Somer Hooker is a well-known and well-loved figure in the world of classic motorcycling – he’s an expert who judges for multiple events and writes for a wide variety of publications. He’s also suggested one of the most interesting Guess That Bike features I’ve ever shared.
I’m lucky enough to usually see Somer twice a year – once at Mecum Las Vegas, and once at the Quail, where he is the Chief Judge. You may also remember that I briefly got to see him (and a lovely Alfa Romeo of his) while on my cross country ride a couple of years ago.
Today, I’m glad to share a tale from Somer – his experience last year at a vintage festival in France. For a little bit of flavor, check out this video filmed by Loyce Hooker before you enjoy his tale. Try not to recoil in horror too much at 48 seconds:
Motos at Vintage Revival Montlhéry 2019
Photos and Story by Somer Hooker
Video by Loyce Hooker
6 years ago, a 23-year-old named Vincent Chamon started the Montlhéry Speed Revival to celebrate pre-war cars, motorcycles, and bicycles at the famed Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry track, south of Paris. He was a lot older at the end of the week! Montlhéry is a continuation in the tradition of banked tracks such as Brooklands in England and Monza in Italy.
With banking, vehicles are able obtain a much higher speed in a smaller area. The track was originally constructed in 1924, and events such as the French Grand Prix and Bol d’Or motorcycle race have been run here. The French government later took control of the track and it fell into disrepair, but happily it has been brought back with a focus on events for the “Anciennes.”
Like a fine French wine, this bi-annual event is now maturing into a favorite vintage with classic car and motorcycle lovers. The primary attraction is the ability to actually run your vehicle around the banked track. All vehicles must be inspected, and drivers, riders, and passengers are then checked (helmets snapped, gloves on) before being allowed onto the track. Then they are led around the track by a pace car. Not your usual “pace”, but one driven by a professional rally driver.
Vehicles are pretty much able to get up to full chat at their own comfort level. There are several lanes around the 1.8 mile circuit. A vehicle must be traveling in excess of 90 MPH in order to have enough centrifugal force to stay in the top lane. Gravity will bite you up there! The track angle is progressive and peaks at 52 degrees, unlike Daytona International Speedway which just has one angle. Participants now have to go through a series of chicanes to cool their ardor.
Entrants are attracted to Montlhéry from all over Europe, UK, Scandinavia, and some even from South Africa. Spectators from all over the world were present, too. As the meet has grown, clubs have begun setting up their own paddocks. Awards are given for best stand and even the most spirited drive! There is also a swap meet where you can find parts for vintage cars and motorcycles.
Motorcycle powered cars are very big in France. They arose in a quest for fuel economy and out of necessity. Many manufacturers would supply proprietary engines for installation by small manufacturers which was quite popular in a cash strapped startup company.
Any visitor to events like Retromobile in Paris will realize how passionate the French are about transportation. Some of the earliest designs and innovations in internal combustion engines were developed in France. They led at the turn of the (last) century in motorcycles, automobiles and aircraft. Sadly, a lot of their industries never recovered from World War II. Fortunately, many examples survived.
BMW R51RS Replica was also very fast.
This event grows 100% every year, but it is low key and casual so it’s still worth a visit.