Finally: The 24 Hours of Le Mans
by Pat Yanahan

 My first ride in a 356 was at the end of my navy service at Cape Kennedy.  A big place with long paved highways within the confines of the NASA facility – and no civilian Police.  We were testing Polaris missiles for the submarine program and one of our officers had a Porsche B Coupe.  He gave me a very spirited ride and that was it.  Ever since this first Porsche taste, I’ve noticed that in almost every racing-related conversation, going to the 24 Hours at Le Mans stood high on everyone’s bucket list.  During my corporate career I’ve traveled extensively throughout Europe and made friends with fellow car enthusiasts in many countries, one of whom (a racer in England named Peter Walters) triggered my emotions to go to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and take along people who would share the dream. Once Peter and I committed to this dream project, however, it took over a year of meticulous planning for us to work out the logistics and design a timetable that would maximize the experience for every participant in June, 2018.

We spent three days in England at the start to have some uniquely continental experiences while acclimating to time differences.  This included a stop at Bletchley Park, the now-famous facility where the British broke the German Enigma code; a trip to Duxford, one of the largest air museums in the world; a pub-style beer or two in Peter’s neighbor's garage, which was filled with rare collectable Bugattis; and a visit to the Morgan Motor Company factory, where wooden chassis and hand-formed metal bodies are still the norm.

On day four we took the high-speed train through the Chunnel to Paris and then on to Le Mans itself, where we stayed in a “camping area” at the Porsche Curves.  While technically this may have been “roughing it,” we not only had excellent food, ultraclean facilities, and seats in the grandstands as well as adjacent to our campsite.  Our journey was doubly rewarded because Porsche won twice:   the 2018 911 RSR program earned both GTE-Pro and GTE-AM titles!  One of the younger members of our group, James Kutill (914 owner), stated: “’Exciting’ is not a strong enough word to describe the constant buzz:  from the start flag dropping, to the international audience, and the sensory overload for two solid days."

His dad Jim was equally enthused: “It was a real-time sprint race for 24 hours.  For a while, it looked like it was Ford vs. Porsche but the 911 RSRs were just well-oiled machines.  The sound of the various types of race cars was distinctive, and you could certainly tell the Porsches from the competition.  After a while you could tell what was coming down the track”.  With over 250,000 spectators it was organized and security was low profile but they were on the spot with just a few minor incidents of fans getting over-enthused.  The retail shops were everywhere but Porsche ran out of merchandise.

After the close of the race we returned for two days to decompress in Paris, though in typically French fashion, our wind-down included a high speed open car tour in five antique Citroen 2CVs, during which our young drivers gave us a quick orientation to the city‘s major hot spots, so we could return on our own later on.  During our motor tour, my car was stopped by plain clothes police because of our cars’ wild paint jobs and wilder drivers, but after a brief “to-and-fro” between our new French friends and the local gendarmerie, we were released once they understood this was a “private” tour.

Revisit this page--photos will be added soon.