Part 2.”THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN” Alpining to Le Mans Classic 2016
Mike Glithero/Tony Elliott – 34 SPG Black S 1
Tony Help/Glyn – ART 4485 S 1V
Steve Rosier/Glenn Lafford-Smith – ABW 76D Green S V
Terry/Barry Newell – NYE 914E Green S V
Brian Thake/Baz Newell – JWK 944E Red S V
Jason Wilkinson/Ryan – YBL 375 Black S V
Allan Appleby – NCG 105F Navy Blue S V
The Alpines have been checked and rechecked, the spare parts, tools, camp equipment and bags squeezed in. Jason & Ryan also had fold-up bikes on the boot rack. Finally the documents & circuit passes were double checked.
It is 5am Thursday 7 July Alpines awaken in Leicester as part of “THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN” convoy heading to Le Mans Classic 2016.
10am J8 Maidstone Kent services the fully formed convoy rolls onto the M20 heading for Dover port – 3 from Leicester area, 2 starting at 6.30am from Stevenage Herts, Allan Appleby leaving Andover Hants at 6am and “Joan” 34 SPG a leisurely 7.30am from Wallington Surrey. All had experienced traffic hold ups on route to Maidstone, the latter two having been held up in M25 (junction M26) closure due to a car roll-over.
A few issues 1) Brian`s boot catch popped, the AA fixed it by giving him a bungy strap. 2) I lost my car keys in the gents at Roadchef services, a kind sole had handed them in to WH Smith counter – a worrying 10 minutes checking the car park to make sure “Joan” was still resting. 3) 6am Tony Elliott`s wife had to run him 20 miles to Wallington, the trains had been cancelled at short notice. 4) Arrival at the port saw my temp gauge at 180 due to Dover road works and passport + check-in queues, the good news I warmed my Ginster pasty on the block and header tank – much to other passenger`s amusement.
French Road Chaos
Following a smooth crossing we made good time on the A16/A28 motorways – sat nav eta Le Mans 7pm. Then 4pm engines off we were sun bathing 28c stationery, the A28 closed a timber lorry shed it`s load on both carriage ways 12 miles ahead. After one hour in the queue – suncream on – someone broke open “No Entry Service Only” gates near us and all traffic (including 40 ton trucks) drove onto local narrow roads and joined the queues of traffic trying to squeeze through small towns and villages.
Steve/Glenn the convoy lead car steered us an extra 20 mile berth using Tony Elliott`s road map, not sat navs, the old ways are the best!!! At least we were moving. Three hours later we were back on sat navs routing through Rouen – not a good move in late rush hours – now on a 10.30pm eta circuit arrival. Thankfully we all push on successfully and by 11pm the exhausted 6 crews erected tents at the on circuit campsite and downed many beers. 1am bed a 19+ hour day for most and some having driven 450 miles!!
Hotel Papea – a 22 log cabin site Tony and I were staying at – and the booking agent had been trying to contact us as 8pm was advised check-in. They closed for new arrivals at 10pm we did not have phone number so frantic calls from our partners in UK negotiated cabin keys being left in the door. Phew 11.30pm arrival 15km from the circuit but another problem a double bed and no power saw!! Thankfully the day was nearly over and both we and my S1 grand lady Alpine were safe no water or oil lose in 350 miles. The San Miguel`s slip down quick until 1.30am.
That`s not all Jason had an issue so on Friday he needed a replacement water pump, supplied by Brian from his spares, only to snap the radiator top hose connection, repairing it with liquid metal.
It had certainly been an eventful Thursday for “THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN”.
Goldsmith`s From Kent
The Goldsmith`s from Folkestone Kent saw the accident and managed to squeeze pass before the closure, they having taken the channel tunnel route early in Alpines EGN 491C Red S1V Andy`s and Tom`s award winning 448 GUW Gold S2 – a great specimen. They arrived at there on circuit campsite at 6pm, a mere 12 hour journey don`t you just love the smart ones!!!
Friday 8 July – Practice Day:
Weather was great 28c and importantly Sunbeam Alpine 3001 RW, 1961 S2 Le Man race car, was in the paddock. HORN 224 page 5 report stated “entry which had to be cancelled”. This was the car stolen & recovered in May 2016 and Keith Hampson (the owner) told me that apart from the splattering of dirt on the underside – from a cross farm fields get away – and cutting of lighting wires (both so not to alert the farmer) the car was in good shape. Thieves had broken into an adjacent storage building stealing expensive small items and needed a fast car.
3001 RW is that, in afternoon practice number 73 of Tristan Bradfield & Richard Evans qualified the 1600cc car in Grid 3 – cars 800 to 4800cc engine size 1957 to 1961 – in 50th out of 75 entries. Marques incl Jaguar, Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Aston Martin, Lotus, Healey, Morgan, AC, Chevy…..
I left “Joan” overnight in the Buggati display area (also Saturday) to avoid overheating in traffic and we caught the tram to and fro. On Sunday morning we got a lift from a couple at our digs saving us carrying bags, he has a great collection including a rare Jaguar XK 150S – only 150 originally built.
Saturday 9 July – Race Day 1:
The team improved that time in nightime practice 00.00-00.35am and great weather ensued through out the day touching 36c.
Grid 3 first race 19.20-20.23pm saw 42nd place of a 63 car grid. Le Mans style start with a reform lap and a rolling start. Tristan progressed well up the field and with a driver change Richard did one lap then slowed to retire on the last lap. Head gasket blown so a replacement 1725cc head was fitted for the second race. The mechanics aged in their 60`s and 70`s did a sterling job, well done guys.
Sunday 10 July – Race Day 2:
Grid 3 race two 03.22-04.05am rolling start this race was less eventful and although tired Tristan and Richard secured 29th place.
Grid 3 race three 11.04-11.47am rolling start and it was a good race for the car with Tristan improving lap times to 6mins 18sec and last lap 6min 11sec according to Keith Hampson`s stop watch. The Jaguar Listers performed well, with car number 73 finished in 30th.
The weather was still kind but with a breeze and fresher temperature of 30c and I lost my camera so the photos are Tony`s, Steve`s and Terry`s.
Competition And Event Stats
A great time was had by all Alpiners, weather brilliant, food/drink/meals superb, good racing but to me the highlight is the road classics. Over 200 clubs from Europe and further afield 8,500+ vehicles displayed (pre 1966 models) + camp sites and spectator car parks.
Then there is the competition cars 502 in Grid 1 to 6 + 58 Jaguar Classic Challenge race cars = 560 total pre 1981 and over 900 race drivers. Additionally 50 Group C race cars (1982-1993) competing for the first time, awesome!!! and the 50 Little Big Mans a 20 minute race for 6-10 year old boys/girls in miniature Le Mans style race cars. Tom Goldsmith`s hatching a plan to build a Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans miniature race car for his youngsters for 2020 event. Then there is the transporters/motor homes and the teams who are all easily accessable to talk to with paddock ticket at €35. Collectively a spectacular collection of metal wear for the 123,000 spectators – 13,000 increase on 2014.
For our part we did UK proud with 9 SAOC Alpines attracting lots of interest (my S1 in particular I`m told ….rarity value only 24 on UK roads) positioned between STOC`s 9 UK Tigers and Classic Sunbeam et Rootes de France who had different Hillmans and Sunbeams each day, my favourite a Blue Harrington Le Mans owned by Franck FELICITE from La Chaume, LES SABLES D`OLONNE.
The Return Journey
So to depart time 1.30pm via Arnage (to avoid event traffic) and onto beautiful scenic back roads to find a french cafe/bar. NO JOY all closed awaiting the evening event, so MacDonalds sufficed and arrival in Rouen at Brit Hotel 6pm €74 b&b for 2 (not again a double….a quick change to twin room). THE MAGINIFICANT SEVEN filled half the secure car parking space.
A city centre meal done we settled in a bar (well outside in light rain showers) and watched the sad and gloomy french faces France 0 – 1 Portugal in the european cup final. Still Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix, Andy Murray won Wimbledon and Heather Watson the mixed doubles, not all bad. Then Theresa May became conservative leader and quickly Prime Minister(ess). It had been an eventful week-end but Terry Newell`s was to gather pace.
Terry Newell`s Gearbox
Monday hotel car park Terry taped down the offside boot lid hinge – striped thread – he had over loaded the boot and at 8.40am we all departed for a 2.5 hours drive to catch the 12.35pm Calais ferry. Tony Help and Glynn (first mention) decided not to follow me onto the toll road where we all had gathered, so he saw more countryside before rejoining us.
The end occurred for THE MAGNIFICANT SEVEN around 20 miles from port. Terry`s overdrive snapped at 70ish mph so he had to disconnect the prop shaft to be towed. Terry`s 78 year old dad decamped to Allan`s car and he blagged him through check-in. Steve towed NYE 914E with Jason and Ryan car`s acting as a warning to others. 4 of us checked-in and listened to the walkie talkies as the three came in range thinking they had made our sailing. Terry on tow they went straight past us to collection zone for the 1.35pm ferry, ours had closed.
A rough crossing ensued and a 3pm Wallington eta was on. NO it took one hour to clear the terminal area and Dover all traffic filtering into one lane chaos. Terry`s car was towed on and off the ferry and it took 13 hours to get home after call to breakdown recovery (a very long day) while the rest split and went separate ways. Wednesday saw Terry remove the gearbox to start repair process.
“10 Out Of 10”
I dropped Tony at Wallington rail station at 4pm he stating “10 out of 10 weekend”. “Joan” got drenched within the last half mile but she had drank no oil or water in 700+ miles. Here 56 yo 1500cc`s performed impeccably with only the M on the boot lid falling off but recovered. “Tortoise and hare” comes to mind as I mainly drove on 3000rpm approx 60mph while the 1725`s often moved on.
34 SPG costs: £142 fuel, £180 event tickets, £590 accommodation + return ferry, £275 food/drink etc. = £1187 = £593.50 each.
Campers costs: £135 each + fuel and food/drink etc = £300 approx each. Terry`s w/e was more expensive!!!!!!!!!
Le Mans 2016 Trip
A priceless trip worths every euro, cent, pound and penny.
Summary a full-on weekend of metal heading and thorough enjoyment with a great crowd, age range 50 years with 2 former army commanding officers Allan and Terry to keep order, I don`t think so.
We raised the Alpine profile, so 2018 (bi-ennial event) bodes well for an SAOC tour, how about it committee it`s the start of our 60th year.