Three times Fender and Broad have raced at Le Mans Classic and each time have returned with a superb trophy which I often look at and cast my mind back to the events that preceded the award.
Le Mans 2014 for PKV693 and Pilotes Guy and Neil returned no trophies and yet was probably our best racing performance. Speaking for myself one race was the best race of my life to date. The essence is indeed in the struggle. We qualified the car 22nd out of 84th runners. A virtual nose bleed at being so high up a grid packed with exotic purpose built race cars of the period mixed with the ‘best’ sportscars of the early 50’s. C Types and D Types, Gullwing Mercedes, Maserati 300S, Lotus shared the grid with
Race one involved the Le Mans start and we were flying into the top 20 until.....PKV started to fish tail wildly and we retired with a half shaft related failure. The end of our Le Mans? Could have been. However, the old adage ‘fail to prepare then prepare to fail’ was proved correct. We did indeed prepare and turned up with the most unlikely of spares for the car including a spare halfshaft!
Good job we did have the halfshaft because what followed is the stuff of boy hood dreams. Guy started this race from 69th position and did 2 laps under the safety car in pouring rain before pitting for me to take over as the safety car pulled off. Mandatory 90 second pit stop and I was out into pretty hideous wet conditions. Was I scared? No, more ’focused’ shall we say! However PKV instilled confidence first time through the Dunlop Bridge area and I started to remember some of my 13year old sons Angus’ wet karting lines staying off the racing line at key points and finding grip elsewhere on the track. More and more confidence in the handling of the car followed as PKV seemed impervious to the rain and literally danced through the corners passing cars with apparent ease. On one particular occasion 3 cars in a line approaching the first chicane on the Mulsanne. I thought I’d take one on the way in and ended up taking all three. It was frankly ‘bloody marvellous’ that this little TR2 could dance its way around so many cars over a 7 lap race. Driving down the Mulsanne in the dead of night was always a thrill for me. Passing so many cars in 7 laps of the 13km circuit was quite a thrill.
As the chequered flag dropped and I slowed to come back to the pit area I knew we’d had a ‘good’ race. We started 69th which was our allotted finishing position from race 1. So after 7 rain sodden laps how many cars did we pass? When the results came out our finishing position was 14th! 55 cars in 7 laps. I did the math on that and couldn’t but smile.
‘The essence is in the struggle’ is an Olympic motto. The struggle was the failure of the half shaft and its repair. And with no expectation and a 5 lap penalty for not finishing the first race we started the second race as exactly that, just another race.....at Le Mans. No trophies this year. Finishing 14th in race 2 made that our starting position for another rain sodden race 3. This time I started and did the 2 safety car wet laps after 30minutes sitting in the formation area with rain literally hosing down. It was tricky but with only 13 cars in front of us instead of 68 at least we had some vision. I was soaked to the skin and handed the car over to Guy who had the same awesome fun in PKV managing to pick off 5 ‘faster’ over 5 awesome laps of slipping and sliding a TR2 around the most famous race track in the world to finish a superb 9th!!
Le Mans Classic is simply brilliant to race at and spectate. We raced and then watched our ‘chums’ in TR’s and Jaguar’s race too. There is nothing like it and it was such a thrill. The thrill was absolutely made by the company we kept and friends we made and indeed the amount of ‘customers’ who are in fact friends who made the trip to the paddock to say ‘hello’. It’s very expensive to race at Le Mans so it’s very much appreciated to know that people enjoyed seeing this significant TR on track. Back in 2 years?