Normandy Beach Race, Ouistreham, F
A Summer’s Day to Remember
Admittedly it was a little more than a day, we had to get there first of course, and Ouistreham in Normandy, France, isn’t just round the corner. But time is relative we all know, and more so at the Normandy Beach Race. Which is all about tearing up and down a big (at low tide) flattish piece of beach where they had marked off an 1/8 mile drag strip for bikes and cars. The time machine said "before 1947", and make sure you’re dressed in some period correct garb.
Period correct attire has been a W&W specialty for a long time, so no problem there. Let’s focus on the vehicle: Paul Jung, the engine behind our "The Cyclery" brand a while ago had spied a skeleton Harley on the Internets, kept a close watch on it, did some brisk haggling and had it shipped across the Atlantic ocean onto his workbench. In a months-long wrenching safari he turned the remains of a 1936 VLD Harley into a wild beach racer as a homage to motorcycle engineer and hillclimb racer Andrew Koslow. (the long story can be found in Greasy Kulture Magazine #94)
Back to Normandy. The proceedings
of such events always include a technical check before the actual racing starts. Even this was a riot, because they couldn’t find a better place for this than the square in front of the church :) After parking their roaring murdersickles for the check, riders took the opportunity to check out the competition and have a drink in one of the numerous corner cafés. No better place to watch the world vibrate by, while refreshing the parched innards with a cold bière blonde. Later it was huitres, moules frites and a well chilled glass of wine. All capped with a final Colonel (which translates as vodka with lemon sherbet).
Saturday was Race Day, and the weather gods
started it with rain, just to show everyone what they had up their sleeve. But then they lost interest, turned up the sun and left glorious sunshine to dry off the sand.
Then the gladiators entered the arena, and we found a nice spot close to the starting line. Which was great, ’cos the riders’ briefing took place right there. Soon the first flag dropped. Paul’s Koslow Racer wasn’t in the mood and it took a little coaxing to get it down to business. But finally Paul can roll to the startline, rockers rocking, exhaust snorting through the short headers. He’s off to a good start, but the sand, well ploughed by the cars, is proving difficult to handle. Under the semi dry surface there’s lots of boggy humidity. Accelerating with free spinning rear wheels is hard for the bikes. So Paul isn’t happy with his performance. Before the next start, he has to clean out all that sand from the inside of his carbs and secondary drive. Meanwhile our neighbour, old friend Speed McLean manages to steer his Knuckle rocket into the safety nets in the run off zone and has to abandon the race due to a hurting neck.
The Koslow racer isn’t happy as well,
only with difficulty can Paul restart the temperamental engine. Great, quick to the start line. The track has been freshly manicured in the meantime, so Paul can take off without too much wobble. But then the Koslow starts to scream, and Paul rockets past his competitor, only to be intercepted just before the line. This cries for a revanche match, but – the engine is dead, and stays dead. All kicking is in vain. Rien ne va plus.
We try to make the best of the situation, go and get a beer. For the first time we realise how many people have found their way on to this beach, there must be tens of thousands. The queues for refreshments are plenty long. Next surprise: NO BEER ON THE TRACK! That’s OK. What’s better, no one said anything about moving a little down the fence and handing over the beer there :) Standing and sitting around the Koslow with old (such as Charlie Lecach from Nice) and new friends, we chat, sip the beer, have our eardrums destroyed by absurdly loud machinery and enjoy an epic summer day, enclosed in a time bubble that oscillates (pretty loud and fast) between the dream of a world full of style and fun and a Hollywood movie set (with too many George Clooneys in it).
Not counting the unfortunate mishap of a Harley rider, who ended up in hospital (but her husband later announced her to be OK), two piston engined fighter planes engaged in simulated dogfighting over the venue and the enduring fine weather there were no special highlights, because EVERYTHING at the Normandy Beach Race was of such a high level. Even our repeat performance of having oysters, mussels and wine was top notch. Again. While the others went back to the track the next day, we hit the road, equipped with fresh croissants and steaming coffee, headed for home. Au revoir, Normandy Beach Race!