Enduropale Vintage 2020

Legendary sand race, the Enduropale was back on the Touquet beach from January 31 to February 2. In 1975, Thierry Sabine launched the first “Enduro du Touquet”, just before creating the Paris-Dakar. So, I have been dreaming of participating in this event for 44 years …

In 2015, the organizers had the great idea of adding a new vintage race to the program. This event is now reserved for pre-1996 motorcycles in a one hour format and limited to 600 participants. Because this race is totally in line with the SuperBolide spirit, we hired the Team with Philippe Lebeau on the handlebars, who tells us about this great experience.

November 1, 2019: Registration opens

“I’m going? I’m not going? I’m going? I’m not going? Let’s go!”

I am relieved, I finally dare… I am registered to the 2020 Enduro du Touquet Vintage!

But why wait so long? 44 years is a long time… we always have good “bad” reasons for not doing things: “No time”, “It’s too far …”, “The level has become too high”, “If you don’t train in sand for six months in the sand, it’s not worth it … “, ” You weren’t born on the spot … “,” It’s cold “,” Blah blah blah … ” To celebrate my 60th year  I have no more excuses. I will have to train a little in motocross and I wonder if my little muscles will hold… a short term challenge will be to find an open MX track near Haute-Savoie (France) in January.

November 2, 2019: I take out the motorbike

My Vintage motorcycle will be a Yamaha 490 YZ from 1982. Originally purchased in United States, as evidenced by its yellow color worthy of Bob Hannah, it has not worked for years and even if it is very beautiful, I don’t know what’s inside. This Yamaha was kindly lent to me by Gilles, my teammate of the Baja 1000 California 1988, who honors me with his confidence.

First start test: laborious kick session followed by an over-rev, immediate stop and return of the motorcycle to the SuperBolide workshop, then disassembly of the carburator for a complete refurbishment by Peter Hartmann at HRD. In the meantime, I’m looking for information on fuel settings specific to racing at sea level and riding advice in the sand.

January 1, 2020: Number 337

I receive my race number. Would I do better than 337th during the race ?

Saturday January 11, 2020: Training at Monti

It seems, riding in the sand is physical, hard for the machine, there are lots of other competitors who deliberately fall in front of your wheels, you have to train for months, etc. etc. etc.

Having not ridden in motocross for several years, and never in the sand, training is essential. So I join Denis, a prominent member of the SuperBolide riders corps, for a motocross session on the Monti track in the Alpes Maritimes. A magnificent circuit and a superb 2018 Suzuki RM 450: what better way to get back on shape?

The first session on this supercross type circuit is rather disturbing. The Suzuki has so much torque that the slightest rotation of the accelerator gets you out of the rut in which you turn. Long jumps didn’t exist in my time, nor did the kids overtaking me at Mach 2 (normal, it was us, the kids…). I pilot stiffly and, quickly, I do not hold any more the handlebar, I undergo the track… In short, I return to the park at the end of two laps, full of questions, in particular on my capacity to hold the race time of Enduro du Touquet, even Vintage.

Denis understands my dismay and reassures me. He takes to the track and I watch him riding; the guy, despite his proximity to the sixties, he rides fast. I leave more calmly for about twenty minutes. I take the time to relearn and gradually the sensations come back. At the end of several increasingly fast sessions, I find a little steering and confidence. I pass the small jumps (I always crash on the big ones) and take a lot of pleasure, which is essential!

Conclusion: MX is still so great, even when approaching sixties! And long live big modern four strokes…

Thursday January 16, 2020: Training in Sézegnin (Switzerland)

First and last testing of the Yamaha 490 YZ before the Enduropale, on the Sézegnin track of the Les Meyrinos motoclub near Geneva. Big sweat session before the old Yamaha agrees to start… on this small circuit, the machine is a real truck; I believe that I never pass the 4th gear… After the first laps in panic, things seems to go gradually better.

At the end of the afternoon, objectives are reached: I know that the machine works well and second training for the arms. Perfect engine and gearbox, Ohlins at the top. Braking at the front is almost nonexistent, but it will not be used much in the sand… The fork is super soft (normal for an oldtimer…); I’m almost seasick …

I have a great meeting on the circuit: I feel like I’m going back 37 years and seeing David Bailey or Johnny O’Mara on the track. Laurent only rides with vintage motorcycles and today pilots a magnificent Honda 250 CR 1983 in almost perfect condition. He plays the game thoroughly: full JT equipment, real JT helmet (the most beautiful helmet of all time), Scott mask, Gaerne boots, all transported in a Ford Econoline van with the magic sound of the V8.

Thursday January 30: On the way to Le Touquet

Departure from Annecy at 5am, with my “track engineers” Pascal and Tom. We take turns driving the van to arrive at Le Touquet in the early afternoon. We meet Simon, a local friend who has raced the Enduropale and Enduropale Vintage. His advice will be invaluable to me. We continue with administrative controls and technical checks, that the beautiful Yam pass hands down. I can’t believe she survived the sound level meter with its original silencer (“silencer” is relative…). Most of the motorcycles entered in Vintage are magnificent and I am projected thirty to forty years back… The motorcycle is duly numbered, I am a little stressed but happy to be finally here. Technical verifications highlight deficiencies in preparation. Between the punctured front tire, the observation that my tires, supposedly for the sand, are not for the sand, all the little things that I forgot during the preparation and the broken kick starter spring, the afternoon is full of emotions. Finally, after a mechanical session on the sidewalk, the Yamaha returns to the park and is covered. Tomorrow, I will absolutely have to deflate the tires before the race…

Friday January 31: Race day today!

In the morning, Amaury, a SuperBolide Team pilots, joins us, followed by Yohan, another Annecy rider who is brave enough to entered in 125cc! If it’s the first motorbike race for Yohan, Amaury has participated five times at the Enduro du Touquet and his advice reassures me. At 11am, we set up the refueling stand. The departure time is approaching, the troubles too… 

Basically, the program was simple: at 1:30 pm, the motorcycle park would be open to pilots, followed by a quick mechanical session and the launch of the big engine; at 2 pm, it would be scheduled time for briefing, then the crossing of Le Touquet in convoy to the beach for a departure at 2:30 pm.

The reality was different: at 1 pm, I’m trying to nap (sorry, to meditate…) when I hear far away a great noise of engines. In doubt, I dress in hurry then rush towards the motorcycle park a kilometer from the van. I hear in the distance what I suppose to be the briefing. When I arrive at the park, all the motorcycles are running and the pilots are gathered near the exit door. There is only one covered motorcycle, mine! The departure was advanced by half an hour and I didn’t receive the information. In the rush, no more question to do mechanics. The doors open and the pilots start in convoy, leaving me almost alone in the park. Without tools, I can’t deflate the tires. Too bad, I will roll overinflated provided that the motorcycle starts and that the kick does not break again. That’s it, it cracks. I put on my glasses and ride across Le Touquet… all alone! I arrive on the beach and join my fellow pilots piled up over the entire dry section of the beach, just when the start is given. For a first experience in the sand, it’s hot! Sitting on the back of the saddle, I open the gas. We quickly reach high speeds, but I can’t throttle to the max. The motorbike fidgets, I expected it, but my brain needs to understand its reactions. I especially fear that one of the guys falls in front of my wheels. At these speeds, it could be serious. I don’t take the time to watch the sea, but the show is realy fantastic.

Before the race, Amaury warned me: “At the first turn, which is a left one, everybody go inside and it jams. You go to the outside while staying accelerated, and you overpass, you overpass… an that to avoid squeezing the engine when decelerating… “As I approach this turn, I move to the right, reduce slowly the throttle and take a wide exterior path, completely clear. It works, thank you Amaury! Then I enter in the circuit, already completely smashed. And there, it becomes delirious… As soon as I am not accelerating, the motorbike goes in all directions. There is a huge concentration of pilots, the trajectories are random, it hangs, it falls everywhere. There are competitors stuck in every interior corner. I manage to get through the deluge, I overpass, get overpassed, get splashes of sand, it’s war! I ride so tense that I am gunning it, my hands and arms are beginning to no longer control the machine, I make lots of mistakes, get out of breath… and suddenly, 15 meters before the timing line, the Yamaha goes violently at a right angle, lies down and hangs against a stake at the edge of the track. Damn, she stalls! Completely suffocated, it takes me at least a minute to lift it. Exhausted, I can’t kick enough powerfully to start it. Twice, I see the leader of the race overtaking me … the victory will be for another year 😉

After a quarter of an hour of desperate effort, the big two-stroke consents to restart. I leave carefully. I had planned to do two laps before refueling. At the last moment, I decide to go to the park to take a break, just to be able to finish the race. My team members take care of the refueling of the motorcycle and of the driver. When it’s time to go back on the track, the motorbike doesn’t want to start. Another pilot, who has given up, advises us. We do not know each other but we exchange on the forum of the leguidevert.com site. Arnaud notes that the Yamaha has lost a lot of compression. The motorbike starts but won’t rev. It doesn’t smell good for the future. We change the spark plug and the Yamaha sounds lighter. I go to the track again, then arrive on the beach straight which runs along the sea for two or three kilometers. I throttle a little more than at the start, there are much less competitors on the trajectory; the sensations are enormous. But I am surprised to see that the sea has risen and that there is not much width available on the beach. I see many abandoned motorcycles, then a red flag which signifies the end of the race. I would learn later that this unexpected rise in water is due to the offshore wind which accelerates the effect of the tide. We slow down under the flag, then enter the first left turn. In doubt, I continue to ride towards Le Touquet, as do the pilots around me. There are fewer people. Then the Yamaha engine begins to be recalcitrant. It inexorably loses power. I ride in agony, especially on each bump. Then the beautiful yellow stops definitively just before  completing the second lap. Without engine power it is impossible to move the machine forward in this floury sand, even just ten centimeters. I am so sad!

A ray of sunshine appears, lighting up the race track with diaphanous luminosity. So, I turn around and watch the end of the Enduro du Touquet from the best place on earth: in the middle of the track. The race is effectively stopped, there are fewer and fewer riders. I then manage to pull the motorcycle laterally to the edge of the circuit, put it down and go up on the banks. I have a short kilometer walk to get to the stand. And there, I realize the popularity of the event; There is a huge crowd of spectators, and it’s only Friday! Over the three days of the event, despite the gloomy weather, more than 300,000 people will come to see Enduropale, which makes it the most frequented free event in Europe and, let’s be a bit chauvinistic, probably in the world!

I join my team at the refueling stand; I realize then that I was very lucky in my misfortune. Having crossed the timing line before the red flag, I am classified, far off, but classified! 45 years after the first edition, I finished my first Enduro du Touquet, I learned a lot, I know what to do to progress, I know with which Vintage motorcycle I would like to participate again (first and foremost an “easy to start” motorbike!).

While I change my clothes, an Italian man pat me on the shoulder: “Ma qué, you know, people of our age, they are playing pétanque! Us, we are racing Endouro dou Touqué!”

Objectively, for me, pétanque is not only for the elders and I like to play from time to time especially in the south of France at aperitive time… But I will also come back to do “Enduropale” .

Let’s go to the 2021 Enduro du Touquet vintage!

Amaury, Pascal, Tom (son) & Phil (father)






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