This is an anniversary year for the Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki. Thirty years ago Damien Saulnier was an aspiring motorbike champion. He was accepted into the Sport-Etude class in the Le Mans Sud Lycée whose training course was run by Jean-Claude Chemarin, three-time winner of the 24 Heures Motos and 4-time winner of the Bol d’Or! Ten years later, Saulnier created the complementary training course for racing motorbike mechanics in the same school just beside the famous Sarthe circuit.
On the one hand, the ten trainees selected each year at BTS level (two-year post A level degree) are trained in the workshop. On the other, they work on bikes that race in the FIM World Endurance Cup and the French Superbike Championship. Hard work, learning new things and abnegation are all part of the programme and sometimes their efforts are rewarded by a podium finish.
At the 24 Heures Motos, Damien Saulnier bumps into several former trainees in the pitlane. “As long as they find jobs with the big teams the training course retains its raison d’être,” says the Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki team manager. “When I welcome them I explain to them that I just want normal guys who arrive with a smile on their face, have a solid head on their shoulders and have their mojo working all day long. I also tell them that although it won’t be easy they’re going to live a great human adventure and achieve their fill of experience and know-how. What are the key words in racing? Common sense, logic, memory and concentration. There’s no room for mistakes in our sport and I’m beginning to be able to suss out what kind of error they are likely to make. So I can anticipate.”
After the master, the pupil: twenty-year-old David Boulanger comes from a family of bikers. “I first rode a motorbike when I was three years old. You start off by riding, then you have to clean the bike, look after it and you get more and more interested. Then you realise that you can transform your passion into a job. It goes even further and becomes a way of life in the daytime, at night, at the weekend, etc. It doesn’t put me off.” What he expects from training in the Junior team is that it will help him to acquire all-round skills and become independent. “Joining the world championship in Moto2 or MotoGP and in the long term become a team manager are my goals.”
The no. 72 Suzuki finished the 24 Heures Motos eighth overall and third in the Superstock category. The Junior team is now lying second in the FIM World Cup.
Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki has been technically supported by Motul for many years. Motul is also supporting The 24 Heures Moto and the FIM EWC.
Photo Credit: © Lukasz Swiderek and Romane Didier