cars while getting a limited amount of seat time in 1012--enough to realize that despite being inspired by the GT40, the new Ford GT is an entirely different animal. Sitting in 1012's tight yet surprisingly comfortable cockpit, it was impossible to imagine driving the 427-cubic-inch Holman Moody-equipped monster more than just a few minutes, much less at racing speeds for 24 hours.
Stopping for dinner in St. Etienne west of Lyon, France, I caught up on two day's worth of e-mails, while the rest of the group enjoyed eating at a reasonable hour for the first time in five days. One message from an unfamiliar address was of particular interest:
My name is Christophe Schwartz. I am a collector of FORD V8 cars, living near Paris. I also race a 1968 Torino at Vintage events here in France. I read about your trip on a German Mustang web site. It really looks like a hell of a great experience! Could I join your Sunday morning convoy to Le Mans with my 1966 Mustang Convertible?
I replied with the number for my cell phone, which rang just minutes later. We arranged to meet the following morning at a hotel with strong links to both Le Mans and the GT40 program.
Before heading out Sunday morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at a café in Romorantin-Lanthenay just down the street from our hotel. The café's owner kindly cleared away some barriers so we could park both cars right in front.
At the Hotel de France in La Chartre sur Loir, we met Christophe Schwartz. Packed with decades of motorsport memorabilia, the Hotel de France had served as a base of operations for John Wyer with both Aston Martin (including 1959, when his car won the 24-hour race with Carroll Shelby at the wheel) and with Ford, starting with their first attempt to win the race in 1964.
The hotel's owner produced a scrapbook full of photos of the people and cars who called Hotel de France home on previous sojourns to Le Mans. One photo, dated June 1964, immediately caught my eye. It showed the number 10 Phil Hill/Bruce McLaren Ford GT parked in front of the hotel.
Excusing myself from the table, I went outside and tried as best I could to maneuver our Ford GT into the same position. The resulting photo served as time travel of sorts, transporting me back to 1964 and documenting the start of Ford's multi-million-dollar, three-year quest to vanquish Ferrari at Le Mans.
We had originally intended to drive and photograph the Ford GT on the larger Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe, which includes some of the public roads that comprise the Le Mans circuit. Afterwards, we would photograph 1020, the GT40 on permanent display at the Musee de l'automobile du Mans. One final time, fate would deal us an exceptional hand. Schwartz informed me that he had gained 45 minutes access to the shorter Bugatti Circuit--and that the Ford GT and Dodge Viper were already waiting for me in the pits.
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