Moto Racing, smell of Pastis & motor oil (Bol d’Or 2015)




My brother told me a few months ago: “Cette année je vais au Bol” (This year I am going to the Bol). I answered: ” I’ll find a motorcycle, I’m coming”. The Bol d’Or is a race in France, part of the Endurance FIM World Championship and organized for the first time in 1922. This 24-hours race was happening in the South of France at Le Circuit du Castellet, the Paul Ricard race track from 1978 to 1999. Finally, after 15 long years of renovation, the Bol was back to the South of France and I had to go. I was born and raised one hour from Le Mans, a track I love. But the Paul Ricard is special. Surrounded by pine trees, the track is beautiful. You access it by a nice curvy road from which you can see the Mediterranean Sea a few miles away. The weather, the sun, the vegetation, it feels and smells like vacations. I rode down there a few times for Moto Grand Prix and endurance races. 1995 was the last time I went, riding my black 900 Honda CBR with my brother-in-law on the back seat. Two days after my first child Eliza was born. I believe, today, I am still doing the dishes to pay for that one!

So, in September I flew from San Diego to Paris. I jumped on a train to get to my parents’ place between the French capital and Le Mans. My friend Daniel owns a motorcycle shop* and was lending me a bike. My friend Marc, owner of 100 Percent* in San Diego, put me in contact with Alain at Édition Larivière*. I was set!… After a few relaxing days getting ready, the departure was approaching. I have picked up the bike, a Yamaha MT-09. This spectacular light roadster was built to compete with the mighty Triumph’s Street Triple. With its compact chassis and inline high-torque 847cc three-cylinder, this machine is wild and radical at first. 414lb (188 kg) makes it a lean motorcycle for all that power (115bhp). In first, second and third gear, the MT was on wheelies mode. I quickly realized I had to be wise which is an hard concept when you sit on a motorcycle. The planned round trip was about 1600 miles. Françis, my brother and his Yamaha R6 showed up on time, unusual and a great start. Unfortunately, that morning it was pouring in North of France. I was a little nervous to discover a borrowed brand new bike in these conditions. The day before I was watching the weather channel, preparing myself and debating if I was going to stay dry with my old motorcycle gear. After about 10 miles under buckets of water, I got my answer. Water was slowly dripping between my legs and I knew then it was going to be a loooong day. Fog under the helmet, clouds of water when passing big trucks, kind of cold, on these slippery roads my right hand on the break and the left one on the accelerator had to be extra gentle with this aggressive bike… Five hours later, after the Loire region, the rain finally stopped. Except my head, I was soaked. The rain was replaced by stormy winds and fallen trees on the road. Wind is tiring, specially on your neck but I would not trade for the rain. It was starting to be pretty sweet, in fact. Our first stop for the night was at some friend’s place south of Lyon* where we ate and drunk as well as expected in France. Next day was sunny and we rode to Cavaillon* throughout the Mont Ventoux, well-known if you are a bicyclist. Finally, passing by the Gorges Du Verdon, a french miniature version of the Grand Canyon with a different color palette, we were getting closer to the Mediterranean Sea. It was starting to feel like the South of France. The temperatures were perfect. We were a little late for the lavender season but under my helmet I could catch the smells of this landscape painted by paul Cezanne. I was feeling like a free happy soul… Signes, a town from where we could almost hear the bikes was our residence* for a few days… Pastis, pastis, pastis…

In the press room the day of the race, I met Christian Sarron which made my day. Last time I saw him was at the 1988 Grand Prix on this track with Gardner, Rainey, Schwantz, Lawson…

*Special Thanks to:

Pour les hotels gratis: Anne, Bertrand-Couilles-De-Loup, Marlène, Benjamin, Thibaut, Christophe, Isabelle, Richard, Fabienne, Eric & Céline AND my parents to deal with my bro and I. I can not forget my children and wife to let me go, if I do not want to get 20 more years of dishes.

SLIDESHOWS: click on the photos below to access larger images on Flickr

Bol d'Or 2015

Bol d'Or - The Trip