The 79th Bol d'Or endurance motorcycle race, "Burning Man" for bikers maybe, is the mythical French motorbike festival that has in 2015 returned to the Provence sunshine of the Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet, just 35 km from Marseille. Traffic jams from hell, crazy motorbikers with overnight racing and music even louder!
The headline race, the Bol d'Or twenty-four hours endurance open class race with four riders in each team and headlights on the bikes, takes place from 15h on Saturday overnight in to Sunday. Effectively World Superbike machines with special preparation. Bikers of all sorts started turning up on Thursday evening as the Pinède camping started being populated by bikers of all sorts and from all over. The main parking, on the airport runway, accommodated at least 25,000 motorbikes by my estimation.
Music stage hosted bands playing in styles from Led Zeppelin covers to the headliners, HORD. A mythical sound system passed out bass that drowned out even the engine noise of the superbikes racing very close by on the track.
The winner of the Bol d'Or 2015, bike n° 11, Kawasaki SRC, took an early lead which the rider team of Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive et Fabien Foret maintained throughout. The BMW n°13 broke its chain; cheap quip: BMW never did understand chains... Disaster for UK team Honda Endurance Racing n° 111, including rider Julien Da Costa, who were forced to retire having been in contention for victory, due to engine overheating.
The road traffic was as mythical as the festival; a heavy police presence failed to avert gridlock. Just as in the festival, two wheels seized a priority over four wheels. Motorists acquiescing to the "Bike First" temporary rule of the road.
Friday's main event was the three hour Bol d'Argent endurance race. Just one rider per bike and limited to 800cc, with different classes for twin and four cylinder bikes. Victory to n° 21 Yani Todisco, Triumph Street Triple R of team Antibes Engineering
Official gate stated as 74,000. Strong British presence due to British riders and British bike preparation but almost impossible to follow any race in detail as there was no loudspeaker commentary provided, the FM radio was unusable due to crackle from the race engines, power generators and other interference. Race timing was not displayed on a screen anywhere that I found and wasn't on the Bol d'Or website. Even if there had been a timing app for phones, the 2G network (let alone 3G or 4G) was saturated with not even 2G SMS messages being received or transmitted.
Not to mention the toilets - someone mentioned "un bol d'ordure" - but on the naive expect clean toilets at a festival...