|The 24 Hours|
|by Kerry Morse|
|It took ten hours for the true weirdness to set in. Maybe it was the email copied to me and a dozen of my closest personal associates, from Janos. Not being able to make it to la Sarthe, the award-winning author of Wine and Two Cheeses confined himself to a sponge rubber room sleepless in Seattle and started reminiscing about Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin. Let's start with the weather: maybe it wasn't a real monsoon but man did it come down for those first few hours. No one had any real knowledge of what kind of set-up to use other than tires and a change of high downforce to low downforce to high, etc. The rain sent a number of people to the record books to check when the last time the race enjoyed being this wet. Norbert Singer recalled 1998 had some rain, 1995 was a drencher, very consistent but nothing like this according to Peter Stevens of McLaren fame. The weather script for 2001 is close to the play of 1980 where local hero Jean Rondeau nipped Jacky Ickx and a car dealer by the name of Reinhold Joest. |
The Brits arrived in force to support the MG entries and the much hyped Bentley. The Audi powered Toyota GT-One clone (all right, it isn't really but you tell me another car that comes close) has given this year's edition of Les 24 Heures a much needed shot of interest. No one I know of was that excited about a rerun of the Audi Show starring Joest and his gearbox best boys. (# 2 Audi has just pitted and is having the gearbox changed. Done in 5 minutes - last year this was news but who wants yesterday's papers?) So we had a bottle green Bentley complete with Martin Brundle with the King of Spain in tow and a cast of extras more suited to Ascot Day at a revival of My Fair Lady.
And one musn't overlook the MG. With THAT shade of green how could anyone miss it. The Chamberlain chain gang arrived at La Sarthe with a mixed track record of a number of testing failures. Shockingly, the brain trust (or is it rust?) at Lola was smart enough to retain most of Peter Stevens' original cues. but MG lost major points for wasting what could have been customer rebate money for perspective MG-Rover buyers and spend it on a ridiculous logo redesign. Some think it looks like a turtle crawling out of the water and others liken it to a ship that was torpedoed. And then there is that electric acid test lime green that is splattered over the bodywork and unfortunately, the crew member's clothes. Not since the famous STP pyjama uniforms at Indy has a design looked so silly. Now if the MG was managed and run by alumni of the Bonzo Dog Band, it would be acceptable. But it isn't so the only way to fix the problem is by burning them in a pile.
Oh suffer Dave Price! The Panoz LMP 07 had a Cinderella debut at Texas, which was the worst thing for the team to have happen. Much was expected and the 07 has failed miserably. Pricey headed to Le Mans knowing well in advance that a top finish was not very realistic. But his bunch is very professional in their preparation and they approached the task in their usual thorough manner. The team was rewarded for their efforts by leading the race for a while and rains of Ranchapor both helped, and later did in, the two cars. One other area of concern is that the 07 has not really caught on with the fans in the way that the old V-8 ground pounder did. Nothing else on earth sounded the way a Panoz did and in an era of whooshmobiles, that is enough for a return to sanity. Va va va voom.
Hey! Didn't you used to be Wayne Taylor? Sure, there has been attrition that let the car move up the leader board, but the progress of the number 6 Caddy has been a vindication of sorts for the former IMSA champion. Taylor spent the off months getting back in shape instead of stocking his wine cellar. While Wayne was working out the Cadillac was getting worked over at Nigel Stroud's Gym and Fat Farm.
GM was wise enough to let this one alone and concentrate on the Corvettes for Le Mans. Any success enjoyed by the Cadillac would be a bonus. Nigel has done about all he can with what he had to work with and the real debut of third time's a charm will be with the totally new car due to begin testing later this year. His stuff has always performed well in the wet and this year was no exception. The two GM LMPs by and large stayed out of the wet wonderland that claimed so many others.
Jan Lammers the point home. The first stint for the original Dutch Boy was exciting in your face stuff. For those that recall his great drive in the TWR Jaguars, this one was right up there. From the drop of the flag, Lammers split the Audis and gave them fits with several chops across the nose in the chicanes. Then came the great flood. Bad luck Jan...
The Audity: The Joest team is very good. They are also very lucky, but the cliché and truth is that they make their own luck. Witness Lucky Laurent. Entering the pits, he misjudged his speed in the rain and before getting to his pit, he slammed into pits for the Gulf Audi of Stefan Johansson and the Champion Audi. Not only damaging equipment for the two private teams, there were a few crew members hurt. I say send the invoice to Ullrich.
Toothless Viper: The rain claimed almost all of the private Vipers. Oreca chose to just do the LMP project but with their preparation, it would have been a wise decision to run a single "werks" Viper along with the LMPs. They didn't and Chrysler will have suffered their worst showing in GT since competing at la Sarthe.
It is 5 AM, Brooksie is out shooting, Malcolm and his optometrists club are still at it, Stuball is running down the order in the makeshift studios of Radio Le Mans, VW products are 1-2-3, Cara is looking out the window of her press suite at the ghostly night illuminated by the lights below of the garages, Rick of Maison Blanche is lamenting the loss of the Pilbeam during the lap four follies as it left their website somewhat bare, Vanessa and Tammi are getting ready to feed another 400 freeloaders by mid-day. Fiona has left the circuit along with her Panoz brethren. Guy Smith, no doubt, is having nightmares. Johansson is still angry at how his week has gone. Gunnar Jeannette has gone from a zero for hitting the wall in practice causing Freisinger to rebuild the car and almost miss the race to hero as the car is running second in class.
(An observer would note that Morse looks no different at 5am than at any other time you may happen to cross his path - wrecked.)
I left and returned to find that quote on my Apple, so it stays... the manner of style suggests Andrew Cotton but he categorically denies any participation.
Sure, just like his old man.
Dada for now.
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