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Motorbike.  ‘It’s the weekend of the year’: four days at Le Mans with MotoGP’s biggest fans – MotoGP




MotoGP French Grand Prix, Le Mans

They’ve been waiting for this for two years. Two years during which they were content to follow, from the bottom of their sofa, the Grand Prix de France in front of their television. “For me, it’s as if it’s been ten years,” laughs Régis, a motorcycle enthusiast who has been going to Le Mans every year for more than ten years.

Because over the past two years, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the last two editions have been held behind closed doors or in reduced capacity. “The covid punished us”, adds Normand Dave, a faithful Bugatti circuit for 19 years.

But this year, the restrictions are over. Some arrived at first light this Sunday. Others well before, from Wednesday or Thursday in the campsites attached to the circuit. A total of 110,000 spectators, a Grand Prix record broken!

“For us, it’s the weekend of the year with friends, without a wife or children,” says Anthony, who is camping with three other thieves on the edge of a street not far from the circuit. We missed this atmosphere, only the bank account was happy. The Grand Prix on TV is good, living it is better”.

Marseillaise and blue-white-red smoke

Question show, they have been served. Especially thanks to the Ducati riders who fought a big battle in the lead. A battle won by Enea Bastianini in front of Jack Miller, while Pecco Bagnaia went to the mat. And the French? Powerless against the Italian power, Fabio Quartararo (4th) and Johann Zarco (5th) failed at the foot of the podium.

However, the superstars of the weekend are them. Especially the Nice world champion. Heir to absolute legend Valentino Rossi in the Yamaha team, he has also been in the hearts of the public since the “Doctor” retired from the circuits at the end of last season. At least in France. Because at Le Mans, if they were still (very) numerous adorned with their fluorescent yellow cap of number 46, El Diablo, the nickname of the 23-year-old Niçois, was everywhere.

“Quartararo, the Mbappé of motorcycling”

“I’m expecting a crazy Grand Prix,” the Yamaha rider told Telegram. He was not disappointed. At each of his appearances, he was able to realize his new dimension. “It’s the first time I’ve managed to hear the fans leaving my box,” he also conceded on Friday during his visit to a boiling fan zone.

“Before, I supported Valentino, now it’s Fabio,” says a colleague of Dave, Rossi’s cap screwed on his head. “Quartararo is the Mbappé of motorcycling”, notes Gundo, who arrives from Mayenne. The young man, Rossi-stamped sunglasses on his nose, but El Diablo horns on his head, alone personifies the passing of the baton between the Italian and the Frenchman.

Sunday, under a blazing sun, the hope was also allowed to see him win this Grand Prix de France which has eluded the French for more than 60 years. Marseille at the top of the lungs, blue-white-red smoke, the Bugatti circuit roared with pleasure shortly before 2 p.m. Hopes quickly dashed after the complicated departure of Quartararo, who will never manage to get this third place well defended by Aleix Espargaro. “We were hoping for a victory, but 4th is good, it brings points for the world championship, notes Thomas, from Muzillac (56). In fact, whatever the result, the important thing is to find the atmosphere.

Mix of fair, summer vacation and festival

The atmosphere ? A mixture of fairs, summer holidays and festivals, less concerts (although several have been organised), more “vra-vra-vraoum”! In the campsites, the smells of burning pallets, barbecues and merguez sausages mingle with the smell of gasoline and the noise of the engines that we make roar, sometimes until late at night.

“It’s sometimes a bit of an orgy. Some make the crazy with the motorcycles, send flames. But all of them are passionate about two wheels, we can discuss with everyone”.

“We are at the blue campsite, with the furious, laughs Noémie, from Nantes. Here, we only take micro-naps, the guys break up all the time, there is no moment of silence. We don’t have this atmosphere everywhere”.

Summer vacation atmosphere, too, with the stifling heat that fell on Le Mans. For some, the dressing code is simple: flip flops, swim shorts, shirtless and sunburned. “We needed to get back in touch, the aperitif, the barbecue, the race, says Fabrice. Basically, bread and games. So this weekend, we live again ”. After two years of scarcity, the essential is undoubtedly there.

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