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My Le Mans Corvette Copy

At Le Mans in 1995, Donovan shared this Callaway Corvette with Almo “The Bull” Capelli and Agusta motorcycle and helicopter heir Rocky Agusta. Photo: BRDC
Robin Donovan Photo: Mike Jiggle
Robin Donovan Photo: Mike Jiggle

Unlike many other Le Mans drivers, I didn’t ever sleep during the whole 24 hours. Adrenalin would be pumping around my system and I just couldn’t rest until the checkered flag fell. Apparently, according to doctors, drivers loose 50 percent of their reaction time from the start of the race to the finish. I assume that’s why most of the mistakes start to come into play after the first third of the race, drivers are becoming a little sloppy and tired. That’s unless the first hour becomes what we now call the Allan McNish hour, when anything can happen. By the end of the race, unless you’re in a big battle with someone in your class, it’s a case of nursing the car home, but it can be worse driving a car slowly than fast. In my first Le Mans, three laps from the end my pit board read “IN.” I could see there were a few sparks coming from the rear of the car, but I wasn’t about to stop. The next lap, again the team held out the “IN” board. I ignored it again thinking it was just a bit of loose bodywork causing the problem. At the end of the race, checking the car in the paddock, I found the battery had been dragging along the track. If the race hadn’t have finished when it did I don’t think I’d have lasted much longer.

The 63rd running of the race in 1995 was the 9th time I’d driven in the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours. It was the year after my dream drive for Kremer in the Porsche with my boyhood hero Derek Bell. Driving with him in a Porsche with the Gulf sponsorship was an instance when all my dreams came true in one year. The result,  6th place, could have been better, but with 45 minutes spent in the pits, victory wasn’t really an option. The experience, though, was a once in a lifetime thing for me. The problem with Le Mans is that little problems culminate to make a big problem and you tend to waste a lot of time—and so it was for 1995.

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