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The start of the Bol d'or - Part 3

We are now Saturday, day of the Bol d’or 2017 edition. The 24 hours endurance race will be held with a beautiful weather condition. The sun was out and the temperature was ranging in the 24-25 degrees. The start of the race was at 15:00 and it would end the day after at the same time. It all starts with a ‘’le Mans’’ style start, so the riders are on one side of the track, and the motorcycle are on the other side held by a mechanic. When the flag drop at exactly 15:00, all the brave men run to their bike, start the engine while putting their leg on, then release the clutch.

With 59 team lined up, let me tell you that it was spectacular. For our team, it was Johann Nigon that did the start. With a good first relay, having a nice pace in a group of rider he bring the bike in 24th position after his first 40 minutes. A driver change with a quick fuel-up and the bike was back on track with Jonathan Hugot. The strategy in endurance race is to come into the pit as less as possible. So the longer the bike stay on the track, the better the race goes. The most restrictive factor that makes us stop is the fuel. With an increased capacity to 24 liters, we can run around 20 to 24 laps depending on the configuration of the bike and the driver style. The first two riders had the capacity to do 21 laps and I was able to get 1 extra. So it’s around 45 minute before the bike run out of fuel. As for tire, the strategy was simple, four sessions for the front and two for the rear.

After a couple of lap with Jonathan onboard, the headlight stopped working. Since it wasn’t dark yet, he was able to finish his session before coming into the pit to fix it. I was slowly getting ready without getting my eyes off the timing screen. Second relay done, the bike goes directly in the garage for the light fix. The front fairing was changed and a new rear wheel went on. The bike was pulled back out for refueling; I’m ready to jump on the bike. When I got the signal, I put my legs over it and tow pit crew pushes the bike. I press on the starting button and nothing. I verify the kill switch; it’s in the right position, retry and still no life. Avec running for 50 meters, Hervé stop and try to start it himself without any luck as well. I get off the bike and we turn around and run back to the pit. Quick change of the kill switch and I’m back on the bike, but now it start. Quickly I get to the pit out and make my way on the track. With a speed limit of 60kph until the first corner, I took that time to adjust the brake lever and stretch my Ixon suit. Right before the first corner, I look back to prepare my entry on the track, there is no one. I remove the pit limiter at the appropriate line and right from the first corner, the throttle find itself fully pinned. I am finally living the dream at the Bol d’or

With all the lost time with the repair, we got shuffled back in the ranking. I found my rhythm pretty quickly, the lap were getting by fast. After 11 laps the pit board gave me a signal that I had done half of my session. What we were supposed to get signal at the end of the session was a countdown for the last 3 laps. But before the start of it, around 17 or 18, the bike started missing when getting on the gas and the fuel gauge was flashing. So I didn’t take the chance, pushing the bike is another loss of time and must be avoid at all cost, so I came in the pit without any warning.

When I arrived at the box fortunately the pit-crew were all ready when I was indicating the fuel reservoir so they would know quickly what to do. So without losing any second when I got out of the motorcycle they started refueling. But since I was in the pit too early the next rider wasn’t ready. As soon as the reservoir was filled, the team manager grabbed me by the arm and told me I had to get back on the track. Without hesitating, I jump right back and proceed to start a back to back session. I really wasn’t expecting that, I was about to do 1h30 nearly without any stop, and now it was with tire that had more than 350km for the front and 100km for the rear(It’s usually around 70-100km at a CSBK race)

Even with these factors, my pace was pretty close to the last one. It’s at the middle of the relay that the leaders got by me. Not being in the same category; I am in Superstock and they are in EWC(superbike) it made it difficult to follow but I was able to stay close to them long enough to see a couple corners. On the back straight, they just disappeared. That’s where I found out that they weren’t actually that much faster then I was. With my energy level decreasing and the muscle fatigue coming in, I wasn’t letting off the gas. It was only on the last 3 laps that I started having concentration problem. I couldn’t wait for it to finish (yes yes, me that is always the guy doing the most laps and that never have enough). When I finally got off the bike after that awesome double duty, I had a couple muscle cramps. But the effort I’ve put at Crossfit Laval gym in the past few year paid off, the fact that I didn’t ride a bike much this year didn’t affected me, I was still able to continue.

Once Johann back on the bike, I went in the pit and sat on the first chair available to remove my gloves and helmet. After the congratulations from the team and a small debrief, we took some time to figure out what happened with the fuel at my first stop. We made a conclusion that there was fuel missing from either a fault from the fuel canister, or the fuel didn’t have the time to get into the tank completely. After that, I went to see an osteopath, ate quickly and then there was only 10 minute for me to relax before getting ready for my next session. It went by quickly, very quickly.

After having relaxed, I get back in the pit 20 minutes before my relay. 3 laps before Jonathan is planned to come in, I put my X-lite helmet and Ixon gloves in case he decides to come in earlier. At his last lap, the team gets ready for the rear tire change for my outing. When stopped, Jonathan get off the bike, we then talk a bit to see if there is any trouble with the bike or if there is debris on the track. All is well so I wait for the mechanics to finish their job and I get on the bike. They push the bike again to help, but unfortunately, the bike still doesn’t start; it’s two on two for me. Stopped at the track entry, they played with the electrical connexion for the emergency stop button and then it was able to start. So I am finally back on the track.

My laps on the track goes well, I finish my 45 minutes without drama or mistake on the track. I get back in, eat, go see the osteopath and before heading to relax I pass by the box and ear that Johann had to push the bike back in the pit. He is already back on the track. So the electrical problem we faced since the beginning was a connection in the female part of the connector (the one on the bike). At least from that moment the electrical problem was finally over.

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