Le­juene’s Lair


Round six of the 2018 FIM Trial World Cham­pi­onship would take us to Comblain-au-pont in Bel­gium. Be­sides the beer and the sausages, the other sub­ject that al­ways comes to mind with Bel­gium is the Le­je­une Fam­ily and, of course, the his­tory of Honda in tri­als. This year, in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Le­je­une fam­ily, the world-lead­ing au­thor­i­ties on any­thing Honda tri­als the French trio of Jean Cail­lou, Oliver Bar­jon and Pa­trick Pis­sis – who are bet­ter known as the RTLR Club Europe – had put to­gether a small ex­hi­bi­tion in the cel­lar of the lo­cal in­for­ma­tion cen­tre in the town.

The ex­hi­bi­tion would trace the three world ti­tles that Eddy Le­je­une won, as well as show the road to this suc­cess with some other unique jew­els from the Le­je­une fam­ily’s col­lec­tion.

Doc­tor’s or­ders

Be­fore the doors of­fi­cially opened, some priv­i­leged guests were in­vited in­clud­ing Thierry Michaud, Miquel Ciera, Os­car Giro, Toni Bou, Takahisa Fu­ji­nami and many more names from the world of tri­als past and present to share this unique oc­ca­sion. The ma­chines in the col­lec­tion would lead to a re­ally nice talk of tri­als his­tory to all who came to lis­ten.

The Le­je­une tri­als story be­gan when the fam­ily doc­tor was called to have a look at the el­dest son Jean-Marie, who was not feel­ing too well as he was asth­matic. The doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion was easy: fresh air! His fa­ther Pepe Le­juene had mo­tor­cy­cles in mind, and at Plas­ti­flac’s work­shop, where the

fam­ily busi­ness was lo­cated in Bel­gium, the first machine would be the small Honda SS 50 built for Jean-Marie to go and get some fresh air in the woods on his new tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle. On this, he won the Heusy’s gymkhana fol­lowed by two Bel­gian Cham­pi­onship ti­tles in 1964 and 1965 de­spite the lack of horse­power from the 50cc en­gine. Later dur­ing the 1965 sea­son, Jean-Marie would move to a Honda 125 Twin. The en­gine would come di­rectly from Ja­pan with his fa­ther once again mak­ing the other parts of the mo­tor­cy­cle. The red 175cc Twin would fol­low this, and can still be seen rid­den in clas­sic tri­als by the youngest brother Eric.

Tri­als for every­one

Pepe would then in­volve all the fam­ily in the sport of tri­als; if your name was Le­je­une you rode in tri­als, as sim­ple as that! Many tri­als mo­tor­cy­cles would come out of the Plas­ti­flac work­shop, and all with the same four-stroke noise. Eric still rides the CB 175 Twin which many con­sider to be the ‘Fer­rari’ of tri­als ma­chines such is the roar from the ex­haust.

The sec­ond son, Eddy, was now at an age where he would be able to com­pete in tri­als and so Pepe had to per­form an­other mir­a­cle. He pro­duced a tri­als machine around the Honda XR 75 in its orig­i­nal frame be­fore a Pepe Le­juene spe­cial frame was built. Af­ter the machine was ‘Born’, it was re­built many times, with the en­gine ca­pac­ity in­creased from 75cc to 104cc and even­tu­ally 123cc. Un­for­tu­nately, these ma­chines have dis­ap­peared over the years, but ru­mour has it they are still around, so maybe at a later date, they will be found. It was with the fi­nal ver­sion, the 123cc, that Eddy would come into con­tact with a rider who would be­come an arch ri­val at a later date: Thierry Michaud at the Des Alpes tri­als schools in the French Alps.

The love af­fair

The love af­fair be­tween Honda and the Le­je­une fam­ily would con­tinue when their fa­ther Pepe met Mr Bron­se­leare, the Euro­pean Honda Di­rec­tor, to im­port two white TL 200 R2 tri­als mod­els com­ing from RSC in Ja­pan. Two more sim­i­lar ma­chines were also sup­plied dur­ing this pe­riod. It was with the TL 200 R2 that Eddy gained his first world points in early 1979 be­fore they were re­moved as he was not yet 18-years-old, which the FIM stated you had to be to score them. He would then move to the Honda 360 for which they trav­elled to Eng­land to bring back from Rob Shep­herd’s home, who was at the time the Honda fac­tory’s world cham­pi­onship rider. When Eddy, Mr Bron­se­leare and An­dre Siemens, — the Bel­gian Honda me­chanic, ar­rived to col­lect the machine they found it in a dis­man­tled state in the mid­dle of the York­shire­man’s garage!

Even­tu­ally, this gen­er­a­tion of machine would bring Honda and Eddy Le­je­une three world ti­tles, from 1982 to 1984. It’s quite ironic that the last world ti­tle for Eddy was the last FIM World Tri­als Cham­pi­onship won by a twin-shock machine, and also the last for a four-stroke machine for 23 years un­til Toni Bou ar­rived in 2007.

Honda is quite rightly so very proud of its sport­ing her­itage in mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als, and the ex­hi­bi­tion was a nice re­minder of how it all started, suit­ably rounded off with a nice glass of cham­pagne, com­pli­ments of the RTLR Club Europe.

The en­trance to the Le­juene Lair.

From left: Oliver Bar­jon, Jean Cail­lou, Eric Le­juene, Frederic Morhing, a Le­juene fam­ily nephew — Pa­trick Pis­sis. The machine is the ‘Fer­rari’.

1965 Honda SS50: This machine was con­verted in 1965 for the use of the el­dest son Jean-Marie Le­juene to ride in the un­der 250cc class. In mid-1966 he would move to the con­verted Honda CB 175 be­fore a move to Mon­tesa was re­warded with the Bel­gian na­tional cham­pi­onship in 1974, 1977 and 1978.

1960’s Honda CB 125 Twin and Honda CB 175 Twin: From 1962 on­wards Jean ‘Pepe’ Le­je­une, the fa­ther of the three boys would con­vert sev­eral Honda based road ma­chines for tri­als use. The first was the CB 125cc fol­lowed by the CB 175cc, which would be used by him­self and Jean-Marie in the six­ties. In more re­cent times the youngest son Eric can be found com­pet­ing on it in clas­sic tri­als.

1979 TL200R: Af­ter many good re­sults on his fa­ther’s con­verted ma­chines Honda Bel­gium gave Eddy a white TL200R which had been pre­pared by the HRSC in Ja­pan. Still only 16 years old he started to win all the tri­als com­pe­ti­tions in Bel­gium. In 1979 he be­gan to com­pete in the world tri­als cham­pi­onship, at­tend­ing sev­eral rounds where he fin­ished in the top ten, but be­fore April, and was still not old enough to score points. De­spite this prob­lem he still ended the year in 15th po­si­tion. This is one of four of the ma­chines used in 1979.

1980 Honda RTL 360: Based on his suc­cess­ful 1979 sea­son Honda give Eddy an ex-Rob Shep­herd RTL 360. He would fin­ish fourth in the 1980 WTC as Shep­herd moved from Honda. In 1981 he would re­ceive two iden­ti­cal Honda RTL 360 ma­chines from Ja­pan. This model here is a ‘stroked’ evo­lu­tion of the 1976 RTL 306 ‘Short-Stroke’ rid­den by Nick Jef­feries in the UK and then by Mar­land Wha­ley in the USA. Eddy fin­ished the WTC sea­son once again in fourth po­si­tion, us­ing the new Miche­lin tyres.

1982 Honda RTL 360: Rid­ing the RTL 360 on Miche­lin tyres Eddy is in fan­tas­tic form, win­ning eight of the twelve world rounds to take the WTC ti­tle. This was the first world ti­tle for a four-stroke machine in the World Tri­als Cham­pi­onship since its in­cep­tion in 1975. Up un­til this point it had been dom­i­nated by two-strokes.

1984 Honda RST 360: Eddy Le­je­une once again eas­ily won the 1983 WTC with eight wins from twelve rounds. He re­peated this feat again in 1984 on vir­tu­ally the same machine as the year be­fore, but it was now un­der the HRC name. This would be the last win for a twin­shock machine in the WTC, and the last for a four-stroke un­til Toni Bou ar­rived in 2007!

Jean Cail­lou (left) en­joys the mo­ment with Miquel Ciera and Oliver Bar­jon.

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