Throughout recent years, there is a type of event that met a growing success – it was already quite successful, in fact, but the growth was spectacular in the last two or three years. Events and gatherings concerning old motorcycles, in Europe as well as in Great Britain – most traditional country in this aspect - are welcoming each year more visitors and spectators.
One aspect of these vintage events is the motorcycle sport, with riders who have become real legends in the history of the sport, with motorcycles which are fascinating examples of art and technology of other times.
On the last weekend of May, the 20th edition of the “Coupes Moto Légende” took place at France’s Dijon-Prenois circuit. A great sunshine welcomed around 28 000 spectators over the two days to watch demonstrations of motorcycles and sidecars built since the dawn of motor vehicles until 1985. Both pre-World War II motorcycles, most of them in perfect condition and running like clockwork, and vintage racing machines could be admired by the many spectators and fans. The event was attended by a number of World Champions and other top riders, including such well known persons as Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Jim Redman, Steve Baker, Rodney Gould, Christian Sarron, Jan de Vries, Carlos Lavado, Alain Michel, Manuel Herreros, Gérard Coudray, as well as other top riders such as Gianfranco Bonera, Guy Bertin, Jean-François Baldé, Roland Freymond, Bruno Kneubuhler, Hubert Rigal, Pentti Korhonen, Bernard Fau, and many others. The participants and the spectators, who hailed from 20 different countries, made this 20th anniversary edition of the Moto Legend Cups an enormous success, confirming the interest generated by vintage motorcycles of all eras, as well as the legendary riders who live on in our memories.
A month later, it was the turn of the world famous circuit of Spa-Francorchamps to welcome riders and fans for the 10th edition – another anniversary to be celebrated - of the Bikers’ Classics. The Belgian event has also met a growing success throughout these ten years of existence, and although this 2012 edition had some lesser attendance – the first stage of the Tour de France was held around Liège on Sunday. But this does not harm what can be considered as a strong trend of this 21st century. A growing interest for the past - heroes and machines – is a part of our culture. As an example vintage cars and aircrafts events are also very successful – and not only in Europe. Many legends of motorcycle sport were present in Spa: Phil Read, Jim Redman, Freddie Spencer, Dieter Braun, Steve Baker, Jacques Cornu, Luigi Taveri, Doug Polen, Jean-François Baldé, Roland Freymond, Stéphane Mertens and many others.
On Saturday afternoon, all the participants started a parade led by Freddie Spencer on the old 14 km track, which includes a part on the public road between Malmédy and Stavelot, following names such as La Source, l’Eau Rouge, le Raidillon, Kemmel, Les Combes, Burnenville, Masta and then La Carrière and Blanchimont, ending at the new chicane. It was a very emotional moment that brought back some very good memories to the riders who had known this circuit in the 60s and 70s – it was half-shortened down to a bit less than 7 km in 1979. The other riders could discover the track as it was in use for motorcycles as of 1925 up to 1978 – becoming a Grand Prix track in 1949 until 1990, except in 1980 when the Belgian GP was held in Zolder. As usual, on Saturday night was organised the already traditional Endurance race, the 4 Hours of Spa Classic, for motorcycles built before 1980. The riding level was extremely high and the race very exciting with suspense until the final laps. The race was won by Belgian riders Stephane Mertens and Patrick Orban on a 1980 Dholda Honda.
In the Village, an exhibition of Ducati also was visited by a large public, with bikes such as Paul Smart’s winning the first Imola 200 Miles in 1972 – 40th anniversary! - and the main models who took the Superbike World Champion titles with Raymond Roche, Doug Polen, Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss and Carlos Checa.
Vintage events were also organised in Imatra, Finland (August 4 & 5), Imola, Italy (September 21-23), and Lugnorre, Switzerland (September 1 & 2) – separate stories in the Vintage section – among various other events of this kind.
By Marc Pétrier (text and photos)
“Fast” Freddie Spencer, World Champion in the 250cc (1985) and 500cc GP classes (1983/85)
Jean-François Baldé: a long career in Grand Prix, three times 3rd in the 350cc (80, 81 and 82), and second in the 250cc in 1981.
Phil Read (73 years old) clinched eight World titles in Road Racing: 4 in the 250cc (1964, 1965, 1968, 1971), 1 in the 125cc (1968), 2 in the 500cc (1973, 1974), 1 in the TTF-1 (1977).
German rider Dieter Braun: a 125cc GP title in 1970, a 250cc GP title in 1973.
North-American rider Steve Baker won the Formula 750 World Champion title in 1977.
Paddock of Dijon-Prenois
Venezuelan Carlos Lavado, 250cc GP World Champion in 1983 and 1986
These two gentlemen have 21 World titles together. Giacomo Agostini (70 years old, left) clinched 7 titles in the 350cc and 8 in the 500cc between 1966 and 1975. Jim Redman (81 years old) took 4 in the 350cc and 2 in the 250cc between 1962 and 1965.
From left to right: Jim Redman, Steve Baker, Alain Michel, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Carlos Lavado, Gérard Coudray, Christian Sarron in Dijon-Prenois.
The biggest legend of all, the man with 15 World titles: Giacomo Agostini (here on the 350cc Yamaha). A fantastic career, and still many fans around the world.