But I also remember June 1988 for another reason: Jaguar won Le Mans for the first time since 1957, and I was there to see it. I’d not been before, largely because it involved getting off my backside and doing some rudimentary planning – like buying a ticket – but a whole host of chums were going this time and I thought it might give me something to talk about when I started my new job at Autocar the day after the race. So, armed with nothing more than a few francs, the aforementioned ticket and a Renault 5 Campus hired from Charles de Gaulle, me and my mate Mark duly pitched up at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
It was quite a long time ago and I’ve been to most of the races held there since, but these are some of the memories my brain has chosen to retain for these last 30 years.
1. French beer with caps that actually unscrewed.
2. Everything being at least a two mile walk from everything else
3. Drunk Brits being appallingly rude to French waiting staff
4. Queues for every loo, at the head of which sat soured faced women selling loo paper by the sheet. Yes, you had to specify the number you wanted and if I’d had to spend my weekend selling bog roll by the sheet, I’d have been pretty sour faced too.
5. Spotting a private hospitality area with equally private, lavishly stocked and conspicuously vacant portaloos and realising that so long as I could put enough distance between me and the bloke on the gate to get in and lock the door behind me, there’d be damn all he could do about it.
6. Catching the keys of the Campus as they fell out of my top pocket while I was suspended upside down on the Ferris wheel, the only decent catch I’ve made in my life to date.
7. Being dragged by the aforementioned mates into a show where the young lady on stage kept on dropping her various veils until the final one fell revealing her to be not so ladylike after all.
8. Discovering the Grand Marnier pancake tent where you’d collect your crepe and then be allowed unattended access to the biggest bottle of Grand Marnier I’ve ever seen. The biggest bottle of anything I’ve ever seen in fact. You could have held it over your head and taken a shower in the stuff and no-one would have cared. I think I managed 17 pancakes over the 24 hours, but it might have been more.
9. Chafing, the unedifying consequence of too much walking and sweating in the French sun, combined with the Le Mans dust and dirt that got into everything.
10. Jaguar winning Le Mans.