In the early days, our Porsche customer Le Mans 24-hour race trip was very much a “boys weekend.”
To say there was one toilet for 300,000 people would be a gross exaggeration. In actual fact there were two.
The drive down to the race in those days was mind blowing and great fun. Yes, there were French police about but they weren’t as well organised as in later years, so you could push the Porsche’s like you just couldn’t do at home.
Not lunatic driving I must add – but owners enjoying what a Porsche does best, and that’s being driven quickly.
(Where’s Health and Safety did I hear you say?)
But Le Mans is a remarkable mixture of motor racing experiences which just cannot be repeated anywhere else with the same degree of intensity:
Food stalls, memorabilia stalls, model car stalls, restaurants, jazz bands, bars, fun fairs, strip clubs, helicopter flights etc., and all the while the world’s finest and most advanced sports cars racing around the most famous track in the world for 24 hours at relentless speeds, often over 200 mph.
You can walk around the circuit; watch the cars in slow and high-speed corners; see the pit stops; go to your bed and come back later in the morning to see what’s been happening whilst you have been asleep….
Accommodation in those early days was a case of “trial and error”. Often “error” in our case.
One of the first trips was organised by our great pal Robin Donovan and involved us staying in quote:
“Two fantastic luxury bus’s which have just been used for the recent Rolling Stones UK tour”.
It was a great selling line Robin used, and we had no hesitation booking them, especially at they would also be parked beside the pits for the whole weekend allowing us fantastic access during the race.
All the customers were as excited as we were to spend the weekend in such luxurious accommodation, and in an unbelievable location.
We had our usual great convoy drive down to the circuit – there really is nothing quite like a Porsche at speed, and we met up with Robin who then led us to the tour buses.
One or two of us could recognise the smell of smoke as we rounded the corner to where they were parked, and then we noticed that the smoke and the smell was coming from the two “roadies” perched in front of the tour buses: both in their mid-fifties, in jeans, cowboy boots, leather jackets, pony tails – the lot.
Two really nice guys in fact who without doubt hadn’t a care in the world.
They then showed us around our accommodation for the weekend and showed us how everything worked – or didn’t work as it turned out!
The air conditioning was broken, the showers were out of order, the toilets didn’t work, and later we would find out that we couldn’t use the kitchen for tea making etc. as there was a faulty water pump.
Add to this the sleeping arrangements and I guess you could say things could have been better.
The lack of air conditioning made the close proximity of our sleeping quarters similar to that of a world war 2 submarine – except mostly they had running water of some sort.
Nobody could have been said to have been allocated a comfortable bed.
Whether Mick and the boys had wrecked them over the summer tour I don’t know, but every single one of them was like sleeping on a plank of wood.
There are some things that stick with you for a long time:
The Queen’s coronation…
The 1966 World Cup victory….and the sleeping arrangements at our Porsche Le Mans customer weekends.
Did I draw the short straw on that first one – or was I fixed up?
Now don’t get me wrong, but I was paired up with one of our longest standing customers “John Anderson”, a highly successful businessman with a great sense of humour.
I really don’t know who was the most shocked, John or me, but we were to share the top bunk double bed at the front of the bus.
The shape of the roof made ideal sleeping arrangements difficult, so John and I decided to sleep in the “top and tail” fashion – somewhat cosy you might say.
About twenty adult males fitted into these wagons, so you can imagine the stifling heat, the bodily noises, and the snoring.
However, the only thing which did keep me awake at night was that sight and thought of John, sharing my bed in top ‘n tail fashion, wearing his nice, short, boxer pants.
In marketing terms – this really was…”getting to know your customer!”