The epic highs and gruelling lows of 24-hour motorcycle racing

first_img PlayThe Rolls-Royce Boat Tail may be the most expensive new car everPlay3 common new car problems (and how to prevent them) | Maintenance Advice | Driving.caPlayFinal 5 Minivan Contenders | Driving.caPlay2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge | Ministry of Interior Affairs | Driving.caPlayThe 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning is a new take on Canada’s fave truck | Driving.caPlayBuying a used Toyota Tundra? Check these 5 things first | Used Truck Advice | Driving.caPlayCanada’s most efficient trucks in 2021 | Driving.caPlay3 ways to make night driving safer and more comfortable | Advice | Driving.caPlayDriving into the Future: Sustainability and Innovation in tomorrow’s cars | Driving.ca virtual panelPlayThese spy shots get us an early glimpse of some future models | Driving.ca The Rolls-Royce Boat Tail may be the most expensive new car ever See More Videos Buy It! Princess Diana’s humble little 1981 Ford Escort is up for auction An engagement gift from Prince Charles, the car is being sold by a Princess Di “superfan” I’m embedded with the Honda Endurance Racing team. Their boss is a man with a sportingly familiar name, Jonny Twelvetrees – brother of former England rugby player Billy.“I’d love to be out there competing but I love my job and if I can help the team perform to its best then that is as rewarding as being the athlete,” he says before the race.Soon any talk is drowned out by a combination of two Rafael jets, La Marseillaise and the roar of packed stands. The first riders have to sprint in full leathers and helmets the 20 metres across the track to their steeds. Padded up, they look like charging football running backs. Man and machines married up, 60 engines ignite and all jet noise, anthems and fans are muffled by screaming exhausts.As a works team, Honda is a favourite. A podium is the plan, the hope. But early on Saturday evening, a sixth of the way into the race they are in 38th place. The Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 (similar to the Fireblade road bike) sits in the pits for valuable minutes amid a landscape of furrowed engineering brows. Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Waiting for a pit stop and rider change at the 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Sebastien Gimbert in between stints at the 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Team Honda at the 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Team Honda at the 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Working on the Honda Fireblade at the 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Endurance riding is tough on the body.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Early morning with stewards at The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda ‹ Previous Next › advertisement “Most riders don’t sleep at all, or maybe a few minutes on the massage table,” says physiotherapist Jason Garibal. “Tiredness is the biggest challenge. Hydration, regular small meals (chicken, rice and pasta) and massage are the only things to help the riders.”An estimated quarter of a million bike fans have come to Le Mans. Enduring the race as a fan is a very different fight. No chicken and pasta for those camping in the Zone Bleu. Beer and cider are the sustenance of choice for many spectators.It is very Mad Max. A phug of smoke from campfires and two-metre high homemade bike exhausts throwing flames high into the night sky. We are recommended to not go into the fan fest alone or say we are English. But we escape unscathed.Unlike a comparable team in the car race, the bike teams operate in a more low key way. One truck is parked behind the pits and is a temporary dorm for the riders, a physio space and a shower. The mechanics have camp chairs in which to doze. Few do though. The result, by dawn, is a gaggle of red-eyed pallid faces.“For the riders, this is the most dangerous time,” says Erwan Rigon. “No one falls asleep riding but mistakes are normal when you are tired.”Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2From left, Gregory Leblanc, Johnny Twelvetrees, Sebastien Gimbert and Erwan Nigon. Trending Videos Trending in Canada Gregory has missed out on a record sixth win by one place, but no one is disappointed. From 38th to second is a gargantuan effort and makes Twelvetrees’ boys instant legends. The thin membrane holding in tiredness and emotion fractures. The burly Brit has to hold back tears as he embraces his team and troops off to the podium for a slurp of  – and a shower in – champagne. RELATED TAGSHondaMotorcycleMotorcyclesMotorcyclesNew Vehicles We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles using Facebook commenting Visit our FAQ page for more information. It is this race Leblanc is poised to start. For a day and a night, buzzing like demented flies caught in a fish tank, 60 bikes, each ridden by three riders, will lap every 90 seconds or so until they have broken down, crashed or completed around 850 laps. In 24 hours they will cover a distance not far off that of the UK to Istanbul. LE MANS, France – “I’m listening to Back in Black, by AC/DC,” grins legendary long-distance motorcycle racer Gregory Leblanc, sat shielded from the unseasonably brutal 30 degree Celsius sun cooking the starting grid. Given what he is about to endure, the band’s Highway to Hell might be more apt.The roll-call of extreme sporting events (such as the Dakar, Marathon des Sables and Vendee Globe) created by the French is impressive. They are all breakers of minds, bodies and equipment. One beneath the radar in most places, except France, is the Le Mans 24 Hours. Not the famous car race, but its infinitely more brutal two-wheeled cousin, called Le 24 Heures Motos, which went this past weekend.   Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The start of the 2018 24 Heures Moto in Le Mans, France.FIM EWC Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Team Honda at The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Team Honda pits at The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The 2018 24 Heures MotosDavid Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Bits of rubber cover the front of the Honda racer at The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Enduriance racing is hard on the body, which is why Team Honda employs a therapist for the riders between stints.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Team Honda gets fuel at the The 2018 24 Heures Motos.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The famous Dunlop bridge at the The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The 2018 24 Heures MotosDavid Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Night racing at The 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France.David Reygondeau, Honda COMMENTSSHARE YOUR THOUGHTS “A fault code has come up but it doesn’t say what the fault is,” reports one of the engineers. It has effectively turned the bike from the digital to the analogue age. Traction control and all the gizmos that are as common to a modern bike as iPhone and grunts are to a teenager, aren’t working.Leblanc’s dreams of a record sixth win are evaporating. But he, co-riders Erwan Nigon and Sebastien Gimbert, are like the Three Musketeers. Not quite one for all and all for one but an equally powerful statement of intent comes from the trio. “Me and my teammates, we are strong men,” Leblanc declares. “We push. We crash or we go to the podium.”In the car race the drivers do two- to three-hour stints between pit stops. So their rest periods are four to six hours. Bikes have smaller tanks so the rotations are more frequent. That makes rest breaks shorter and the cumulative fatigue much worse.Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Team Honda at the The 2018 24 Heures Motos Prophetically, within minutes, number 94, leading almost since the start 15 hours earlier, crashes. The Three Musketeers ‘go hard or go home’ attitude has put them in fifth with a third of the race still to run. The perfume of petrol, oil, hot rubber and stale sweat is helpfully energising.In the time it takes to binge watch nearly three seasons of Game of Thrones, a sister bike from Honda France is first to cross the line and win the 2018 Le Mans 24 Heures Motos.   Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2 Team Honda at the 2018 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans, France. last_img read more