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Le Mans 2012

Back in the day I read a test on one of the bike magazines on the at the time new Suzuki bandit and a BMW, the exact model erased from my mind.  The test was riding the bikes back from Spain after using the ferry to get there.  The riders didn't stop the bikes, hot fuelling through Spain and France back to the ferry and blighty, can't recall anything more than thinking it would be a good ride one day.

Le Mans this year seemed to provide the ideal opportunity but there was no way I was going to tackle the ride in one hit, 3 days from Bilbao to Le Mans seemed doable. Penso was up for it, so the deal was struck.

Ferry booked and accomodation booked for 2 nights all I had to do was work out a good route between each to get to Vero's house. For the record, day one,

Bilbao, E804, N622, E80 to Pamlona.  A15, A21, N240, A137 to Arrette Pierre St Martin, D132, D918,D917, D35, D335, D937 to lourdes, D937, D28 Montgaillard, D28 to Tournay.

What  a day, the ride through Spain was tedious but turning left onto the A137 was the start of probably the best biking day I have ever had, smooth roads, twisting and turning as we climbed towards the mountains, before the road disappeared pretty much vertical up a series of hairpin bends.

I don't ever recall riding a road as twisty as this, I am almost on full lock on the GSXR at times, first gear has never been used so much.  This was only one of a handful of pictures taken, we were having way too much fun to stop and take pictures.  Up into the cloud right over the top of mountains provided a couple of interesting moments,  I would have been riding the patriot downhill quicker.

The first overnight at the barns was spectaular, Suz served a home cooked meal to finish off the day, washed down with some wine and beers, perfect.

Leaving the barns saw us heading for the riders rest in Treignac,

Tony greeted us with a  cold beer in each hand, served up before we had even got off the bikes, now that is service!

On arriving I hit the kill switch, press the starter and there is no life in the battery. Investigations reveal a dry battery, it had been topped up before we left, but for some reason it appears to have been overcharging, battery filled and charged, Thursday sees us on the last leg up to Le Mans.

The bike is running fine, I keep checking the battery and its seems ok, until, I am roadside with no electrics, we locate a dodgy connection from the ignition, I cannot help but think that yesterday’s issue and today’s are related.

Subsequent investigations result in the main power feed falling out of the back of the block connector, 15 minutes later, all done. Sean checks out the electrics with a meter and declares all is good, sorted.

Les is down at the circuit having met up with the Pompi lads again on the ferry, his bike hasn’t turned a wheel since last years trip! We head down in the car saturday morning. Halfway to the circuit Stevie phones up, he is supposed to be at Donnington, I’ll speak to him later. A couple of minutes later the text chirrups, answer your bloody phone.

Calling again, I answer, the licker of fish informs me he is 80Ks away from Le Mans, I ignore him and ask him how his weekend is, he re affirms that he is in France, still ignoring him I ask him how the ride to Donnington was. He then asks me if the coned off lanes on the autoroute mean its free for bikes, the penny finally drops, there is only one reason he would know that the French open up their toll roads for free and cost no money to and from big race meets.

Having passed his test 4 weeks before and ridden to and from work on a handful of occasions he has decided to pay us a surprise visit. I give him some directions to the MM Arena where we are camped and 2 hours later am meeting him at the gate. The lad with the MT has done good.

The off track action on the campsite is as entertaining as ever, why people rev the knackers off their bikes is beyond me but I enjoy it and activley encourage anyone to do it, this lad has come prepared, the racket eminating from the silencer! did hurt your ears and those are flames, brilliant!

Race day is hot, with the air temperature heading towards 30 degrees, track temperature will be in the high 40s. Three of the brolley dollies faint as the grid lines up and they are only in short skirts and skimpy tops, the racers are stood there in one piece leathers and helmets for about 40 minutes before the start in full sun. This is when the endurance part of this race starts.  The number 11 Kawasaki leads pretty much start to finish.

This rider has binned it on the back part of the track, he pushes into the pits with no assistance from the marshals, them’s the rules, his team can assist as soon as he enters the pits.

Night falls but the track speed does not, some lap faster at night than in the day, how does that work?

Kawasaki win the race with Suzuki finishing second on the same lap just over a minute down, after 24 hours of flat out racing. These days it’s a real 24 hours too with the improved fencing at the circuit preventing the traditional track invasion of yester year. The crowd’s track invasion any time from 2.30 onwards used to mark the end of the race no matter what the standings!

Their second spot earns the Suzuki Endurance Race Team the world championship.

The TT Legends team finish in 5th and are one of the only two teams to finish every round, the other being the winning Suzuki team. Legends pit 25 times over the course of the race, consistency sees them secure 4th spot in the championship only one point of the third place.

Stevie has missed the end of the race, his visit being a very literal 24 hours, he makes his ferry with minutes to spare having been led a merry dance on exiting the circuit before the end of the race.

Mean time we adjourn to Vero's for steaks and beers, its been a hard weekend!!  Did someone mention next year?