Equipe37 to start at Chimay for the first time
We already told you that the 3-Landen-Cup grew to the International Road Racing Championship. Newly added has been a race in Chimay as a part of the traditional „Open Trophy“, not far away from the Motocross track of Namur. Maybe even more famous instead is the beer brewed by the trappists, belgian monks, which shows quite high revs even for german means and is incredible compared to the belgian beer you know from Spa-Francorchamps: Chimay bleue contains 9 %! We will tell more later on.
The weekend started for the rider / mechanic combination Axel / Smoke with nice coffee and cake at their mother’s birthday. Such invigorated we started towards Belgium passing heavy cloudbursts. Inspite of some adversities, especially the traffic queues on the Luxemburg ring motorway, finally Equipe37 reached it’s destination. In the end the last 100 metres became a bit tricky, because our accomodation was concealed very well. We were even more excited when we entered it: „Château de Tromcourt“, an old manor house from the 17. century, which now is a luxurious Bed & Breakfast, run by a part-time belgian advocat and his wife. Even the smallest room is big enough for a characteristical prefabricated East-Berlin appartment; there is no typical b & b furniture; a parlour, you’d like to have and an abundant breakfast compared to the regular ones in french speaking areas! Anyway: all is right with the world over here: not even the front doors are locked up!
In the evening we had dinner at the „Brasserie Jeanne“ in Couvin and realised - as we already did during our trip through the Ardennes - how beautiful the area is. It clearly has to be said, that next year the Open Trophy at Chimay has to be combined with a short holiday.
And the positive surprises carry on: Using tiny paths we drive to Chimay; again one picturesque village after another, manor houses in between and churches and a massive untouched forest. And then the arrival at the track: a broad paddock and even the start and finish straight an eye catcher. And the best of all: sunshine in the Ardennes! Did you ever have this in Spa-Francorchamps?
Quickly the tent has been built up, then the bike was brought to the scrutineering. Afterwards practise started. Axel signed in - just like in Oostende - for the belgian superbike championship, too; so he had 4 practise sessions and 4 races again. Those four sessions are really necessary: the course has 4 chicanes and a real fast set of bends (Virage du Beauchamp / Descente Vidal), which have to be learned by heart. Axel’s speed is increasing constantly, but there’s still room for improvement. The bike is running well, only the oil pressure control is flickering sometimes; so the engine gets a pint, just in case!
Practice day ends with sunshine; the bike is covered with Mr. Sheen and petrol has been refilled, new tires are on. So we drive to the center of Chimay, but the monastery of the trappists is closed. Afterwards we went to a supermarket with a french touch, where Axel bought Chimay Blue, Blanche und Rouge, one bottle each, and a magnum bottle „Champagne“ for the use at the Speedweek in Oschersleben. I’m curious what will happen, when we use the stuff to celebrate our finish in the 8-h-race? Accordingly we look for a restaurant and find one between an italian tavern and a belgian snack bar. While all german competitors seem to eat pizza and Chimay obviously is queuing up at the diner, Equipe37, attracted by the fish and seafood menue, enters the „Chaudron d’Or“, situated directly at the Place Leopold, named by the famous conqueror of the Congo. Scalloped oysters, scampi, catfish and scotch fillet as well as a fine selection of raw milk cheese set the full stop to a perfect Saturday, while the team of GMT 94 dines aside of us: GMT means „gourmet“, maybe!
After a catlick again we go to Chimay; the first heat is quite late, but the paddock is on the inside of the course; so coming late is a bit of a risk. It’s time to have a pit walk, buy souvenirs and chat with the people one knows. Even Patrick van Gils, who retired from racing, came along; additionally his old chief mechanic, who has been taken for Patrick’s father by Smoke, who apparently has been confused from too much sunshine. Actually Franco Martinel, the old (take it literally) side car racer, was there. So time is passing by and soon the riders for the first IRRC race have been called. Axel is not satisfied at all, because he couldn’t improve the way he wanted to.But three other races will follow. And they were a doozie! Eleventh place twice in the belgian superbike championship, this is not just remarkable for a guest competitor. Also in the second heat for the IRRC the increasing experience of rider Axel showed some effect. In particular the fast part of the course downhill towards start and finish was a pleasure for him, it reminded him of the mountain course on the Isle of Man. Other riders took delight in this course, too; first of all TT-veteran Dirk Kaletsch. And also the others like Matthias Dax and Niklas Pfeiffer had fun.
While the other german competitors, who just had signed on for the IRRC, packed their trailers and vans and queued up for the exit of the paddock, Axel enjoys his last race. Then we did our packing and in the end Equipe37 is going home. We drive to the darkness and coffee keeps driver Smike awake; but in Mannheim, where he had to catch the last ICE of the day, he got lost. A short sprint and the train has been reached in time. After a nighttime travel he went to work on Monday, just like Axel, who had the opporunity to take some sleep before, after arriving at our team’s main office.
The next weeks will be used to prepare ourselves and the bike for the German Speedweek. From there wou will get our next notes!
Smoke’s point of view
The weekend in Chimay was absolutely fantastic! Unfortunately just a core team (Axel and me) is travelling towards this event. Even the way to Chimay was a revelation: the scenery, the picturesque villages, the ancient churches and town halls, immediately we knew, that here we had to spend some additional days off next year. And the race itself, which we didn’t know before, was marvellous.
Everything well organised, the paddock a dream for the mechanics and Axel’s kind of race track. Of course we drank the famous monk’s beer, but the monastery we didn’t see, because we were too late after a long day on the course and in the paddock. Thinking about this, it makes me sad and I really hope, that the next season is the great healer.