Interview: Vincent Philippe
Vincent Philippe is one of the most successful riders in the FIM Endurance World Championship’s history. Since 2003, he was riding for the the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, gaining 1o world titles and a total of 12 race wins in the supreme discipline of 24 hours races at Le Mans and the Bol d’Or. The Frenchman still has some plans going on – a dealership and some Dakar activity.
Here is a 10 quick-fire Q&A to Vincent Philippe:
What was your first bike?
“A 50cc Pee Wee my Dad occasionally rented for me. I was six or seven and I would do laps around the house. Then I had a 50cc Morini and then a 103 Peugeot with a race kit.”
When was your first race?
“I used to do hill races with my Dad in the moped class. My first time on the track was when I raced my first season in the Coupe TZR 125 at the age of 14 in 1992.”
When was the first time you thought ‘I want be a champion?’
“Very early on. It was my dream in secondary school, when I was around 11 years old. In high school I was so caught up in my dreams I had to repeat my first year, but I made up for it and got my diploma.”
Who are your champions?
“My bedroom was plastered with posters of bikes and riders like Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey. I’ve always really admired Mick Doohan. Then Valentino Rossi came along. I’ve even raced with him once, in the 125cc class in 1997 at Le Castellet where I got a wild card ride.”
What is your best race memory?
“That’s a tough one! You can’t have just one after all those years of racing. I remember key moments like being selected for the Equipe de France Espoir (Young French hopefuls team). It was the only way I could get from the French Championship to the World Championship. Then there was my first win at the 24 Heures Motos in 2003 with SERT. That was my first race with SERT. My first world championship title; that was a dream come true. But also, our last world title in 2016 with Anthony Delhalle, plus our last win at the Bol d’Or in September 2019.”
What is your worst race memory?
“Being with a teammate (Anthony Delhalle) in his final moments of life. That will always be my worst memory. I still find it hard to talk about it. Other than that, the worst thing is having to withdraw during the race because you’re injured or because you simply can’t go on.”
And if you had to do it all over again, what would it be?
“I’m not one to go back over things with ‘Ifs.’ I look ahead and I don’t regret anything, except maybe not having raced a full season in World Superbike. But I did the best I could with the means at my disposal.”
What would be your advice to any young rider?
“Have a taste for hard work. Motorcycle racing is fun and cool when you start out. But to get to high level racing you need to put in the work and persevere, and you have to be able to find the resources. I come from a modest background, so I wouldn’t normally have been able to take up this career. It’s even harder these days if you don’t have the means. But you have to keep believing and keep working.“
You’ve done Road Racing, Endurance, Supermotard, Enduro, Trials, Ice Racing and the Le Touquet beach race. Any sports missing from your track record?
“I’m looking at Rally Raid. I got interested in it a long time ago. I know it’s dangerous and it takes a lot of preparation, but it’s a personal and physical challenge that appeals to me. I’ll get down to it soon. This year I’m opening my motorcycle dealership in Besançon, but next year I’ll get my act together to compete in the Dakar 2022.”
How will you handle the change in pace and go from pro racer to motorcycle dealership owner?
“All the energy I put into physical training is going into setting up the dealership. But I’m not giving up motorcycling altogether. I’ve got my Dakar 2022 project, and I intend to enjoy myself doing two or three races in 2020, like the 24H Barcelona – I’ve never raced that one – and the Spa 6 Hours. I also plan to run some rider training courses and commentate at the Endurance World Championship races for Eurosport France.”
VINCENT PHILIPPE HISTORY:
10 World Titles: FIM Endurance World Champion in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016.
9 Bol d’Or wins: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2016 & 2019.
3 24 Heures Motos wins: 2003, 2014 & 2015.
2019: Winner of the Bol d’Or.
2004: 1st Bol d’Or win.
2003: 1st 24 Heures Motos win.
2000 to 2002: GP250 rider.
1999: 1st Endurance race.
1998 & 1999: French Open 250 Championship winner.
1996 & 1997: French Hill Climb Championship winner, 125 class.
1992 1st race: Coupe TZR 125.
Words from Video-Interview with Vincent Philippe can be found here.