Oldtimer's Corner - 1973 24 hr. du Mans - Part 2

By: Ed Niles

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Last month, I promised I'd try to put into words what made my first trip to Le Mans so great. (for last month's article go to Oldtimer's Corner - 1973 24 hr. du Mans - Part I

First, it wasn't just Le Mans. For the first time in history, the Grand Prix of Monaco was "back to back" with Le Mans; Monaco preceded the 24-hour event by one week.

Next, we (Chuck and Carol Queener and I) had been invited by the great French collector, Pierre Bardinon, to visit him at his famous country estate/race course/museum outside of Aubusson before Monaco. So let's start there.

Pierre and his wife, Yanne, are some of the nicest people you would be likely to meet, and Pierre is a true Ferrari enthusiast. That having been said, he has always been somewhat publicity-shy, as he is anxious to avoid the possibility of kidnapping, extortion, trouble with his workers (he is a wholesale furrier), or being inundated with requests from Ferrari enthusiasts. So we felt honored to receive his invitation.

We arrived at Mas du Clos in mid-week, in the midst of a violent rainstorm. Despite the rain, Pierre and Yanne were the most gracious of hosts, inviting us into their home (chateau or castle might be more appropriate) for a sumptuous dinner. It turns out that Pierre is something of an oenephile, and so naturally we had a different wine with each course. By the end of the meal, Chuck Queener and I were feeling no pain. But nothing would do but that Pierre show us his wine cellar. And in this case, it is literally a cellar, with the walls of the stairwell lined with rare and wonderful bottles and the cellar filled with case upon case of nothing but the best. From the cellar, Pierre (who by now was also quite well straightened out) selected several bottles of fine old cognac. We went upstairs again, where he explained that the youngest vintage was what he called his "3l2". From that we progressed to the 5l2, the 6l2, and finally to that Can-Am Master the 7l2.

When the party dragged on to the wee hours, and we were all falling down in our plates, Chuck and I felt it was time to excuse ourselves. Pierre and Yanne had arranged for us to have rooms in their guest quarters, "down the road" from the main house. As I stepped out into the storm, Chuck said, "be careful!", but it was too late. I'd already slipped on a wet cobblestone, and was prone by the time he finished his sentence! They say you can't hurt a drunk, and there must be some truth in that as I was able to get up and wend my way (more carefully) to my quarters for the night.

The next morning, Pierre showed us his private race course, which is quite professionally built, and in fact is used by some of the teams for practice during the racing season. We also had a chance to look at his collection of Ferraris, which at the time numbered between 35 and 40. Technically, the collection was, and is, owned by the Association Collection Mas du Clos, but everybody recognizes Pierre as the proprietor of this fantastic Ferrari museum. He specializes in sports racers and sports prototypes, although there is a sprinkling of street models and, from time to time, several retired Formula l cars. At this time (1973), the current museum had not yet been built, and the collection was scattered around in several buildings.

From Mas du Clos, near Aubusson, (the tapestry capital of France), we journeyed on to Monte Carlo, the capital of the Principality of Monaco. The Grand Prix of Monaco is something that I'm sure you have seen on television, and as a result everything looked quite familiar to us. But it was the people that made it interesting. While we were there, we met old drivers (Pilotes Anciens - I'm not making this up; they are assigned an arm band with that designation) including Phil Hill, Tony Brooks, Carroll Shelby, Stirling Moss, Louis Chiron, Juan Manuel Fangio, Huschke von Hanstein, Ba