tuned to the English announcers so we could tell what was happening. Since the track, including some public roads, measures about 8 1/2 miles, the laps are very lengthy. Right away the two LMP1 Pescarola cars were ahead – one driven by S. Loeb, Rookie of the Year. The Pescarola cars were 5 seconds a lap faster than the other cars. A Lola started overheating. Aston Martin is falling behind. # 17 24

Pescarola pits for fuel and goes from 2nd to 8th. Leader # 16 into pits for fuel and Dome # 5 takes lead, with an Audi in 2nd and 3rd. Porsche # 71 leading in GT2. Now Pescarola is ahead again – ahead by 1 minute in 12 laps. They kept giving updates about the # 8 Audi that was not able to start, and now it must get on the track before 5 pm, or have to scratch – finally they did get started, just in time. After a couple of hours we visited a WC with separate facilities for men and women – it was the old “squat over the hole” routine that they have in France. I was glad I brought my own TP. We found a place to get pizza, but it was so hot, and no breeze. We went through the tunnel to the other side, and now have the sun to our backs. Lola # 39 dropped oil, so they were under yellow for awhile. Had to put a new wing on #16. As flags turned green, the pace car was still in control when the leaders were coming up on it. # 17 had a run in with a Panoz, then tires and brakes got cold. # 58 still ahead in GT1. 15 mph difference in Audi and Pescarola. # 30 leading LMP2. In case you thought the entire crowd came to watch the race, well, not quite. This is the largest party I have ever seen. At every turn folks are gathered together, laughing and drinking and having fun. And now, it’s time to meet folks at the Champagne Bar. We saw John Evans right away, and some guys we had met yesterday. Here was a very large group of Englishmen, overflowing with beer and champagne and frivolity. We were made to feel very welcome. Everyone knew someone who lives in the US…a fellow named Chris even had a buddy who works at Lockheed Martin. John was concerned about where we would sleep – let’s see, George had an extra tent, John had ground cover and a blow-up pad and pillow, Andy had a blanket and pillow. They got it all together and about midnight Dave helped set it up in the “Liverpool Boys” Campsite. Their main tent, used for meals and visiting, had a Texas flag prominently displayed. It was courtesy of John, who stayed with them last year and brought them the flag as a gift. There were several “bottle sculptures” around…shapes created from hundreds of empty beer bottles. We finally laid down about 1 am, but what Linda Bambina told us was certainly true – you CAN’T sleep because the cars never stop. The sound of the cars, the popping of brakes, shifting of gears, and helicopters went right through the earplugs. At least we closed our eyes and stretched out for about 5 hours. We were grateful for the hospitality of our new friends. We got up about 6 am and walked to the tribunes (bleachers) with the big screen. Carrying our 3 legged stools, we could stop anywhere there was a bit of shade. Dave brought croissants and some strange liquid they called coffee. It was really loud right beside the track, but the standings were listed frequently on the big screen, so we could catch up with the leaders. Then Dave wanted to take the bus to the Mulsanne Corner, so we waited about 30 minutes across from the main gate. When the buses finally arrived, it was like a Chinese fire drill, only the drivers wouldn’t let anyone board. They moved around and got several double buses lined up and then finally let the tired and hot passengers on. Quite a few got off at Armage, but the rest rode on to Mulsanne. It was VERY LOUD, a straight after a sharp curve. Dave wanted to take pictures here because you’re on a hill and can see over the fence. The cars have to slow to about 40 mph to make the curve, so it’s easy to get a clear shot. Someone said it was a good location for night pictures – as the driver puts the brakes on hard, there is a red glow from the brakes. Photo by Dave Frick The esses du Rouge. It was a wooded area, and the shade was most welcome. A large number of folks took the opportunity to stretch out on the grass for a little nap. By now only about 3 hours of the race remained. We rode the bus back and found a bite of lunch and more important, cold beer. There were places to eat everywhere, but the tables were all filled with so many people. Out come the three-legged stools again, and we could even move them to the shade – who cares if we eat off our laps? I waited in a cool spot while Dave went back to the “Liverpool Boys” camp. Our tent had been too damp to take down in the early morning, but we had folded the things we used and left a note of thanks. Now he got the tent put away and thanked George properly. It seems all we have done since 10 am the day before is walk and stand and walk and stand, always looking for a spot of shade. But now the end is drawing near. What was so surprising is that people just kept coming in the main gate. Huge crowds of people. I guess they were just coming in for the finish and all the excitement afterwards. Well, after several mishaps and with one of the leading cars off into the woods, we finally had the winners, and the USA did quite well. Audi USA won LMP1, Corvette USA won GT1, Porsche USA # 71 won the GT2. Audi came in 1st even though their speed couldn’t match that of some of the other cars -- they were just SO dependable. No problems, and their pit stops were “fuel – fuel – tires” –-- “fuel – fuel – tires” – just like clockwork. Their average time in the pits was 28 seconds, while the average Pescarola time was 58 seconds. Well, we took a cab back to the hotel and had a SHOWER and a NAP. We didn’t leave for Germany until 7 pm the next day, so it was time to catch our breath. But we had a great time and loved every minute of it – even the bus disasters. As an engineer, Dave could give them a few suggestions to make transportation easier for their foreign guests, but knowing the French, they wouldn’t listen. From here we go to the RUF Factory in Pfaffenhausen and then take the Porsche Backstage Tour in Stuttgart…what a wonderful way to spend retirement! 25

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