Part 4. What to take with you
Walking around Green Park at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, I once came upon a campsite with its own fish-tank, complete with tropical fish swimming around and a chicken coop full of hens. At the Nurburgring 24 Hours I have witnessed a whole pirate ship on a steep hillside overlooking the track including cannons and crow’s nest with a man on lookout. At Le Mans I have seen most of a house, with a full kitchen including sink, fridge, chest freezer and dishwasher next door to a lounge with sofas and a TV. Every year this type of thing goes on and you can’t help but wonder what they left behind to fit all of this in.
Not everyone takes it to the extremes, but there are a few things to remember when it comes to packing for Le Mans. Some are obvious and some are common sense, but if I had a pound for every call we receive during Le Mans week saying “I am sorry but I have forgotten my…” then I would be a very rich man by now.
Without fail somebody every year either forgets their passport or finds out that it has expired just hours before departure. Even with the UK still being in the EU at the moment, you cannot travel to France without your passport. This item is crucial and so should be checked well in advance and kept safe at all times. Check it now if you can. I bet you don’t know when your passport expires!
Losing travel tickets either before you travel or during your stay is less of a problem these days. E-tickets are easily replaced & booking numbers can be quoted in place of a piece of paper, but it is a hassle. Much better to keep them in your vehicle so they are available when you need them. Race tickets are another matter. These are not easily replaced so should be kept safe and not left on the kitchen table. Your camping pass should be fixed in your windscreen and your entrance tickets should be kept with you (usually on a lanyard) so that you have them available to be scanned when you enter the circuit.
There are other documents that you shouldn’t leave home without such as your driving licence & car insurance documents. I am sure you would never dream of breaking the speed limit in France, but if you ever do the Gendarmes will ask for these documents as well as money to pay the fine.
Everybody knows the saying “It always rains at Le Mans”, so it is amazing how ill prepared some people can be for few days at the circuit. Of course it doesn’t always rain but a warm and waterproof outer layer is very important. When the sun goes down you don’t want to have to miss the racing because you are cold or wet so pack a coat. It is very difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t been to Le Mans before, quite how much walking is involved. Distances between viewing points and your campsite are usually bigger than you think. I have saying that where ever you are at Le Mans, you are 20 minutes’ walk from where you want to be. With that in mind a good pair of boots or similar sturdy footwear is essential. Following on from that is socks. You can never have too many socks. If you’ve ever got up in the night, needing the bathroom and been forced to pull on wet socks, then you know what I mean. I am sure a sock salesman would clean up if they set up shop in a Le Mans campsite. Otherwise layers of clothing is to be recommended. You can always remove a layer if it is hot, or add another layer when it gets cold, so pack your back with multiple layers to stay warm or cool at Le Mans. And finally, if you have flip-flops bring them. They are perfect for the communal showers!
Forgetting your tent is unlikely (it has happened though) but there are other things that are worth thinking of. You can never have enough tent pegs, and if it has been dry then something stronger than the usual metal peg is required. A mallet will also be required, because it will be difficult to get the pegs in with just your hands. Sleeping bag and pillow could go without saying, but we have been asked for spares at Le Mans, so double check before you leave. An airbed or sleeping mat are equally useful if you plan on getting much sleep. A torch with batteries is good. Don’t rely on your phone, because when you need it, you will probably have it charging in the car. You can survive on circuit food, but nothing beats a Le Mans barbecue. Drivers swear they can smell bacon in the morning as they blast through the Porsche Curves and everything seems better with bacon doesn’t it. Event wet socks (see earlier). The local supermarkets are good for all your essential food items and some of the non-essential ones too. Try and stay clear of glass bottles if you can. Camping and glass don’t mix that well and in recent years there has been a crackdown on taking glass in to track-side campsites so it is best avoided. Alcohol? Can’t say I’ve tried it myself, but I understand its popular at these kind of events.
These are the things that you want to really add to the whole Le Mans experience but are easily forgotten. A bottle opener and a tin opener for instance. It is no good returning with from the shops with a tin of beans if you can’t open it. No doubt your campsite will be located in the perfect location, but if it isn’t a decent water carrier to get your supplies back from the nearest stand-pipe will come in handy. All Travel Destinations staff are consistently asked for phone chargers. We do carry some, but often not for the right model of Iphone or Android device, so think about it before you leave and ensure you have an adapter for your car. An FM radio is so important at Le Mans. If you want to know what is going on, then tuning in to the team on Radio Le Mans is essential. They are the best and will be broadcasting right through Le Mans week. You will kick yourself if you forget your radio. The last thing to mention is money. Even if you forget most things you can always buy them when you are at Le Mans. Even a tent! But you shouldn’t carry around too much. Sadly things do go missing at Le Mans, and you don’t want that to be your wallet. We would recommend a small amount of Euros for things like road tolls and your essentials but then have a credit card for anything else and keep that separate and safe too.
Top tips for packing for Le Mans are:
• Check your passport is valid and keep it with you at all times
• Take layers for warmth and a waterproof as it always rains at Le Mans
• Don’t forget your FM radio to tune in to Radio Le Mans
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This article first appeared on Motorsport Magazine online & is the fourth in a series of guest blogs by Richard about Le Mans.