Went to Le Mans for the eighth time in 28 years - and had the best time at La Sarthe I can ever remember. The thing you find yourself liking instantly about this place is that it is run on entirely different lines from the park-in-straight-lines-because-Bernie's-watching ethos of F1, a nice change.
At Le Mans, ordinary people seem to be in charge. There's chaos at times, but mostly it's short-term. Things work. (Mind you, I wasn't thinking this yesterday afternoon when some clown of an official decided he needed to back up the departing traffic by scanning every pass-holder's barcode...)
The racing was brilliant. Aston versus Corvette was close and ended well for the vast British contingent, even if the Vettes will always win our affection and respect for their fabulous exhaust notes. I was beside the circuit for all but six hours' slumbering time, and found something interesting to watch at all times.
The listening, however, was more problematic. Two Yankee commentators on Radio Le Mans spoke in platitudes for most of the race, and seemed unpleasantly to have "colonised" it. Let's go back to French and anglo-Saxon voices, please, and most of all, let's learn how to pronounce "Peugeot"...
The Audi-v-Peugeot battle gave the 24-hour classic its best competitive spectacle for a decade, and carried nerve-jangling tension right to the finish. You only had to scan the face of VW Group chief Martin Winterkorn, depicted frequently on TV, to know how true that was. Truth is I wanted Peugeot to win, but must say I'm not unhappy with the Audi victory.
They earned it with great strategy, consistency a refusal to panic and some brilliant driving by Allan McNish, who has progressed from a new boy in that team to the bloke who best combines stamina and speed. Nishy once wanted nothing but to be an F1 driver (and had a sojourn testing and racing Toyotas) but this long distance stuff is truly his metier. Audi wouldn't happily start a race these days without having the tough-minded little Scot on the team.
It's amazing to think that in such a fast 24-hour race two three-car teams 'outright' can finish the first six finishing places. I was also fascinated to see a race won in the pits: the lead Audi's winning margin was less than three minutes, and each Audi spent around 10 minutes less time in the pits that its Peugeot rival. Best of all, the whole thing sets up a fantastic competition for next year.
The rules are due to be tweaked for the 2009 race to make things easier for petrol-powered cars, but given the success of this year's race, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (not history's fairest-minded race organiser) is unlikely to do anything to spoil next year's titanic Audi-v-Peugeot battle. Le Mans '09 is going to be fantastic.