Many people will tell you that the Le Mans 24 Hours is one of the most exiting and engaging races of the year.

It's understandable why. Twenty-four hours of flat-out racing, a vibrant atmosphere, myriad teams and a variety of different cars. It's also the world's oldest active endurance race, with it having been held annually since 1923.

Like many, however, I'd never been to Le Mans, despite its allure and historic status. So, when Aston Martin offered for me to join them for the weekend at the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours, I couldn't really think of enough ways to say yes.

Besides seeing the historic race in all its glory, it would also mean that I would get to drive an Aston Martin - a DB9 in particular - for the first time. This was not an opportunity to pass up.

Our journey was to be a relatively simple one. We'd leave from Autocar's office in Teddington at about 4.30AM, cruise down to the channel tunnel, then make our way to Le Mans. Near the track we'd detour to La Chartre-sur-le-Loir, to meet the Aston Martin Owners' Club for lunch.

Stan Papior, Autocar's chief photographer, would be joining me for the trip and providing some welcome company for the drive down. The DB9, which transpired to be a 'Volante' convertible version, arrived at Autocar on Thursday, prior to our departure.