2005 THE JOURNEY DOWN
The Royal Tunbridge Wells group met up on the Wednesday around 1400 hrs for a quick beer and then some specialist packing of the car, I had five peoples luggage, tents, sleeping gear, seats and a mini-moto to get into the SALOON boot which was achieved thanks to skills I learnt in Vietnam, you don’t know you weren’t there. The convoy consisted of the A6 4.2 V8 Quattro with three people and then a race tuned Ducatti 998 and a Suzuki 1200, it was going to be a quick drive down.
We were set to leave RTW around 1430 to miss the traffic at Portsmouth which builds up around 5 o’clock when we received a call from Chesney (Ducatti) informing that some friends of his who weren’t with the Larry’s were leaving for the same boat as us so in the spirit of Lemans we decided to hold on and add a 1973 Corvette Stingray to the convoy and show them the route down, them being Road Rage and his brother Lewis. All loaded and hot for the trip we left RTW at 1500 hrs and started what turned out to be one hell of an adventure.
We decided to take a cross country route as the A272 from Horsham is one of the best driving roads I have been on but before we even got there I had lost the Corvette from my rear view mirror, we pulled up and rang the boys only to discover that he was stuck in second gear and was on the side of the dual carriage way underneath the car trying to free his gear rods. 35 minutes later and we heard the 5.7 V8 classic roaring up the street, we were on our way again but sadly not for long. We reached a small village were we heard a noise come from the Corvette up ahead. As we rolled into the old market village, the name of which escapes me, we found a space to pull up and have a work on the car again. As we jacked up the car and Lewis slid underneath to carry out more work to the gear rods we were approached by a lady with her shopping who informed us that we had broken down outside her house (the only house in the high street) and that her husband was a mechanic, five seconds later a man appeared, slid straight under the car and established that the speedo cable had fallen into the gear rods and jammed every gear. The mood changed until the god (the mechanic) informed us that he could fix it for us and it would take him about 30 mins, a beer was bought from across the road and the god set to work to rebuild the gear rods. 40 minutes later and she was good as new, we paid god and set on our way the only casualty of the whole affair being the targa roof panel which was moved to stop it being damaged only to have gods dog run out of the side gate and straight across the top of it but hey the smiles soon returned when what appeared to be the whole village came out as the V8 with straight through pipes fired into life along with the sound of the Dixie air horns (Dukes of Hazard).
We ran problem free all the way to Portsmouth were we hooked up with Larry and the others and saw Lewis join a line of TVR’s, who seemed rather annoyed that none of them had the best sounding vehicle anymore compared to the Vett. But the TVR guys were great in the way they got to work on the Vette when it was noticed that the alternator belt was positioned wrongly, all fixed we boarded the boat and headed straight for the bar / disco.
A heavy night of boozing and dancing began with Lewis and Road Rage hitting the floor first (both dressed as cowboys) showing the rest of the boat how to line dance with style, yeehaa !!. The next thing I remember is being awoken by a ladies voice informing us to return to our vehicles to leave the boat, all loaded again we headed up the road and stopped at the first super market to regroup and pick up some much needed fluid.
All were present and correct apart from the Vette and our worst fears came true when she limped into the car park with the alternator belt gone, it appears that where the belt had been wrong before it had been badly damaged and couldn’t take the strain when corrected. But we refused to be defeated, back into the super market marched Chesney and Lewis and purchased a few packs of the finest black tights and a bicycle inner-tube for repairs to be carried out. Larry and the others had headed on to the campsite to obtain a good pitch and the RTW group stuck together to get the Vette down, so make-shift belt in place we headed off across France with the aid of the Audi Sat Nav giving us the most direct route which didn’t take in any Autoroutes. We headed off through the middle of rural France and had been traveling for about an hour when the Vette started over heating, we all crowded around the vehicle again and realized that the “belt” had gone already and that meant that the alternator had not been charging and therefore the battery had no charge and so the electric fan was not working to keep the engine cool for us. We allowed the car to cool down again topped her up with the evian from the super market and made another belt this time from the inner-tube, all rebuilt we headed off again on our journey but again disaster struck with trying to keep the engine cool. This time I took the Audi off up the road to try and find somewhere suitable to pull up and carry out some proper repairs, I had only traveled about 300 yards around the bend when I came across a Nissan Truck garage (Someone was half shining on us) I doubled back and gathered the rest of the group and we got the Vette up to the garage where we began the task of trying to fix the Vette. Le Gache headed off to the garage with the Vettes thermostat in hand to establish whether it was working and to pick up some oil as she was looking a tad low. 30 minutes later he returned with a container of oil and the news that the thermostat was knackered, we left the thermo out and put the top of the engine together again, filled her with the finest evian again and topped up the oil. While we had the time Chesney and myself practiced our platting skills by making a 3 tight belt, yes 3, she was put into place and everything seemed fine. The car was fired up, literally, the pipes were so hot the oil that had dribbled down the side caught alight and we had flames in the engine bay, Le Gache reacted by throwing his bottle of coke onto the flames which just flared them up even more, some frantic blowing ensued and the flames were out, the Vette was saved. Everything seemed good now and she seemed nice and cool so we set off again and we were going well until the Vettes heat gauge went through the roof and she rolled into a small village garage.
The Sat Nav was showing we still had 68 miles to go and the Vette was throwing out more water than we had seen all trip and we couldn’t figure out what was going wrong, it was time to admit defeat. We spoke to Lewis and it was decided to leave the Vette at the garage and pick her up on the way back as much as we all wanted her down there for mad Friday none of us wanted to damage her (the sun had stopped shining for us). Le Gache spoke to the garage owner (thank god we had him, fluent French is handy in crisis) and it was agreed we could leave the car until Sunday. Some repacking was done leaving the mini-moto in the Vette, Lewis jumped on the back of the Ducatti and now fitting seven peoples luggage in the Audi and Road Rage we were off to Lemans. The remaining 68 miles were covered very quickly as we joined the Autoroute and rolled the Audi up to 150mph only to be passed by the Duke, two up traveling @ 165mph. We arrived at Arnage with the mood low due to the loss of the Vette but we decided to try and make the most of it, Road Rage and Lewis were collected by their old man, who was already down there, and the rest of us headed off to pitch the tents at our campsite and meet up with the rest of the Larry’s. We headed up to the track to watch some qualifying and have a few beers and whilst this was happening a flash of genius came to Chesney, we had been over looking one small thing with the Vette… The belt that had gone not only turned the alternator but also turned the water pump, why did we not see this before ?. The evening mood lifted and we went back to our campsites happy in the knowledge that it wasn’t the head gaskets gone. We woke the next morning set for Mad Friday and headed up to the track to look around the pits, this was improved by being allowed to enter into the garage of Team Jota to look around the car and chat to the team and drivers, this then improved even further when we received a phone call from Lewis informing us that the people who turned up over night and pitched next to them were Stingray drivers and had given him a spare belt it appeared the Vette would be down for Mad Friday after all. Then it came, Lewis asked the name of the village that we left the Vette in, to which I had no answer and neither did Chesney nor Sturdy nor Le Gache nor Spanky, none of us had taken the name of the village we had left the car in we had no idea where the car was. My answer was to tell them to put St Malo into their dads sat nav and that should take them back on the route we came in on, problem solved !. Two and a half hours later and they still had not found the car, the only route the sat nav was giving them was via motorway to Rennes which was not the correct way. The Corvette had been lost we did not have a clue where it was or even the name of any other village we passed through on route this was the bad point of using Sat Nav you just listened to a woman telling you were to go, it was bound to end in tears.
Chesney and Myself decided to join the quest for the Corvette we left the others before the fun had even started and set off in the Audi trying to remember the route we came and retracing our footsteps as my Sat Nav was also now only giving me the Autoroute back to St Malo. We used some real bloke logic in the sense that after joining the Autoroute on the way down Chesney had stopped for fuel, we calculated that we had only been on the Autoroute for about 10 minutes before stopping and he was traveling @ 150 mph approx, so we found the petrol station (The only Shell garage on the entire route, something was shining again) and then rolled the Audi up to 150 mph with the idea that if we got to a junction in around 10 minutes that would be the one that the Vette was on, after 15 minutes we had to ask questions about our theory but after 20 minutes we saw a junction and for some reason it just stood out to both of us as THE ONE. Sadly we had missed the exit on our side of the Autoroute so had to go to the Rennes Toll and then turn around and head back, we came off and drove back down the country roads on nothing but memory and then there it was, a garage with a 73 Corvette Stinray parked on the forecourt in a small village called La Baconierre A NAME THAT NEITHER I OR THE OTHERS INVOLVED WILL EVER FORGET. Some broken French later, who forgot to take Le Gache ?, and the belt was on the radiator topped up with water and coolant and we were off to Arnage with a Corvette.
Everything was going well, I was showing Road Rage and his old man what a 4.2 Audi could do to their 5.0 Merc and a smile was appearing on the face of Lewis as his Vette was just purring along at 110 FANTASTIC !!. As we hit Arnage though the brakes went on the Vette and we had to limp her to the Larry campsite for some first aid, a straw some super glue and industrial tape later and everything was good as new we had brakes and a car that did not over heat or get stuck in gear. Finally only 50 hrs after leaving for Lemans we had all arrived, GREAT TRIP ! and made some good friends along the way !!
A Virgins View
This year was a first for Virgin’s Mabes and Red Run who had eagerly been awaiting the arrival of June 15th for what seemed like an eternity, along with the rest of the Larrylemans team. Not being ones to look like “girls”, we did our utmost to reach Portsmouth in record time, which in a diesel Polo is quite some feat! We arrived early and were greeted by a very relieved Tricky, Gerrard, Si, Larry and Lou … in the pub of course, the only landmarks allowed apparently on a Le Mans weekend!
We then all made our way to the harbour, where we met up with everyone bar Lewis and Road Rage who joined us on the ferry. The journey over was of course very reserved and included no drunkness, silly dancing or getting lost in life boats, which is normal apparently! I can say that, as nobody actually quite remembers what went on!
After being awoken by some “charming” classical music, we all left the ferry and started the journey to the camp site. This year, in honour of Bold being absent, there was no wrecklessness as it was felt better saved for his inclusion. The journey wasn’t trouble free though and Apple’s report will enlighten you to that!
Arriving at the campsite, we met up with Gorgeous 2 and Ginger, hardened campers with bottle openers on their flip flops! The tents were then set up, at which point Larry was dead impressed that his girly sister could in fact bring a “self assemble” tent and be ready even before he was to set off to the “beer shop”.
Later that evening, we all went to watch qualifying and when the first cars flew by it was the moment I nearly wet myself! The “virgins” of the group were in complete amazement and I’d finally realised the attraction to Le Mans and that Gerrard can indeed laugh a whole octave higher! Jumping up and down hanging onto the fence with Lou is a moment I shall never forget!!
The next morning we awoke to Mad Friday ….. and oh my goodness!!!! I’m not sure I’m going to be able to convey the feelings I had on that day, other than any man I ever meet is going to have to be above and beyond the super human to ever compete with that feeling within!!! Poor Piers!
We were fortunate enough to see Team Jota in the Pits in the morning and hold a very “inexpensive” steering wheel whilst trying to encourage Sam to “flash and wave” as he was calmly going to drive past us at 220mph on Saturday night. He of course agreed! It was a great moment for Larry, seeing the “Larrylemans.co.uk” name written across the car.
On leaving the pits, Chesney and Apple drove off to find the Vette which had unfortunately been “lost in France” and helped Lewis and Road Rage bring the car to safety for the rest of the weekend.
The rest of us made our way around the circuit and watched the cars “spin about” on the track side. I didn’t think it was possible, but I was quiet with amazement and Gerrard reached an even higher pitched level of laughter whilst Red Run admirably took photos of the cars, standing in their way if needs be.
We continued our Mad Friday outside the Grandstand, where a water fight kind of seemed to start …. with Big Si, Lou, Red Run, Bastardo, Tricky and myself, who I would like to add seemed to come off worst!!! Why wearing a white t-shirt by a road full of men with water was going to do that I have no idea! Gorgeous 2, Ginger, Le Gache and Buurdy quite rightly knew how to stay dry and watched from the bankside. After soaking each other from head to foot and deciding to try something else, Bastardo, Tricky and Red run started on the cars and innocent drivers. Ginger and Gorgeous 2 decided to “get involved” and started speeding up and down the road side, wheel spinning in their best style.
We later went back to the campsite, where I feel the report should be written by another team member, as after 15 shots and 2 funnels of beer (oh ok, only 2 little bottles, but I don’t drink –honest Apple!!) …. I have no recollection of the evening after 9pm. Apparently there was a band and lots more drinking and dancing happened – I can’t believe I missed the dancing!
Waking up the next morning, the morning of the race, I realised a lot more alcohol had been consumed as most of the team were a “little peaky” but didn’t let it phase them and had a few chasers with breakfast! I was absolutely fine, which some how didn’t really seem fair to you all.
We made our way to Arnage corner to watch the start of the race and it was a “little hot”, so by 4.30pm, Le Gache, Apple, Chesney and Buurdy went to find some shade and left the rest of us to burn slowly as the race progressed......to be continued