Retro Race to the Bol d'Or

Back in the day the Bol d'Or was THE end-of-summer ride out. Using retro-repros Visordown recreates the experience: twins and twin-shocks to the Bol. Let the slipstreaming begin!

Posted: 16 January 2011
by Jon Bentman

The two Frenchies nipped by, 'whoosh, whoosh,' and tucked into the upcoming right in a choreographed sweep. A pair of R1s, they looked trick, fast and efficient.

It took maybe 10 seconds to realise that for all their pizzazz they actually weren't travelling so fast. At which point the light over the head went on (or was it off?), the Griso was kicked down a ratio and the pursuit began - that'll be a collective pursuit, as Evil Jim on the CB13 and Diddy on the Ducati GT tucked into the slipstream. Army John, wisely, could smell trouble and so held back to protect the rear.

It took a few corners, but eventually the Griso was tucked right onto the back wheel of the second R1. Frenchie Two was riding in the wheel tracks of Frenchie One and the pair were using all the road.

Without the horsepower to storm past, the only tactic was intimidation. None of us can bear deranged strangers big in our mirrors for too long and, sure enough, despite his horsepower advantage, Frenchie Two, probably reluctant to become pack leader, succumbed.

Frenchie One was made of sterner stuff; the thrash continued. But a fast sweeping left-right-left section through the bottom of a wooded valley, all Armco lined, (much like Spa's Eau Rouge, in fact) was an intimidating sight and clearly not one Frenchie relished at speed - unlike the deranged Johnnies on his tail. Sure enough, midway through the most committing right-hander the Guzzi surged alongside the R1, bringing with it a cacophony of valve-bounce, gear clatter and impending mechanical meltdown. In Frenchie's mirrors would be the hellish visage of Evil's and Diddy's mugs, in all their teeth-gritting, bare-faced glory (thanks to their jet helmets). Frenchie held sway by barely half a wheel but as we straightened up he held up his hand in surrender. He offered a big smile and thumbs up all the same as the TWO Bol Team swept past - only to stop at the very next cafŽ to regale themselves in their mastery of the road.

Yes, TWO were in Magny-Cours, for the Bol d'Or, on a clutch of repro-retros. Doing it classic stylee. Daft idiots.

It was Army John's fault. Middle of an editorial meeting he mentions he did the Le Mans 24 Hours once. Knackered bike, slept in the open, got pissed, ran out of money, ran out of underwear. And so on. That sparked the collective remembering of the glory days of arguably the bigger event - the Bol d'Or, the end of the year run-for-the-sun as it was then, back when it was held at Circuit Paul Ricard close to France's opulent Med' coast. Back when racing partnerships like Godier and Genoud, Leon and Chemarin, even our own Rymer and Morrison were elevated to god-like status. Back when you strapped a tent and sleeping bag to pillion of your ace-barred Z1 or CB750 or Jota and let rip for a long weekend.

Then we admitted none of us had actually ever been there, nor done that. Except Diddy - but Diddy wasn't in the room. So spawned the idea of a Bol run, in a manner befitting the classic race - on classic bikes. Only not real classic bikes, of course (we wanted to get there after all) but reproductions of the beasts of old.

The arrival of Ducati's GT1000 (in British showrooms) coincided with the trip. Just as well, as none of us could see ourselves lasting a full 900 miles on the existing SportClassics - the 1000 Sport and Paul Smart - both of which are noted for their excruciating riding positions. The GT1000, however, offered all the retro-chic of the former, only matched to what looked like a real-world riding position. But demand has been high so the only example we could cadge was Ducati UK's MD's own. So we were to look after it, like.

Previous article
Dirty Work
Next page
Page 2


Discuss this story

Talkback: Retro Race to the Bol d'Or

Busiest motorcycle review conversations