At this time of year, I find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on my day job. Le Mans is the highlight of my year - my 'fifteen minutes of fame' - and also a sporting event of significance. And this year, the outcome is extremely difficult to predict.
It will also be the thirtieth occasion that I have been to the 24 hour race at Le Mans. The first time I went, in 1981, I drove over (via Le Havre, if I remember correctly) with Malcolm Gimblett and Steve Davison in my old Alfasud. I wonder where they are now (Malcolm, Steve and the Alfasud)? We had camping tickets for Blanc Panorama, on the outside of the Dunlop Bridge, and arrived on the Thursday evening, while final qualifying was underway. The memory of watching the cars appearing under the bridge and heading down to the esses (at around 10:30 at night) is one that I will treasure forever.
My interest in motor racing had begun as a small boy (which by 1981 I most assuredly was not) - but during the late sixties and seventies sportscar racing did not hold much appeal to me. My dentist (an Alfa Romeo fan) was a regular at Le Mans had tried on a number of occasions to suggest that I go, but the purity of single seater racing had me in its grip in those days. By the time I got to Le Mans, I had already visited Monza, Monte Carlo and the Osterreichring, so quite why Le Mans had never got itself onto my agenda is a bit of a mystery.
In any event, after that first experience, I was back again in 1982, and again, and again. And many that I know now have had similar infectious experiences. We moved on from Blanc Panorama, to Houx (long before the annexe was built), then to 'Camping des Tribunes' - a bit more pricey, but on the inside of the Dunlop curve, between the track and the Bugatti circuit. I got a lift in someone's Austin Allegro (an ex-Panda car, blue, with white doors) one year, took my (rather shabby) Lotus Elan +2S for quite a few years, then another Alfasud, got a lift in Pablo's VW Scirocco when Hertfordshire Constabulary decided that I shouldn't have a driving licence and then took whatever company car I happened to have at the time. Until David Ingram took pity on us Radio Le Mans folks, and provided a succession of lovely Audis to take the strain from the journey.
Now, I can't imagine not being there. Even if (when) Radio Le Mans doesn't want me (or no longer exists), I will make the trip. In fact in some ways, I would quite like to go back to being a spectator... probably more than at any other event. There are so many different places to watch from, and 24 hours is long enough to visit most of them.
For now, though, there is 2010 to look forward to. It promises to be a belter of a race. Apparently there will be a nice shiny A3 in my driveway on Monday, which I will be taking on the 9:55am Dover-Calais ferry on Tuesday. I don't know where I shall be staying at this stage, but understand that it is a private home and hopefully I shall be comfortable. Robin Goodman will ensure that I get some food over the course of the race, and I shall stand (probably) and watch the whole race from start to finish from the commentary booth overlooking the pits. Hopefully I will be able to stay on top of the race, and if I do, I shall enjoy enormously being able to share it with many of you.
Here's to it!