Photos & Musings: Grands Prix

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The Brou double

These photos are the only ones I have of the massive double jump at Brou, during the 1990 French Grand Prix. This was a huge double which I was the only rider to clear.

I had raced at Brou several times previously at their regular Bank Holiday Monday International. However we always had a British Championship race on the previous day so we only ever arrived at Brou in the middle of the night. Such a hectic schedule previously prevented me from sizing up this particular jump.

But, in 1990 we had the GP there. So, with two hour-long practice sessions (and some sleep the night before) I had more of a chance to check it out.

It was a short steep hill, which levelled off, and went flat for about a hundred feet or so, where there was then a second, smaller jump. You can see the rough layout in the second photo.

The take off is the hill in the centre, with the white-suited marshal. The landing is out of shot to the right of Jeff Leisk. What everyone normally did was ride up the hill, brake hard and plop off the top, before gassing it hard to the next jump – like the Honda rider is doing in the photo. The take off ramp was really steep so it was a real sky-shot, and jumping low and short was ideal to get on the gas early.

I was pretty good at jumps, and I’d always figured that it might be possible to fly the whole thing - hit the hill hard and sail over the second jump. But, it would be very, very high. If you look at the angle of the take off hill in the photo and imagine hitting that wide open you can see how high it would shoot you.

During the first couple of laps of practice I’d tried jumping a little bit further to gauge how far and fast I would need to go but doing anything other than just rolling over the top had been a really hard, almost vertical landing. There wouldn’t therefore really be any opportunity to build up to it bit by bit. It was ‘jump all the way or nothing’, because flat-landing short, or worse, casing it, without the down-slope of the second jump to soften the landing, would probably snap the bike in two.

On about the third or fourth lap of first practice I had some space around me and, in a split second decision I just thought ‘what the hell’ and blasted it. I came out of the corner hard in second, shifted into third before the hill and seat-bounced it as hard as I could, wide open in third on my CR500. I went up and up, head right up in the trees, and, after what seemed like ages, nailed the back side perfectly.

I was completely amazed, both at my own bravado, and how perfect it had worked out. I heard nothing from the crowd though, probably because they weren’t expecting anything. I stopped across the valley and watched, waiting to see who else was doing it, but nobody did. After about ten minutes I went off for some more laps and stuck it a couple more times, from different lines. I didn’t want to over-do it in case anybody stole my hot trick. However, by then the crowd were egging me on every lap.

After practice word had got around. Kurt came over and said “Tell me about this jump then Rob”. “What jump?” I lied. It didn’t work. In qualifying Kurt, Thorpe, Leisk and others all stood up on the hill adjacent to the double to watch. You can see them in the third photo.

In qualifying I did it again and posted fastest lap for a long while before being overtaken, but still qualified easily. The crowd were going crazy every time!

Problem was, in trying to take the previous corner tighter and tighter in search of fast laps I cased it a couple of times. The landing was safe, but hard, and after qualification we discovered that the Honda’s frame had stretched an inch. The bike was like a Harley, with the forks pushed out front by a good two inches. We had to therefore go through a frantic frame swap that night to get one good race bike for Sunday.

In the races I did the jump a couple of times, but in traffic it was a little scary with other riders 25 feet below, and also the track got quite rough before it. Nonetheless, it was still a very cool thing to have done.

On the day I didn’t actually do too well. I think I scored some points but not big ones. Bad starts and so on. It was cool to be remembered for this jump, and people still mention it to me today, nearly twenty years later, but to be honest, I’d much rather have won the race!

Launching the Brou double in qualifying. Enlarge image

The take off, in the centre, with the Honda rider going away from the camera. Enlarge image

From behind, with GP star spectators on the hillside. Enlarge image

Another shot of the circuit, showing the take off (A) and the landing (B) Enlarge image