Heading back down the Mulsanne Straight this morning for a quick pit stop at the Le Mans 24h museum, I could just imagine the screams and roars of racing engines being taken to their limits - and beyond - on the arrow straight road (interspersed by two chicanes for the professionals, and a few roundabouts for us plebs and peasants). its a seriously cool road to drive on... and quite possibly the greatest stretch of straight road in the world! For those with a racing heart, that is; no doubt it's as dull as dish water for everyone else...
It was a quick dash around the superb museum, which unsurprisingly majors on French drivers and marques, but also rightly celebrates major successes from the likes of Derek Bell (5 wins), Jacky Ickx (6), and most recently Tom Kristensen (an amazing 8 wins).
The race started in 1923 as the Rudge-Whitworth Cup, which sounds as British as they come. Unless I missed it, there appeared to be no reference as to where this name came from, as the origins of the big race were started by a Monsieur Georges Durand. Answers on a postcard...
The most nuts fact I found was a driver in the 1950 race, one Louis Rosier, who drove for 23 hours. It was presumably at this point that his family called 'time' and hauled him in - as it was his son who took over for the final hour! Either that, or he'd miscalculated the hours and thought he'd finished...
Of the cars on show, the 24h race is well represented, with almost all directly owned by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, organisers of the Big Race since the start. Except, I noticed, for the three Audi's on display, including the 2013 winning R18 e-tron quattro - all owned by Audi and on loan.
It wasn't all just racing cars, though, with numerous historic and classic road cars on show, including a few stately Rolls Royce, several beautiful Bugatti's, a sinister but luxurious low-riding 1950s Cadillac, an 1880s steam car, the original Pininfarina concept of the Ferrari Dino (one word - wow!), and even a vintage Renault tractor!
Pressed for time, I tore myself away, and got back on the open road (if you can call the French autoroute tolls 'open roads') heading towards Tours and then south into the heart of France.
Flat characterless landscape, accompanied by not much more than pylons, wind farms, international lorry drivers, and the odd farmer ploughing his field - none of whom make good conversation!
It was also somewhat strange to be driving through the French countryside in clear sunny skies, at a barmy 20C, but with the useless trees not even showing a hint of blossom.
Approaching my overnight stop near Clermont Ferrand, the scenery suddenly awakens, the road climbing as high as 1900 ft, with views of distant snow-capped mountains to the left, and the Puy de Dome volcano looming large on the right...
The heart of France is beating, after all!
Inside 'Le Mans' Museum
To keep the hearts of the UK beating, please consider donating to the British Heart Foundation. For over 50 years, they have been at the forefront of research into cardiovascular disease, which has helped transform the lives of millions.
Even so, cardiovascular disease still kills around 1 in 4 people in the UK.
Its therefore essential that the BHF is able to continue its pioneering research and development, so that as many of you and your families can lead the full and healthy lives they deserve.
And as Deee-Lite so entertainingly told us in 1990, "Groove is in the Heart"! Help others rediscover the groove in their heart - join the BHF in their fight for every heartbeat.
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