One of the most popular – and accessible – things at Le Mans is the pitlane walk-about on Friday. This is no VIP-only, in-and-out affair: the pits are open from 10 in the morning until 8 in the evening! And for most of that time the pitlane is absolutely heaving with people.
This is still a working period for the teams: all the bodywork is stripped off the cars and stacked in the pitlane, and the engineers are hard at work in the garages on the bare chassis.
All the garages are open: nothing is covered in blankets as you would see in Formula One – though, if you haven't got your car sorted by now, seeing a piece of trick aero on another car is hardly going to help at this late stage.
There's unlikely to be many people in the crowd who prefer the sound of a diesel to a screaming V12. The first reserve on the entry list made it into this year's race after Highcroft Racing's withdrawal – the fact the first reserve was one of last year's factory Lola Aston-Martin's means a final chance to hear this blinged LMP at Le Mans.
The two main protagonists are at separate ends of the pitlane. Peugeot occupy the prime spot at the start of the pits with the three factory cars and satellite Oreca outfit next door.
Up the other end are the trio of Audis, just before the new, rather more basic annex garage additions.
The Audis look a lot better in the flesh than in a lot of pictures I've seen: they're very sci-fi with the sleek, raked back bodywork.
Audi's pitwall tents are just as impressive: air-conditioned bunkers for the race engineers.
The only other pseudo factory entry in the LMP class is Aston Martin with their troubled AMR One. The cars at least now seem to be running reliably – but not quickly. This year will definitely just be a development run, and just finishing will be a victory.
I have to say that I'm not that won over by lines of the AMR One, which seems very bulky and high-sided compared to the other prototypes. It does sound good though.
The Robertson Ford GT is my favourite version of the various attempts at reinventing the original car: it seems slightly truer to the original, and the simple livery suits the car. It's a shame that these enthusiastic privateers didn't manage to get both their cars into the race.
I'm not sure if this was a serious offer: 100 Euros for a cracked Ford GT windscreen! One not-so-careful owner…
The Lotus Evoras were looking very well turned out, though like the Aston LMPs are gunning for a finish rather than a win in GTE. With the beefed up body kit they look perfectly at home with the other GT cars.
Lighting in the pits is all important. As darkness falls, the spots will be turned on, bathing the pitlane in light.
Each pit has an intricate gantry supporting lamps and airlines.
Looking down the pitlane you realise how tightly packed everyone is: not surprising with 56 cars squeezed in.
The BMWs are looking very fast here: the Ferraris and Corvettes are snapping at their heels, but the Porsches may well be hoping for reliability runs to get themselves into contention.
The BMWs look almost stock compared to the more extreme shapes of the competing GTs.
Behind the diesels are the faster petrol LMPs: foremost amongst them the local heroes, Pescarolo, and then these Rebellion Lola Coupés. The LMPs look tiny when they're up on stands in the garages: you can see that they effectively are effectively single seaters underneath the enclosing bodywork. They barely come up to the sills of GT cars like the BMW.
Some fans' team loyalties are easy to spot.
Others are not so obvious. Except for nationality perhaps.
The engineers continue to work whilst the fans keep a respectful distance the other side of the barriers. This is a much calmer experience than the insanity of the drivers' parade in town!
An hour later and the pitlane was still heaving – and would be until well into the evening! For me, it was time to run to the drivers' parade in Le Mans town – I'll be posting up a story on that later on. But now it's time to get ready for the start of the great race: 3pm Central European Time. The tribunes opposite me are already filling up: the terracing is completely full, and has been for hours: you have to get a spot early. The car clubs are now cruising round – the Corvettes are out on track at the moment; the awesome Mazda 787 has just returned from three laps at the hands of Johnny Herbert.