Motorcycle: Sports Two Wheels - Endurance Racing
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 17:37:52 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
Long-distance racing adds an extra dimension to the spectacle of high-speed motorcycling. Modern endurance events are run at a furious pace, and races of up to 24 hours contain fuel-stops, rider and tyre changes - all conducted in just a few seconds - and hours of hard riding through the night. For riders who crash or break down, the race can include a long push back to the pits, after which a team of well-drilled mechanics works flat-out to get a damaged bike back onto the track.
Things were less hectic but even more tiring when the Bol d'Or, the oldest and most famous 24-hour event, was first held on the outskirts of Paris in 1922. The winning rider - only one was allowed per machine — covered over 750 miles (1206 kilometres) on a 500cc Motosacoche. By 1930 the Bol, held on a different road circuit near Paris, was attracting over 50,000 spectators and had become an important showcase for manufacturers. Best and toughest of the early racers was Gustave Lefevre, who had five solo wins on a 500cc Norton, and then two more after co-riders were allowed in 1954.
In the 1970s endurance became a demanding proving ground for large-capacity roadsters. BSA/Triumph triples won in 1970 and 1971, before big four-cylinder Hondas and Kawasakis took over. Bikes raced by legendary French pairings such as Go'dier/Genoud and Chemarin/Leon housed factory-tuned 1000 cc motors in specially built chassis. Many innovative engineering solutions were tried and endurance trends were often copied on road-going superbikes.
In more recent years three riders have been allowed in 24-hour races, and bikes have been limited first to 750cc and then to Superbike format, reducing cost but also outlawing the technically interesting prototypes. Although endurance is unpopular in many countries, and has often failed to support a full-scale world championship, the French 24-hour classics at Le Mans and the Bol d'Or feature top-level factory teams and are unbeatable for atmosphere and drama. The Suzuka eight-hour in Japan, which regularly attracts over 100,000 spectators, is regarded by the Japanese factories as the year's most important race.
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