The Last Motorcycle Enduro of Le Touquet
File under Racing France
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
Due to the uncertainty of world's biggest enduro race, the Enduro of Le Touquet (the event had been cancelled, on again, cancelled, on again, etc), I decided at the very last moment to go and see this event.
Since it was really a last moment decision, I did not have time to get a press pass, so I was already assured of not having a good place to make photos (the dunes bottleneck would have been gone days in advance).
So with that in mind, here are some of the photos I did manage to take of the notorious event.
NOTE: The winner of the Dakar 2005 race, Cyril Despres finished 811th (he didn't finish the race). The winner of the race was Frenchman Arnaud Demeester (his 5th win). There were 450,000 spectators !
Background: World's biggest motorcycle enduro race is held once a year in the town of Le Touquet (located to the north of France). Usually it is organized by ASO (the folks that brought you the Dakar race), but for the last few years, the environmentalists have tried to stop the race (part of the race is through the dunes, a "reason" for them to stop this immensely popular event). The town of Le Touquet has finally caved in, and decided that this would be the last time the race would be held here. The event attracted 450,000 spectators last Sunday !!
| ||The race started at 13:00, and I arrived at 10:30 in a freezing cold Sunday afternoon. |
Already there were 10,000's of motorcycles trying to get into a packed city.
| ||People had been arriving there since Friday (Saturday is the Quad event). |
There had been signs of major partying going on during the weekend.
| ||People had put there tents in any space they could find in the city. |
Tents were found in parks, grass strips, sidewalks, lawns, beaches...
| ||Anywhere you turned, you could see motorcycle parked. An estimated 350,000 motorcycles were parked in the city on Sunday. |
The motorcycle noise was unbelievable !
| ||The police was out with 1000's of officers, but were very cool. We were told to ride on opposing lanes, sidewalks, pass cars where there were white lines, speed up, go through red lights.... the only rule was that there were no rules ! |
The autoroutes were free to motorcycles going to the race !
| ||Trying to go through hundreds of thousands of people was slow moving. The atmosphere was fantastic. |
Despite the cold weather, the sun was out, and people were very happy.
| ||At the motorcycle park, you could see some of the vans belonging to the professional riders. |
As can be expected, they were well equipped.
| ||Even the private entries (=amateurs) came with their mobile homes and service cars. |
| ||At the beach, spectators were 10 deep, and there were 3 to 4 areas wide where you could try to see the race (so about 40 rows deep in total). |
| ||Every 200 meters there were tunnels leading to the other side of the beach to one of the other viewing areas. 2 hours before the race, all tunnels were blocked by people trying to find a better position. |
| ||The sand was still virgin white and undisturbed. That would change quickly.... |
| ||We walked to the out limit of the viewing area. On the left was the wide beach area where the motorcycles would pass through initially, then go to the dunes bottleneck, and then they would ride on the beach circuit seen on the right. |
It's not easy to make any kind of photo with these kind of crowds...
| ||This is one of the few photos that actually shows you the wild initial ride of 1,000 motorcycles heading for the dunes on the beach. I had to take photos without seeing what I was aiming at, so I ended up with 200 photos of the sky !!! |
| ||There was one serious accident right in front of us when the motorcycle mass came past us. Two riders crashed into each other (there are two bodies lying there, mangled together). Both riders were unconscious, and it took the medical staff a long time to get them on a stretcher... |
| ||This photo was taken from Yahoo/Reuters News |
"Bikers ride through sand dunes as they take part in the 30th 'Enduro du Touquet' motorcycle endurance race on the beach of Le Touquet, northern France, February 6, 2005. REUTERS/Rafto"
| ||Even with the riders in a higher position, it was still impossible to make proper photos.This is Frenchman Anthony JAHNICHEN who ended in 16th position. |
| ||This is Frenchman Sylvain MESTHE, who finished in 24th. |
| ||Further up we could just about see the riders coming up for their second lap, this time on the circuit and not the beach. |
Vincent THIOLLIER is seen jumping here (he finished 8th).
| ||Viewing angles were difficult, and taking photos without seeing does not give you the quality to enjoy the race, ... sorry. |
| ||When the mass finally got to the circuit portion, you could see that it was not an easy task battling yourself through so many riders. |
| ||After 30 minutes we decided that it was enough, and tried to head for our motorcycles. Not an easy task.... |
| ||There were still 100,000's of bikers trying to find a better spot, or like us, trying to head for home. |
| ||Maybe this is what the environmentalists are "complaining" about..|
The race as an astounding success. 450,000 spectators had seen the race on Sunday. 1,000 motorcycles entered the race. The final results were:
1 DEMEESTER Arnaud YAMAHA FRA en 3h02:49.814
2 POTISEK Timotei HONDA FRA à 1:58.809
3 BETHYS Thierry HONDA FRA 9:02.878
4 AUBERT Johnny YAMAHA FRA 14:05.524
5 BOONEN Johan KTM HOL 15:06.342
6 DEUDON Yves KAWASAKI FRA 23:57.226
7 DUFLOU Franck YAMAHA FRA 1 tour
8 THIOLLIER Vincent KTM FRA 1 tour
9 BRUSSET Laurent KTM FRA 1 tour
10 GIBOT David YAMAHA FRA 1 tour
Only one foreigner managed to get into the top 10.