I’m sitting in our cinema room with Dante as we dig in to a steak and veg meal I rustled up. He opens a bottle of good red wine to wash it down with. We feel like putting on an old Steve McQueen movie. I have Le Mans.
What a movie! It’s like a fly-on-the-wall documentary of the 1971 contest between Porsche and Ferrari. Barely a word is spoken until thirty minutes in as we are instead immersed in the atmosphere and spectacle of the world’s coolest race. There’s large trucks carrying sleek race cars into the circuit, pit crews busying around with last-minute preparations, race-goers from far flung countries converging on the campsites that encircle the track. I could almost smell the petrol and oil.
Interesting is the depiction of the drivers and their world. It’s a treehouse with no girls allowed. These are driven men, all over thirty, all conducting themselves with poise, class and self-belief. There’s some great exchanges where the modesty of the words belies the surpreme confidence with which they are uttered. A journalist asks Steve McQueen’s rival if he expects the race to be between them. He smiles and answers “He’s fast. I’m fast.” A few elegant women orbit around the racers without ever succumbing to the vulgarity of groupie-hood. Real elegant young women with grace and character. One such is the widow of a racer McQueen’s character had a crash with the prior year. After many deeply emotional but outwardly reticent scenes, including a tense shared coffee during a driver changeover, she asks him:
Lisa Belgetti: When people risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something very important?
Michael Delaney: Well, it better be.
Lisa Belgetti: But what is so important about driving faster than anyone else?
Michael Delaney: Lotta people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.
I turn to Dante and comment “What must it feel like to be a woman in this environment?Even a 10 brings nothing to the table better than what the men already have.” This is life as it should be. All the men were the best side of thirty, living interesting lives, comfortable in their world and it just came across so natural that these beautiful young women would not only seek them out but willingly place themselves below the men.
That’s it. Decided. This June we shall attend Le Mans. Steve-o has sold us on it. Why aren’t we touring Europe for all the big events. Paris-Dakar rally? Monaco GP? There must be some horseracing somewhere too. It’s not enough to be sitting in a Turkish bazaar sipping coffee while I haggle over rugs, nor enough to dabble in tapas at a Seville bar, nor even a pai-au-chocolat outside the Paris opera house. It’s not enough to see the world. I want to see the world’s events.