France 2022 – Part 1: Le Mans pre-race

After the pandemic was “easing” in the summer of 2021, my brother and I decided we would go to the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 2022. The first where spectators are allowed back in fully, and it runs on its usual weekend in June.

As it would be our first visit, we chose to book through Travel Destinations as they would deal with the ferry, the entry tickets and grandstand tickets. We chose to stay in Houx camping, and a grandstand seat on the start-finish straight. The grandstand tickets are expensive, but for our first trip we thought it would be worth it for the experience.

We were originally booked for a P&O crossing but with the uncertainty over their timetables, we moved to Irish Ferries, Dover to Calais.

This is a day-to-day view of what we did and where we stayed. I’m not saying it’s perfect, and other than Le Mans, the trip was fully flexible.
I’ve added links to Wikipedia pages for places we went to and in the blue sections, I’ve noted where we stayed with links to either the campsite website or searchforsites.
The final page has a summary of mileage and costs, plus some notes/observations.
I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday 7th June

We were booked on to the 06:40 ferry from Dover as we wanted to get to Le Mans ASAP and get set-up before it got too busy.
My brother had to travel from Preston, Lancashire to my house in Littlehampton, West Sussex (a 5 hour drive) so the plan was to throw his stuff into the motorhome and hit the road, getting to Dover early and parking up somewhere for a few hours kip. A warning from Irish Ferries (and reading elsewhere) suggested turning up early anyway due to large queues at customs.
We arrived in Dover about midnight and decided to head straight to the port and see if we could get an earlier ferry or just park in the port if needed. Luckily, the nice Irish Ferries chap offered to move us to the 01:25 crossing as there was zero queue.

Wednesday 8th June

The ferry was very quiet and we moved around the ship, relaxing in the lounge, out on deck, and in the cafe.

We arrived in Calais at 03:55 (French time) and headed off to Le Mans on the A16, planning a couple of stops en-route with a longer one shortly for a snooze. We decided to use the toll road as we wanted to get straight to Le Mans. My worry was that we’re over 3.5 tonnes and we’d get hit with class 3 toll charges, but I had also read that they use the vehicle height as it’s main measurement and we were 10cm under the 3m limit. Luckily, we only ever paid class 2 so it seems the height worked. No need to press the button and attempt “Je suis un camping-car”.

We had an hour-long stop along with quite a few other British vans at Aire de la Baie de Somme. A nice looking service station with plenty of quiet parking spaces. The shop opened just before we were leaving so we picked up a couple of supplies (mostly coffee) and hit the road. I decided to carry on driving as the caffeine wasn’t wearing off and there was no need for me to sit in the passenger seat not sleeping. Around Abbeville, we changed from the A16 to the A28 toward Rouen.

An uneventful trip, next stopping just south of Rouen at Air de Bosgouet Nord, just before we change direction from the A13 to A28 again to Le Mans. I let Andrew have a drive for bit whilst I had a passenger seat snooze. Next stop Auchan North of Le Mans for a stock-up.

We arrived at Auchan at about 11am and spent a good hour filling a trolley with beer, cidre, bread, merguez, milk and chocolate spread (are there any other requirements?).

Final hop to the campsite at the circuit. I had a route planned to get into the circuit near Tetre Rouge but the signage had other ideas and sent us on a long trip out of town, through the forrest and back to the exact point I planned on us getting to, just with a 6 mile detour! We finally arrived around 13:15.

After being shown to our patch of grass, home for the next 5 nights, we quickly got set-up and went to explore the circuit, and more importantly, get a beer.

Thursday 9th June

A quieter day on-track with the hyperpole qualifying later on, we decided to head into Le Mans as we hadn’t visited for about 20 years. The tram from the circuit to the town is a very easy option. We bought a 3-day roaming ticket for €10 each to cover the trams and buses.

Being born in Bolton, you can’t visit Le Mans (Bolton’s twin town) without walking down Rue de Bolton

After lunch in the main square, time to head to the Le Mans circuit museum.

After the museum and dinner, we headed back to the grandstands for Hyperpole.
They take the 6 top teams from each class (5 hypercars) from Wednesday qualifying to race around for 30 minutes to get their ultimate fastest lap to finalise the start positions for the race. Full explanation here

Hyperpole winners

Friday 10th June

Busy day today!

The plan was to go to Saint Saturn for the British welcome, back to the circuit to ride around, then back to the city centre for the drivers parade.

I’ll skip the whole British welcome debacle as we never made it! We got the tram into the city, then the plan was to bus out to Saint Saturn but due to road closures and road works we found the bus too late to get there and back in time so we gave up and headed back to the circuit.

For the first time, the circuit would be closed to vehicles on the Friday afternoon to allow people to walk/run/cycle/scoot their way around.

We got onto the circuit at Tetre Rouge and cycled down the Mulsanne straight to the Mulsanne corner and “Virage du Mulsanne” which was a local car display and entertainment event.

A ride around the circuit
Virage du Mulsanne

We carried on round to the start/finish straight and parked the bikes for a walk up the pit lane.

The winners trophy was on display near to the Dunlop bridge

Back to town on the tram to find a viewing point for the drivers parade. It was already very busy as we started in Republic square, so we wandered around the route to soak up the atmosphere and try to get some freebies. I think we managed a cap and a couple of flags.

Toyota drivers

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