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Coupes Moto Légende

by Dave Beare

Mr. Casper's excellent idea to organise an NACC stand at France's premier motor cycling event was a huge success.  Despite rather fierce winds and a lot of rain which turned the moto-jumble area into a vast quagmire worthy of Glastonbury, the weekend was superbly entertaining.  Our pitch and vantage point were ideal, on the infield alongside the banking.

Linas-Montlhéry track, situated 10kms south of Paris alongside the N20  (in the middle of a large active army encampment), was opened in 1927 as a testing ground for Renault and Peugeot cars and evolved into a combination Grand Prix circuit and motor industry test track similar to MIRA in the UK.  Apart from a twisting road-circuit and various test areas, washboard surfaces and the like, the main features are two awe-inspiring near-vertical 180 degree concrete bankings, one of which is used as part of the 'demonstration' circuit and is I think the only banked circuit still in use today.  The sight and sound of 1960s and 1970s GP bikes running flat out near the top rail is unforgettable.

In essence Coupes Moto Legénde  2000 was a huge encampment on the infield of the track with thousands upon thousands of bikes and bikers of every conceivable type, size and personality, mixed in with 82 club stands, hundreds of suppliers of everything from hot-dogs to leathers, books, spares of every make possible and a massive moto-jumble. There is no racing as such, riders with their bikes who wish to 'demonstrate' around the track pay Ffr200 (up to 100cc engine size) which includes entry tickets for the weekend.  'Demonstrations' are divided into some 14 different groups (totalling 1,548 riders this year) according to age and engine size and to demonstrate your mount means going flat out round the road circuit section and as far up the banking as the rider can get without falling off, for a half-hour session. There cannot be a worse nightmare scenario for an event insurance company but it is truly spectacular and quite unique, somewhat akin to the Isle of Man TT  week.

Our NACC stand (one of only two British clubs present, though there were hundreds of other UK visitors) featured Dave Casper's 1952 Britax Cucciolo and 1967 Aquilotto, John Redding's 1956 Her-cu-motor, 1989 Apollo/Chinese?  unidentified cyclemotor and a dans son jus Solex 2200 bought for Ffr400 at the jumble.  Ian McGregor brought his 1952 VAP4, Winged Wheel and 1969 Raleigh Wisp and Philippa Wheeler brought her wonderful 1951 18cc Lohmann/lightweight folding bike combination which she transported to Paris by Eurostar as hand-luggage and then rode across the city in Friday evening's rush hour to Montlhéry with all her kit and camping-gear for the next ten days.  Truly heroic and courageous dedication to cyclemotoring.  The stand show was rounded off with my 1957 AV33 Mobylette and a 3800 VéloSoleX, reliable transport for Sars Poteries the following weekend

Both Dave's Cucciolo and Philippa's Lohmann were entered for demonstration runs, the Cucciolo was reckoned to be able to average 40mph round the track and has blistered paint on the front brake drum to prove it ... the Lohmann went exceptionally well if a little slower...

On Saturday we received a visit from Michel de Thomasson, président de jury of the organising body, who cordially informed us that the NACC stand had been chosen to receive a prize for featuring such a wide and eclectic range of cyclemotors, tiddlers amongst a sea of whales, and for displaying the smallest capacity and most economical motor there, the 18cc Lohmann.  Our prize, a commemorative plaque, was handed over to Philippa at a ceremony on Sunday, held in front of the control tower alongside the pits.  Bravo tout le monde!

Another plaque was presented to Franck Menneret's son for riding Franck's ex-Andrew Pattle Cymota, now beautifully restored but as recalcitrant and difficult to get running as ever...

Montlhéry is an extraordinary event, amongst some of the stars of yesteryear demonstrating GP bikes were Phil Read, Jim Redman, Giacomo Agostini, Christian Estrosi and Jack Findlay, to name but a few.  Memories of the weekend include John Redding's triumphant scramble to the top of the banking after a few beers on Saturday evening, the track marshals' Jeep Cherokee blasting round just under the banking top-rail to clear the track after each 'demonstration'; a squadron of Solex Microns desperately trying to get above the lowest white line at 20mph; a view of the entire site from up the banking on Saturday evening, covered in tents and under a pall of barbecue smoke, a scene from the Middle Ages reminiscent of some Medieval army preparing for battle the following day.  Everybody crammed into the Winnebago on Sunday as the rain torrented down outside; the grin on Dave Casper's face as he returned from his demonstration; the grin on John Redding's face as he triumphantly pushed his 400 franc Solex onto our stand, followed by the slightly more crestfallen look after he'd been done over by 'Cactus' the Solex spares man for parts necessary to get it going (but it did a 55km rally at Sars P. the following weekend!); the very smart black monogrammed 'NACC Coupes Moto Légende 2000' team shirts Ian McGregor produced for us all  (thanks, Ian); many, many other memories crowd in, too many to list individually.

Thanks, Dave for organising such a splendid event.  We'll be there next year, no doubt.

First published - October 2000

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