Jazzy Jeff Goes To Le Mans
it felt like the first scene in a horror film, and An overheating engine was my leatherface.
Did you ever see Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo? Amazing film, I recommend it if you haven’t seen it. Recently it inspired me. Unfortunately, I don’t own a Volkswagen Beetle who thinks independently, but I do own a very old, very loved Honda Jazz. I decided to follow in the footsteps of Jim Douglas and Herbie and take my beloved old banger to France. Monte Carlo? No. The Glastonbury of automotive? Yes! I took Jazzy Jeff to the 24 hours of Le Mans.
This was my first adventure with my little car. We have done a Safari together before… but just outside of Birmingham. Not quite the same. Le Mans is one of my favourite weekends in the calendar and as I planned for 2017, I was trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get from Stamford, UK to Le Mans, France. It was one of those moments, looking at train times on the computer before gazing on my car parked outside… could I? He (Jazzy Jeff) will probably over heat or we might lose a tyre or both might happen at the same time. I then had a sudden vision of Jazzy Jeff doing burnouts down the Muslanne Straight, the crowd cheering asking, ‘who does that remarkable car belong to?’. I closed the train times, ordered Le Mans racing stickers and started making plans. If Jim Douglas and Herbie went to Monte Carlo, Freya Walton and Jazzy Jeff could go to Le Mans.
I firstly want to say a huge thank you to Brittany Ferries and their wonderful, across sea accommodation. Getting up at 4 am with a slight hangover isn’t great at the best of times, so a bed was completely ideal. Thank you, Brittany Ferries. Tip for petrol heads – if you are considering going to Le Mans, travel with Brittany Ferries because the ferry car park is a car meet in itself. I, of course, did not have a McLaren or Mustang, but I did have a humorous car covered in racing stickers that everyone else seemed to enjoy. In fact, one woman said it reminded her of ‘the Herbie films’. Success.
I had never driven in France before, and I was so pleasantly surprised by the wide, completely empty motorway roads, big blue sky and 30 degree sun. It felt like the first scene in a typical 70’s horror film, when the sun is shining and everyone is so happy on their road trip, completely unaware of Leatherface coming up behind them. (I’ve gone from Herbie to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Sorry.) An overheating engine was my Leatherface.
Driving through the annual hustle and bustle of Le Mans and pulling into the circuit in my own car felt great, like a real grown up. I felt like Jazzy Jeff and I were where we belonged. After parking up next to the track, sheltered under trees (a life saver in 30 degree heat), I sat on my car and went to open a beer. Oh wait… no, hang on…there are no beers, no food and only one bottle of water. Not a real grown up, a totally unprepared twat. But no problem, there is always overpriced chips and beer available at Le Mans.
My car sat beautifully the entire weekend, and like I always am whenever I leave an event like Le Mans, I was upset to be driving away. It had been an excellent race, amazing weather, I ate, drank and tanned all weekend and I didn’t shower once. What’s not to love? As I drove back towards the coast, the sun was rising in Northern France and I had the same, overwhelming feeling of gratitude and happiness. After finally showering on the ferry (thank you, Brittany Ferries, a shower never felt so good), we were back on home soil. The weather was just as lovely in England, Jazzy Jeff was driving nicely, and it was about that time in the horror film for the sunny scene to be interrupted by the monster. My engine was overheating… Quite rapidly. I knew the drill; pull over, lift bonnet, pour water into coolant tank, leave to cool for 20 minutes, drive at 60 mph in 5 gear with low revs. I put on my Honda cap that I had been given at Le Mans, hoping that perhaps people driving past might think I’m a professional Honda mechanic, and carried out the procedure. Okay, so it wasn’t quite the Leatherface moment of the horror film. It was only when I got home and checked my tyres that I realised I had been driving with a tyre pressure of 12 PSI, when it is supposed to be at 32. Now that could have been a Leatherface moment.
I strongly suggest to anyone who still owns their first car to go on a little adventure. It will teach you things about your car you never knew, like how it shakes if you drive at 80 mph for too long. To be honest, it will most likely encourage you to buy a new one.
My Honda Jazz is my Herbie, and we made it to Le Mans and back. Not bad for a car with a flat tyre!