To Le Mans, with zest
The most practical
car in the paddock?
We think so
CAR #1972 #Range-Rover
Owned by Charlie Magee [email protected]
Time owned 23 months Miles this month 732
Previously Chopping out lots of rust, welding in lots of new metal, dreading the final bill
Le Mans Classic had been pencilled in on the calendar for weeks. And the reality of a little European adventure had started to crystallise as the days counted down. Nights under canvas, bush skills, gnat bites, and a subtle mix of sunstroke and hangovers.
But crucially, it had the makings of a great weekend with the addition of some world-class classic car racing. Something about Le Mans Classic has always appealed to me, more than similar domestic events. Maybe it’s the historic circuit, the relaxed atmosphere and, I suppose, the adventure of getting there.
Well, hopefully not too much adventure. That depends on your mode of travel. Up until a few days before, I had planned to buddy-up with Ross Alkureishi in his Lancia Zagato for a fast and furious blast across northern France, inevitably travelling light.
Then I received a phone call from Ross – the sort of call you know is going to impart bad news. Sure enough, the Lancia’s gearbox wasn’t ready following a rebuild, so no fun in France for us. Bottle opener, multi-tool and head torch were heading back into the cupboard for another couple of years.
Or could it be that my blue 1972 Range Rover would come to the rescue? Relieved of its usual duties as a city runabout, it was deputised to make the fuel-hungry jaunt to Le Mans. Thanks to the very helpful people at speedchills.com, we were able to change some details in our booking and hey presto! We were packing everything in sight, including the kitchen sink.
I have to say I wasn’t expecting to take the Range Rover. It has some great qualities as a car but bombing along the autoroute isn’t one of them. I quickly ordered some judicious spare parts, including a radiator top hose, fanbelt, a full set of spare bulbs (French police can get stroppy about this) and five litres of oil – something that tends to escape at high cruising speeds. I printed out my list of RAC Eurocover phone numbers and headed off to pick Ross up on the way to the Eurotunnel.
Getting a few miles under our wheels seemed to prove that it was all going well. We relaxed on our later-than-planned journey on the A28 toward Rouen, save for keeping a watchful eye on water temperature, oil pressure and slowly but inexorably falling fuel gauge needle. I had put all various levers in their optimum positions for high-speed touring and hopefully the optional overdrive would earn its keep. Much as I’d been practising my French – ‘Pompe cinq, s’il vous plaît’ – we made it all the way to the track, barring the odd comfort stop, on a single 19-gallon tank of fuel – that’s 16mpg. Not great but not as bad as I thought it might have been.
Arriving just after midnight, our next test was erecting an as-yet unseen tent for the first time. I was running on adrenalin by this stage and I think we managed it in about 20 minutes, leaving just enough time for a quick beer at the bar before bedtime.
I mean, who’s ever slept in a tent sober?
Range Rover meets Ferrari 412, Mustang and GT40 replica.