2015 Ven­toux

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Ar­ti­cle: Fabrice Bo­lus­set

The Ven­toux Trial Clas­sic is a team event that takes place in the Vau­cluse re­gion

of France. Along with Thierry Michaud, the trial has just cel­e­brated the 30th an­niver­sary of the first of his three world cham­pi­onship ti­tles on a Fan­tic. Rid­ing with­out a score card to re­duce the pres­sure on him, and hence favour­ing his role as guest of hon­our whilst still giv­ing him a feel for the com­pe­ti­tion, the last French

‘World Champ’ has lost none of his style in sec­tions.

On the podium for the awards cer­e­mony of the 16th edi­tion of the VTC and with the mi­cro­phone in hand and a smile from ear to ear, Philippe Ber­latier speaks: “When I knew that the 2015 edi­tion would cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary of Thierry’s ti­tle I heard a lot of riders were in se­ri­ous train­ing, and there were big plans in the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee, and so I did as Jean Pierre Fou­cault (the host of the French version of ’Who Wants to be a Mil­lion­aire’) would have sug­gested: “call a friend” ... In fact it was two friends: Jordi Tar­res and Steve Saunders who with Philip (the TRS im­porters in the UK and France), along with the ‘boss’ made up the TRS Clas­sic team and would win in the Ex­pert cat­e­gory of an event that looked like a Grand Prix from the 1980s. This made it the most beau­ti­ful ever meet­ing on the Ven­toux plateau.

Look­ing down the long in­ter­na­tional list of 350 riders that have en­tered you can find the names of Fred Michaud, Gilles Bur­gat, John Lamp­kin, Re­nato Chi­aberto, Bernard Cor­don­nier, Jaime Su­bira, Donato Miglio, Michael Traini, Charles Coutard, Yrvo Ves­ter­i­nen and Eric Le­je­une, to name but a few...

Fan­tic Pad­dock

It is just out­side the charm­ing town of Malaucène that we find the pad­dock and the tri­als ‘vil­lage’ of ex­hibitors. There is a mag­nif­i­cent col­lec­tion of Fan­tic mod­els, with stands ded­i­cated to the old and the new with TRS and Ver­tigo, the two new­est brands in the mod­ern world of tri­als.

The ma­chines have spent the night in the Park Ferme and the first rays of the sun hits the fuel tanks which are cov­ered with a thin layer of dew. Once the trio of driv­ers per team have gath­ered they head to the start podium for a ‘Con­course d’ El­e­gance’ com­pe­ti­tion, with the win­ner be­ing an­nounced via the in­ter­net.

The route is a clover-shaped lay­out on tracks link­ing the ter­ri­to­ries of Beau­mont du Ven­toux, En­trechaux, Le Bar­roux and Malaucène, which is em­bel­lished by 18 sec­tions. We start with the loop cor­re­spond­ing to the colour of our class, which avoids many queues but has the per­verse ef­fect of de­priv­ing the riders com­pet­ing in the lower cat­e­gories the chance to ad­mire the rid­ing on the larger ob­sta­cles in the higher classes.

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of my sta­tus as a re­porter, and al­though rid­ing the yel­low route, I started with other riders on the high­est-level red loop that in­cludes many sec­tions in the woods. With fairly tight turns they are nev­er­the­less beau­ti­ful sec­tions, and will prove to be the most tech­ni­cal of the day. When I ar­rived at ‘Sec­tion 1’ it was like be­ing trans­ported into an Auto Moto story from the 80s as the most fa­mous jour­nal­ist ded­i­cated to the her­itage of French tri­als, Jean Louis Bernardelli, was watch­ing.

Imag­ine all the he­roes of your youth walk­ing the sec­tion con­sist­ing of roots and loose stones: they watch from the cor­ners of their eyes, won­der­ing who will crack first and ride the sec­tion. Thirty years later they have not changed; even if the at­mos­phere is much more re­laxed when they go into a sec­tion the game gets se­ri­ous. As Fred Michaud said when he lit the touch pa­per with his friend Gilles Bur­gat: “When count­ing points lost, we do it se­ri­ously!” This is mainly for the ben­e­fit of the Ob­servers, who are of­ten five-strong per sec­tion and who, need­less to say, were not swayed by any games­man­ship!

‘Mag­nifique!’

They are among the 138 vol­un­teers that can be found through­out a well sign­posted route, at cross­ings and some­times on the most dif­fi­cult pas­sages be­tween sec­tions that were some­times more dif­fi­cult than the ac­tual sec­tions in my cat­e­gory! On the yel­low route we find great climbs, de­scents, wind­ing bank­ing and slip­pery rocks; ev­ery­thing you could wish for is there. Look­ing past the pine trees on a bend in the path we find our­selves on a nat­u­ral bal­cony that opens onto a 180° panorama of the Ven­toux re­gion – ‘Mag­nifique!’ This is an op­por­tu­nity to il­lus­trate the beau­ti­ful side of this area as we ride be­tween the sec­tions on the tracks. I po­si­tion my­self to get my photo; I’m ready to shoot, await­ing the pas­sage of the next com­peti­tor, and it’s the beau­ti­ful ‘Cub’ rid­den by Lau­rent De­lan­noy (the fa­ther of Med­eric, the minder of Alex Fer­rer in the WTC) who ap­pears in my viewfinder!

The sec­ond loop fea­tures more wide open sec­tions, more ‘old school’ but al­ways with a hid­den fea­ture that will al­low the best to make a dif­fer­ence. They are laid out in the myth­i­cal land­scapes of this clas­sic tri­als re­gion and the sculp­tured sand­stone, which grad­u­ates from saf­fron to yel­low hues, of­fers a lu­nar play­ground, with turns and ac­cel­er­a­tions taken in the loose sand at the base which can be very tricky. This is the per­fect place to pho­to­graph a bright red Fan­tic, whose colours are mag­ni­fied in such set­tings. One of them is be­ing rid­den by the guest of hon­our, Thierry Michaud. His style is in­stantly recog­nis­able and still very ef­fec­tive.

At the end of the sec­tion he takes a lit­tle break to watch the guys, it’s also an op­por­tu­nity to col­lect his im­pres­sions: “I have spent a great week­end here! I am happy to share this an­niver­sary in a re­gion that is ideal for th­ese ma­chines and al­lows ev­ery­one to have fun. Even af­ter so many years with­out rid­ing a Fan­tic I can still find my rid­ing sen­sa­tions and feel for the mo­tor­cy­cle, but it’s my con­sis­tency that I have lost the most.

Ac­ro­batic Riders

“If you look at the old riders I com­peted against in the World Cham­pi­onship you recog­nise their style. Al­though the one that amazes me most is Jordi Tar­res. I al­ways saw him as the most ac­ro­batic of riders, and to­day he just rolls through in the old style!” Yes, the one who in­vented the mod­ern style of rid­ing has adapted well to the rules of VTC, which pro­hibits any side­ways hop­ping of the rear wheel. Jordi also had the best score card of the week­end; we can say that he is well suited to the SWM pro­vided, as for many top riders of mo­tor­cy­cles, by a col­lec­tor. This is prob­a­bly due to its yel­low colour, which is a fea­ture of his new cre­ation: TRS!

Talk­ing of match­ing colour schemes, we find the Ver­tigo green in its more usual place on a Kawasaki 250 KT rid­den by Ju­lian Pan­abières, the French im­porter who is also sport­ing match­ing cloth­ing in green and black. The same colours work for Christophe Bruand, who is rid­ing in his first clas­sic trial. To match his suit, his Mon­tesa 348 from 1979 has a car­bon-kevlar shell painted in the colours of his ‘mon­strous’ spon­sor. Thierry Michaud’s suc­ces­sor at the head of the French tri­als team, Christophe proudly wears his mous­tache just like the one his fa­ther had when he rode in 1979, also on a 348. Af­ter twelve years spent away from com­pet­ing in tri­als, he was in­fected by the virus for older ma­chines whilst preparing a beau­ti­ful Tri­umph-Twin road ma­chine. This mem­ber of the Ed­i­to­rial Team of ‘Trial Mag’ No.1 is now liv­ing in Rocbaron in the Var, a vil­lage around which Michaud started in tri­als. En­thused by his week­end, he hopes to en­ter a 100% team Bruand for next year!

In the Parc Ferme was a dis­play of the Fan­tic ma­chines

Steve Saunders rode a four-stroke TLR Honda

French rider Phillipe Ber­latier gets some ‘Air­time’ on the Bul­taco

Cel­e­brat­ing 30 years since he took the first of his three world crowns, Thierry Michaud turns on the style on the 300 Fan­tic

Charles Coutard Snr on his Greeves

Still as com­pet­i­tive as ever, Jordi Tar­res rode an SWM in yel­low; the same colour as the new TRS

Gilles Bur­gat on the Fan­tic uses the ac­ro­batic rid­ing style that took him to world cham­pi­onship suc­cess

En­ter­ing into the spirit of the oc­ca­sion, John Lamp­kin com­peted while wear­ing Fan­tic ‘Retro’ rid­ing kit on this 240

It’s a raised thumb for ‘Team’ Charles Coutard; on the left he poses with Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen and Eric Le­je­une

Thierry with his old boss ‘Il Dot­tore’, Mario Agratti. Satur­day evening and af­ter the ef­fort came the re­ward, in the form of an aper­i­tif of­fered to riders by the Comite des fetes de Malaucene. This was fol­lowed by a spe­cial an­i­mated event on the sub­ject of Michaud-Fan­tic in the largest room of the Town Hall. Dur­ing this ex­cep­tional evening our guest of hon­our be­came the mas­ter of cer­e­monies, shar­ing with all the tri­als fans present, his friends and for­mer ad­ver­saries alike, the great­est mo­ments of his ca­reer and re­mind­ing all present what an ex­cel­lent time was had in the 1980s.

Eric Le­je­une on the 175cc vin­tage Honda built by his fa­ther

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