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.
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.