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Coupes Moto Légende
The Coupes Moto Légende held annually at the Prenois Race Circuit 20km north of Dijon in late May or early June is one of the largest classic motorcycling events of its type in Europe. James Hewing from the Vintage Motorcycle Club sets the scene
on track with the legends
Attracting up to 30,000 spectators and participants from all over Europe the event allows over 1000 members of the general public to take their old motorcycles out on track for up to three 15 minute sessions over the weekend of the event. These old bikes are categorized into different classes from pre 1930 through to the “superbikes” of the early 1980s and range from the simplest road going machines to famous ex- works racers. Indeed, the thousands of spectators don’t just come along to witness some unusual old machines out on track, they also come to see some of the great names from the past like 13
times Motorcycle World Champion Giacomo Agostini (below) riding
Over the years that the event has been run at Prenois there has been a steady increase in the amount of ex-grand prix legends who have attended. Like the Festival of 1000 Bikes in the UK what sets “Les Coupes” apart is that your average enthusiast can be on the track at the same time as a World Champion (assuming you have the correct class of machine). It’s this unique quality that means that public track time always sells out for this type of experience is beyond price for many enthusiasts and is certainly more than worth the few hundred euros that it actually costs. However it’s worth pointing out that the event is extremely “spectator friendly” with unrestricted access to all areas. Therefore if just attending as a spectator you can easily “rub shoulders with” the likes of Freddie Spencer, Stevie Baker or Wayne Gardner and you can always rely on seeing some “home grown” champions such as Frenchman Christian Sarron. Of course this would be great in itself but it truly is thrilling to see and hear these stars back on the bikes on which they actually won their championships. It’s a rare treat indeed to see a grand prix 2-stroke of the 1970s used as hard as the factory originally intended!
let's go clubbing
But there’s a lot more to the event that just the track activities. So many people seem to camp and make a long weekend of things because of the shear diversity of “classic motorcycling” on offer. From the hundreds of single make club displays and trade stands through to the live music stage in the evening its quite difficult to get to see everything that is crammed onto the site during a single weekend. I have always found that there’s a great party atmosphere at the event and I know many people just go to soak this up, especially during the evening time when it can get very lively - in a good way.
In mentioning the large club presence that’s how we first got involved with the event about 6 years ago. The Vintage Motorcycle Club is the oldest and largest membership organization in the world for enthusiasts of old motorcycles and three wheelers. From a small display a few years ago the organisers now kindly grant us no less than 3 pit lane garages from which we run VMCC members road and race machines onto the track. We now get over 50 members plus their families attending who make the trip from all corners of the UK. Its testament to the quality of the event that people travel from all over Europe. French Nationals make up the majority but you don’t have to walk far to hear a lot of Dutch, German, Italian and of course, English conversation.
The trip from the UK can be done in a day but I wouldn’t recommend it for the solo traveller. In setting off the Midlands for example, at around 3.30 am it is possible to make the circuit by early evening the same day but that involves minimal rest stops and sharing the driving. In recent years we have broken the journey north of the circuit in the picturesque town of Châtillon-sur-Seine. We have found Châtillon to be the perfect rest stop given both its proximity to the circuit and its range of amenities including a number of large supermarkets in which you can stock up should you have chosen the option to camp. I mention camping as the best option as to get the most out of your visit you really need to be on site in the evening to enjoy the aforementioned “atmosphere”. The last part of the journey to the circuit is then undertaken early on the Friday via the hills and valleys that the winding D971 runs through. Those final 40km are always the best of the trip given the gorgeous countryside, spectacular scenery and the anticipation of what Les Coupes Moto Légende has in store again.
Clearly if you have an interest in old motorcycles (or just old vehicles in general) I couldn’t recommend the event highly enough as it has the magic ingredient - “character”. The event is also full of “characters” which is often an entertainment in itself. After all, where else could you find grown men trying to repair a “priceless” old motorcycle with bath sealant?
Even if you are just in the area at that time of year but have never attended any sort of motorsport event don’t assume it’s not for you. It makes for a surprisingly good family day out. Admission for the two day event is 25 euros, and camping is available at the circuit on a first come first served basis.
See also: Patrick Burnham's Sport Textile Art of Jorge Lorenzo, the MotoGP Champion