Le Mans is one of those 'life list' things. It's something that everyone with even a passing interest in cars knows about. They've heard about the vicious racing, the camaraderie, and the fun you can have over race weekend. As well as all the racing, they've probably heard about the drive down.
It's not a long drive as they go. A mere 6 hours if you're not stopping to film every 10 minutes. From Calais it's a quick jaunt down to Rouen, then a pootle to Le Mans itself. You'll see the rarest, most expensive, and most exotic cars honing down the motorway. By rare I don't only mean S1 E-Types and 250 GTOs, but also a Vauxhall Zafira VXR. It looked pretty badass, if I'm honest.
As it was my first trip to Le Mans I needed to take a car that would fit all the supplies you need, look good, and turn heads in the company of Ferraris. A tough choice, right? Well...no, actually. The Toyota GT 86 had just been launched for the 2012 race and we'd been offered a LHD car to take to the race. It was on Belgian plates, so I nicknamed it Hercule.
The GT 86 is a big deal -- it's a car that Toyota's lineup has desperately needed for a long time. At the time it was so hyped-up, so longed-for that everywhere we went the car was the star. At service stations I was stopped (and addressed in French or Flemish) and asked about it. "What's it like?", "Is it yours?", "How much do you want for it?" were all barked at me in various European tongues at one point or another. Most people, though, simply said, "Nice car, dude." Fair play, it is a nice car. In fact, it's excellent. There's more on that in the film.
Now, the drive was to be pretty simple -- we had a support vehicle (a Toyota Avensis) and the GT 86. All the kit we needed was deposited between the cars (my stuff and the tent in the GT, the crew's in the Avensis) and everything was all lovely. I had one rule for the drive and made sure to share it on numerous occasions: no speeding. The French hate British speeders and over the Le Mans weekend, as a nation we descend on the country and pay no regard to their speed limits at all, so much so they mount special operations to nick as many of us lawless sons of lady dogs as possible. So, after all my pontificating what happened...? The film above will tell you. Egg was applied to face.
The GT 86 isn't all that powerful, its 2.0-litre boxer engine only puts out 197bhp, but its chassis is incredible. It's a car designed for fun and for the love of driving. I loved it and if you ever get the chance to drive one you'll love it too.
What a car. What a race. What a trip.