In 100 years, the most famous endurance race in France has marked the history of motorcycling. From the “lamb chops” for the pioneers to the birth of the SERT team and the success of the Sarron brothers, a look back at five unforgettable moments.
1922: Tony Zind, forever the first
Clinging to his Motosacoche, a Swiss brand, Frenchman Tony Zind crossed the finish line of the Bol d’Or in Vaujours (Seine-Saint-Denis), and became the first winner of the Bol d’Or on May 28, 1922. a France still scarred by the First World War, the existence of this endurance race, in which the competitors must fend for themselves on bumpy and dusty roads, confers a bubble of freedom and joy on the participants. The average of 52 km / h achieved by Zind highlights the rudimentary techniques of the machines of the time, still weighted with atrophied handlebars and wheels similar to those of bicycles.
1931: Josephine Baker featured
At the height of her glory in the Roaring Twenties, the American singer, who was naturalized French in 1937, went to the forest circuit of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines) where she witnessed the success of Frenchman Germain Patural on Velocette, an English brand. “At the time, it’s a bit like having a Brad Pitt showing up at a Formula 1 race. She takes a ride in a sidecar, she loses a pump,” says Christian Batteux, the editor in deputy head of “Moto-Revue” and author of the book “100 years of the Bol d’Or”.
1980: SERT, birth of a myth
Three years after the Bol d’Or moved from the Bugatti circuit to Le Mans on the Paul-Ricard circuit in Le Castellet (Var), the Japanese brand Suzuki, represented by Team SERT, scored its first success on September 21, 1980. The duo of French pilots Pierre-Etienne Samin and Franck Gross thus pay tribute to the co-founder of SERT, Jean-Bernard Peyré, who died three weeks earlier in a car accident. Dominique Méliand, his best friend and co-founder of SERT, lifts his first trophy on the Paul-Ricard circuit (Var). “The winners said as the race progressed that they sensed a benevolent shadow over the circuit. This victory launched the history of SERT,” says Christian Batteux.
1994: Sarron, the rewarded siblings
For the first time in the history of the Bol d’Or, two brothers, Christian and Dominique Sarron, accompanied by the Japanese Yasutomo Nagai (Yamaha), won on the Paul-Ricard circuit. A great reward for Dominique Sarron, one of the emblematic drivers of the event, which punctuates 25 years of career, during which he won seven editions of the “Bol”.
2019: Vincent Philippe, an end in apotheosis
A month and a half after the retirement of Dominique Méliand, his former manager with whom he won eight Bols d’Or, the French pilot Vincent Philippe concludes a career of almost two decades with a victory alongside Etienne Masson and Gregg Black (Suzuki). In an edition marked by heavy rainfall, which forced the organizers to suspend the race overnight, Suzuki demonstrated the reliability of its mechanics on a wet track and thus offered Philippe his 9th and last “Bol”.