Abandoning Paradise

Chapter Four     Crossing France

Waking Up in Le Mans

Although I have not yet been to the track, it is quite an exotic sensation to be here at all.  For anyone who follows racing, this is one of the most magical places in the world.  For Formula 1, in my view, it is Monaco and for GT racing it is Le Mans.  The 24 Heures de Le Mans is one of the most extreme GT endurance trials anywhere and the cars will get up to over three hundred kilometers per hour on the Mulsanne Straight but then have to throw away all that speed at the bottom of it for a very sharp corner.  Something you may find interesting is that Nick Mason of Pink Floyd has raced his Ferrari here multiple times, as has his wife and also his daughter.

Wiki:  24 Hours of Le Mans

This morning I will go out to visit and get some photographs out at the track which is only a few kilometers from here.  Then I will be burning for Caen or Le Havre on the coast where I can catch a ferry across the English Channel to Portsmouth.  I find a hunger in me for hearing English voices but I will miss quite a bit the delicious unfamiliarity of other languages as they add such color to life.

Thanks for the tip on Bastille Day but, while the French are storming into the Bastille, I will be storming out of it.  With any luck I will be able to find a good rate for the ferry but I've seen tremendous variation in the prices so it's not at all clear what it will cost.  The trip over the channel will take five to six hours so they definitely don't have ferry boats that can make the speed of the one that brought me over from Greece.

If you'll also permit a bit of mechanics, Haximoto is holding up better than I.  She doesn't much like going up hills and we have been gaining altitude for some days but we will be dropping back down to sea level for the rest of the ride in France.  Riding is probably exacerbating problems with my foot and my back so be glad you aren't here to listen to the moaning.  Cat recommended some creme which could be helpful and I will look out for that.  I'm not sure how that would help with bone problems but she is quite sure of it and has seen it work.

Onward to the track and then the coast.

This is a pilgrimage from every racer's dream.  Every boy who ever wanted to be a go-faster wants to race at Le Mans.  Hollywood stars have wanted that too. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman did it and I think James Garner did it as well.  I already mentioned how Nick Mason of Pink Floyd raced there as did his wife and also his daughter.

I couldn't go there with a car but that wasn't going to stop me from visiting and paying my respects.

Before going out to see the track, I was curious about the museum near the entrance.

The GT40 was the first racing car that ever carried any European credibility for Ford and it did it in a big way.  The GT40 has a beautiful design with excellent speed and handling.  Ford takes Le Mans!  (Wiki:  Ford GT40)

The GT40 in the picture does not have the competition paint for the vehicle so this particular car's history is not clear although it looks like the 2005 model.  What is definite is that the GT40 came in 1-2-3 in 1966 for the first ever overall win at Le Mans by an American manufacturer.  The GT40 team did not do so well to start but management of the team was turned over to Carroll Shelby and that's when they started winning.

Number 7 is a Bentley.  If you never considered Bentley to be a manufacturer of performance automobiles, check out the specifications on their cars sometime, especially if you're of a mind to drag race one of them. Bentley makes some of the fastest cars from England and their GT Speed will do zero to sixty in four seconds with a top speed of 205 mph.

The D-type Jaguar is my all-time favorite with Stirling Moss driving it to great success.  In his book, "All But My Life," he said he originally gave up sex for a week before a race to ensure his total focus on driving ... but later in his driving career he decided this was was too much of a sacrifice.

I shot many pictures but it would take the blog article a day and a half to load if I put all of them out there but I will send them out to Flickr as I've sent all the pictures so far.

By the time I got near the track, my right dog was crying for its mother so I had to give it up but access to the track was quite restricted and I don't think I would have done much better.  Nevertheless, this vantage point alone gives a taste of one of the most famous visions in automobile racing.  As Stirling Moss said, "There is racing and everything else is just waiting."

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