“A double edged sword”. Nothing sums up the French better than this notion. On one side of the blade you have the fine, the delicate and exquisite the French are renowned for, whether it be the great Masters, the Michelin chefs or the tallieurs, with their magnificent attention to detail. On the opposing edge is the brute fighting force of the French. Perhaps with its origins with the Espirt De Corps of the French Foreign Legion, whose members originate from over 140 countries and where “Français par le sang versé”, French by spilled blood, is the highest honor and a path to citizenship. This edge of the sword makes the French amongst the most feared adversaries in sports like Rugby, and war.
So, I theorize that it is the two edged sword of MotoGP that attracted a legions of French fans in record numbers to witness the refinement and brutality of the world’s most dangerous Motorsport, Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Let’s explore my theory. First and foremost is Esprit de Corps. Those feelings of loyalty, devotion and commitment to a group, perfectly sum up the two wheeled brethren of the modern motorcyclist. They share the passion of speed, freedom and the elements and the brotherhood of like mindedness. Bring to this party the fine meticulous detail of the execution of the ride. Jorge Lorenzo
demonstrated such a display today, taking his pole position start, the reward of a circuit lap record, and capitalizing on it with an incredible start and a flag to flag dominance which would see him gap his nearest and greatest rival, Valentino Rossi by over 10 seconds.
Behind Lorenzo however was the other edge of the sword, the brutality of hand to hand combat, of “Français par le sang versé" Where the chasing riders were engaged in a bruising and bloody fight for the podium and points. Unlike 4 wheeled Motorsport where the
combatants may bump doors, push and shunt, the pilots of the MotoGP field physically clash into corners. Where a collision of bodywork means body on body contact, not fender on fender.
The French Grand Prix delivered displays of such gallantry a’plenty and would see more than a third of the field fall from their mounts as they pushed them beyond the limits of traction. In doing so, they did not earn scorn from the crowd, but the affection and adoration that comes with the spilling of blood for France. Every rider who competed today earned and received the respect of the crowd. This was evidenced in the paddock as the fans would seize every opportunity for a photograph with one of the riders, regardless of the allegiance displayed on their hats or shirts.
The Le Mans Grand Prix will be well written about and dissected by pundits for the performance of the bikes and their riders, the tires, the weather and the other factors which contribute to the outcome. When taking the opportunity to reflect on the weekends racing, my
mind drifted not to the track, but to the stands and the village, to the camp ground and the fence lines. In doing so I came to understand why the French are such passionate fans. It has a lot to do with the national psyche, passion and the “esprit de corps” that makes the French the most wonderful of friends, and the most formidable of opponents.