Other than the Isle of Man and German autobahns, there are few places on the planet that you can legally ride a motorbike flat out without risk of imprisonment or huge fines. Race tracks are therefore the destination of choice for those with a “need for speed”, and even if you don’t have a desire for outright velocity, the chance to ride your bike without worrying about myopic drivers trying to kill you, is a strong driver to send you in the direction of a circuit and track days.
After the fun of Aragon earlier this year and its kilometre long straight, we had been looking forward to the next chance to get our steeds out on track again, this time at the French circuit of Magny Cours. Mark had spent weeks prior to the event changing his road fairings over to race ones, Andy was planning to come to join us direct from two days at Le Castellet, and despite my love hate with the track after having had several less than stellar visits there on my RC45, I was at least looking forward to meeting up with the guys again, chewing the fat, and burning some rubber. Sounds ideal? Well of course the reality never matches the plan, so here is the tale of how we went there, but never managed to justify the purchase of a t shirt to say we’d ridden the track.
The spanner in the works was the weather, AGAIN! In the lead up to the event we regularly checked the long term forecasts, and forlornly watched as the initial warm and sunny weather changed daily, temperatures descending, and winds and rain increasing in volumes. Andy had really been hoping for a change in his luck, as he had already fallen victim to the worldwide abysmal weather, having scrubbed going to Magny Cours the month before due to inclement weather, and also having decided not to take the long haul down to Le Castellet the two days before we were due to go to Magny Cours, due to a forecast of rain of biblical proportions. The day before this trip we were wondering if it was even worth going, as winds now showed up to 20kph along with 2.5mm of rain dependent on time of day, but as the hotel was already paid for and we’d not met up for a couple of months, decided to go anyway and take our chances.
The GPS route there took us across some small country roads, and on one of these we were amazed to see what looked like a dead beaver lying in the road. Stopping to investigate as I’d never seen one before, I was surprised how big it was, and took this picture to show the others. Sounds morbid, but the creature was quite a find and seemed to be literally out of its normal habitat, as they are normally water based and there didn’t seem to be any water nearby. It wasn’t until we were on our way back home that Sue pointed out that beavers have flat tails, so after googling alternative animals, I found that it was in fact a Coypu, or ragondin in French, a creature that can grow to 9kg and 24inches in length!
I got calls en route from both Andy and Mark confirming their likely arrival times, and despite Mark having to return back home to collect part of his tent, he managed to arrive there first (which in itself is a minor miracle), and by the time we arrived, they had both assembled their tents and were waiting for us. After unloading my bike and fitting the new 46 tooth rear sprocket Mark had got for me, we all headed off to the hotel, and then on to the restaurant Le Grande Chaumiere, where we at least knew we would get a good steak and have the chance to talk over a couple of beers and a good bottle of wine.
Andy and I ate at La Grande Chaumiere when we rode at Magny Cours back in 2011 so knew the food was good, and it’s a very different eating experience as the food is cooked on a huge grill in the middle of the room so you can watch it being prepared.
Mark and Sev ordered half a cow between them,with a weight of 1.3kg!!
Despite checking the weather forecast hourly during the previous day and when we got up the next morning, nothing had changed, and whichever way you looked at it, it was going to be wet and windy.
Funky car enticing you to take a driving course
Here is the scene in the paddock. Mark and my R1’s on paddock stands, Andys RR in the trailer where it remained for the two days
After registering and listening to the briefing, we decided to go and watch the brave souls who had wets mounted, and see how they fared. The fast group went first, and within 5 minutes the session was red flagged, as one of a pair of Ducati’s circulating failed to return. After the track was cleared they went off again, and from our position at the end of the start finish straight we could hear the spin up of rear wheels as riders got on the gas entering the straight. Mark saw an R1 nearly highside, but the next time he came round he didn’t save it and he hit the tarmac with his bike pirouetting in the middle of the track, so red flags again.
Moving to the stand at the entry to the straight it was clear that irrespective of how carefully people were riding, the line between staying on and crashing was VERY thin. What we witnessed was a crash fest. Someone on a rented bike fell in front of us and remained on the deck dazed while riders tried to avoid him, and the session was stopped whilst the recovery van and doctor attended him. Two others subsequently fell in the same spot, one guy just picked the bike up and rode straight off, the other waited til the session was stopped and rode it back into the pits before the recovery truck arrived. After that we just counted the number of near highsides, saves, and slides, and it was clear that to ride was to take big risks!
Mark and I only had slicks so we had no option, and although Andy had wets with him, he didn’t want the hassle of changing from slicks to wets and back again if the track dried out (fat chance!), and he knew that if the track were to dry out it would chew up the wets and the tyres performance would “go off”.
The girls had stayed at the hotel, sensibly declining to come and stand around in the rain getting wet and cold, but Sev had found there was a museum at the circuit, so we went back to collect them and went to the museum, which was closed, and was in fact more of an exhibit than a museum.
Plenty of historic old posters
View inside museum
Golden days of big money cigarette sponsorship
As we had a sandwich and a beer, the BMW Goldbet Superstock rider Sylvain Barrier walked in in his leathers, I found out later he was on track instructing
With little to do and the bikes having stopped as it was lunchtime, we went back to the hotel and decided to have a wander round later in the afternoon to watch the fast guys out in their session. This was a chance for me to see the grandstands for the first time, as despite having ridden there on 8 days, I’d never been outside the paddock, it was also interesting for Mark to see the track he wasn’t riding.
Red lights, saw lots of these!
It was a two day event, but the paddock had steadily emptied during the day and here’s the depressing site of a wet and very empty looking late afternoon paddock towards the end of the first day
Back at the hotel we discovered a games room and pool table, and spent a couple of happy hours rediscovering the joys of pool before eating in the hotel restaurant.
With the next days forecast showing no let up at all in the rain we decided to pack up and go home. There were a new bunch of riders booked onto the second day, but not too many seemed to be making their way out onto the circuit, and by 09.30 we’d said our goodbyes and started the journey home.
Mural on house on way home
Apart from losing a ramp retaining bolt on the way home, we were back in good time and managed to offload the bike before the rain came again. It’s a shame the weather was so bad, but it seems the world is suffering poor weather at the moment, let’s just hope our next outing is blessed with some sunshine.