Bercy SX - Grand Old Lady

Posted on October 09, 2019

The Paris (Bercy) Supercross has a long and successful history started in the centre of the city, at the Palais Omnisports in the area of Bercy. It wasn’t just any old supercross, but the most exciting supercross in the World.

Massive mechanical robots would bring the riders into the stadium. The best riders in the World, both indoor and outdoor would race this magical event. And the winners list is a who’s who of the sport. It wasn’t strange to see the American supercross kings going head to head with the leading Grand Prix riders, who were clearly outgunned, but turned up anyway, just because it was Bercy.

I visited my first ever Bercy in 1993, some nine years after it had begun, but fortunately the start of the Jeremy McGrath era. I remember how excited I was, and how cool the whole atmosphere was inside the Bercy stadium.

I visited this race every single year until it moved away from Paris and to the city of Lille in 2015. Bercy had slowly and surely lost its appeal, even in the incredible Palias Omnisports, a stadium that had gotten old and outdated and with rider costs becoming ridiculous, this grand old lady was on a walking stick and oxygen tank.

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That first trip in 1993 was pretty special, as I had only been living in Europe for about eight months, and a couple of months earlier attended the MXoN in Austria, and had started working for a handful of European, Australian, New Zealand, Japanese and American magazines.

I remember taking the trip down with one of my best friends who was visiting from Australia and parking our car in the paddock area of the stadium. We arrived in the middle of the night on Thursday, and after moving some fencing found a nice little spot just 10 metres from the entrance to the paddock area. Of course, being from Australia we figured that would be okay, not realizing that this Bercy supercross was such a big affair. Anyway, the car remained there the whole weekend, but I laugh about it now, because as a more experienced media guy, I would never try such a thing again.

So with our car in a great position (the car also worked as our hotel), I woke up on Friday morning and after a good breakfast, we headed to the credential area to find out we actually had to have organized media passes, of which I hadn’t even asked. So, after acting like I had travelled 20,000 kl to cover the race and needed passes, I was given media passes for the weekend, something again, I wouldn’t even try now, even though I know most of the credential people at this event.

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I remember entering the Palias Omnisports as the riders started their afternoon practice. It was surreal, this stadium I had read about for years was everything I had expected, but the biggest memory was seeing Jeremy McGrath flying around the small stadium circuit. Only a couple of months before I got the see “supermac” racing in the MXoN for the first time, and to be honest, I had been out of motocross for a couple years, instead travelling around Australia with my Dutch girlfriend and then moving to Europe, and obviously McGrath had burst onto the scene and was just coming off winning his first major AMA title, with the AMA 250 SX championship. I feel pretty lucky to say for the next decade I could follow his career, just as I followed the greatest Grand Prix rider Stefan Everts. Damn, what an era that was!!

Anyway, McGrath was doing laps with Jeff Stanton, the man he had removed from the AMA SX crown, and even in practice they seemed to be testing each other. Stanton the defending King of Bercy up against this brash and amazingly skilled youngster. Team-mates at Honda and both desperate to walk away from Bercy with a crown on their head.

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Many great Bercy’s followed, as Jeff Emig ruled the AMA SX in 1997 and he arrived in Paris with that very cool green Shift gear, or when Chad Reed arrived on the scene and tried to push his hero Jeremy McGrath into the stands. Or the era of David Vuillemin, when he dominated the event and sent the crazy French fans into hysteria.

In 2015 the event moved to Lille in the north of France, and my love-affair with this event had already died, those final years in Bercy were worn out and rather boring, at least compared to the golden era of the event in the 1980s and 90s.

Now back in Paris, the event has found its legs again, and this year has a strong field (at least for this era), and with the stadium circled by Paris, once again this is an event worth attending. Below are the events promoter’s thoughts on those early years of the Bercy Supercross, up until my first trip in 1993.

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MARCH 14 & 15, 1984: Freshly inaugurated, the Palais Omnisports of Paris Bercy is invaded by land trucks! The track of the first Supercross of Paris Bercy is born, and the Parisian public receives a shock since never again such a spectacle had come to him. Cheerleaders, rock and roll, light shows, animations and stars of European cross and American supercross are at the rendezvous. Americans ridicule Europeans, some of whom are convinced that they use very special motorcycles (for example with a special two-speed gearbox) for the occasion. Johnny O'Mara and David Bailey, two legends of the American cross are needed as a young kid named Ricky Johnson becomes the darling of the public through his sense of the show.

4 & 5 DECEMBER 1985: As the dollar climbs to highs (10 francs), the success of the event is not fading. The track has progressed further, and the French technicians now master all the ingredients (and especially the whoops who do not destroy themselves over the course of the turns) that allow the show to progress. A big effort is made on the presentation (while it is reduced to its simplest expression in the US) and American drivers treated stars are thrilled. They still dominate the situation, but the Europeans are pointing the corner: the Belgian Georges Jobé wins a semifinal and the Dutchman Dave Strijbos gets on a podium. The French are not left out: ten of them qualify in the semifinal on the second day, and a race is reserved for them so that they can progress even faster.

3, 4 & 5 DECEMBER 1986: In order to satisfy the public, a third evening is added and the ever more sophisticated show is telling the number 1 American David Bailey "Even if it is part of our championship, Bercy is definitely the largest supercross in the world ". It must be said that the Americans only meet such an atmosphere once a year in the Paris cauldron, and that they are particularly motivated for this event. The laser makes its appearance in the show, as the serious cement makes its appearance in the whoops and the starting grid now falls to the drivers. Not to bother the Americans who trample all the steps of the podiums.

2, 3 & 4 DECEMBER 1987: This time the American journalists arrive to discover this test which their pilots do not stop talking "at home". The show impresses them, especially as we touch the grandiose using the giant hand (used at a concert by Johnny Halliday) to introduce Ricky Johnson, the darling of the POPB. It will also be the year Johnson, since Ricky won at two evenings, but the French who have just played their first championship in France specialty are more than ever present; the third night, a certain Jean Michel Bayle takes place on the final podium.

30 NOV, 1 & 2 DECEMBER 1988: The pattern of races is now modeled on that of American supercross (three qualifying series instead of four) for this sixth edition. Guy Cooper makes a superb show and wins a final, while Jean Michel Bayle reaches the three finals but only manages to climb on one podium. No matter, we know that his time is near because he has long led a final before stalling stupidly on a jump. Besides Cooper, Ron Lechien and Ricky Johnson win in the final and confirm the invincibility American even if the Americans have felt the danger come with the performance of Jean Michel Bayle who has the POPB behind him.

29 & 30 NOVEMBER / 2 & 3 DECEMBER 1989: While once again the problem of saturation on the public side, the organizers decided to add a fourth evening, with a break of one day between the second and the third evening (break during which one modifies the circuit that the drivers will then follow in the opposite direction). The provincials are delighted because the event now includes a weekend, and Jean Michel Bayle arrives with his first big success in supercross, in Tokyo. He climbed three times on the podium, taking a nice second place behind Damon Bradshaw (who becomes the youngest winner of Bercy) the second night. Another Frenchman, Yves Demaria (who is playing his second Bercy) is also noticed by leading two finals. But the event of Bercy VII, it is indeed the first success in the final of a non-American: the Australian Jeff Leisk, certainly formed in the United States, is essential indeed during the last evening.

28 & 29 NOVEMBER / 1 & 2 DECEMBER 1990: Two important innovations for this eighth edition of the Supercross Paris Bercy; plateau side, appearance of a category 125 in addition to the traditional 250, which leads to a change in the race pattern (elimination of semi-finals). On the airside, after having exploited all the possibilities offered by the meagre surface available in the POPB (46.10m x 82.90m), we innovate by taking the corridors of Bercy; the motorcycles disappearing from the public view, the race is relayed in the hall on giant screens. Just arrived from his first full season in the United States (he ranked eighth in the supercross championship), Jean Michel Bayle finally wins Bercy. Not one, but three consecutive wins and only Jeff Stanton prevents him from achieving the first grand slam in the history of Bercy. The Americans are dominated and save only two successes (Stanton in 250 and Craig in 125), Stefan Everts winning in 125, a category which will have convinced and that one will review henceforth every year.

14, 15 & 16 NOVEMBER 1991: The riders do not want to hear about four nights of racing, so we come back to the three traditional nights and all the US stars are at the rendezvous. Stars who will take their revenge on Jean Michel Bayle, who has just humiliated them by winning the three American titles. Damon Bradshaw and Larry Ward win the first two nights, but Bayle reacts and concludes the Bercy IX on a success. In 125, Yves Demaria won the first night before staring at US supercross star Jeremy McGrath. We'll talk about him again.

13, 14 & 15 NOVEMBER 1992: For his tenth birthday Bercy has invited the American stars who made his reputation (O'Mara, Bailey, Johnson, Glover, Laporte) and the American cheerleaders. to party and salute Bayle's career leaving the field for the world of speed. This Bercy X, which is disputed according to an unprecedented scheme (three finals per category) will see Jeff Stanton take revenge on Bayle, who nevertheless leaves Bercy on a last success acquired hard struggle against his former teammate. The Americans have taken their revenge, and collect also while 125 or Mickael Pichon offers himself, at 17, his first podium. A page of history is turning ...

12, 13 & 14 NOVEMBER 1993: Bercy attacks his second decade with the same success since the event is once again full house. Quite discreet in 1992, Jeremy Mc Grath returns to the panache of his first outing to Bercy and signs two brilliant successes that honour his number one plate. But he also fails in his grand slam attempt, his teammate Jeff Stanton blowing him the last success after having done well throughout the three nights. In 125 Mickael Pichon is put in value is needed despite a good resistance of the young Ryan Hughes.

KINGS OF BERCY

2014       Bercy XXXII         Eli Tomac             USA       Honda

2013       Bercy XXXI          Justin Barcia       USA       Honda

2012       Bercy XXX            Jake Weimer      USA       Kawasaki

2011       Bercy XXIX          Kyle Chisholm    USA       Yamaha

2010       Bercy XXVIII       Justin Barcia       USA       Honda

2009       Bercy XXVII         Justin Brayton   USA       Yamaha

2008       Bercy XXVI          James Stewart   USA       Yamaha

2007       Bercy XXV           Chad Reed          AUS       Yamaha

2006       Bercy XXIV          Christophe Pourcel          FRA        Kawasaki

2005       Bercy XXIII          Andrew Short    USA       Honda

2004       Bercy XXII            Andrew Short    USA       Honda

2003       Bercy XXI             David Vuillemin FRA        Yamaha

2002       Bercy XX              Grant Langston ZA           KTM

2001       Bercy XIX             David Vuillemin FRA        Yamaha                              

2000       Bercy XVIII          David Vuillemin FRA        Yamaha                              

1999       Bercy XVII           David Vuillemin FRA        Yamaha                              

1998       Bercy XVI             Larry Ward USA Suzuki                  

1997       Bercy XV              Jeff Emig USA    Kawasaki                            

1996       Bercy XIV             Ryan Hughes USA            Kawasaki                       

1995       Bercy XIII             Jeremy McGrath USA     Honda               

1994       Bercy XII              Mike LaRocco USA           Kawasaki

1993       Bercy XI                Jeremy McGrath USA     Honda                 

1992       Bercy X               Jeff Stanton USA               Honda                 

1991       Bercy IX               Jean-Michel Bayle FRA   Honda                 

1990       Bercy VIII             Jean-Michel Bayle FRA   Honda                 

1989       Bercy VII              Ricky Johnson    USA       Honda

1988       Bercy VI               Jeff Ward             USA       Kawasaki

1987       Bercy V               Ricky Johnson    USA       Honda

1986       Bercy IV               David Bailey        USA       Honda

1985       Bercy III                Johnny O'Mara USA       Honda

1984       Bercy II Johnny O'Mara (December 1984) USA   Honda

1984       Bercy I David Bailey (March 1984) USA Honda