Jean Michel Bayle takes a trip down memory lane in America

This weekend’s MXGP of the USA at Glen Helen was preceded for Team HRC by a trip to American Honda for a look at the historic and iconic collection of motocross machines. For Jean Michel Bayle, it was the first time in 23 years that he’d been back to the very building where he cemented his legacy…

“It feels like coming back to the place where I became a little bit what I am, so it’s very emotional to be back again where I went every day to work on my bike and be with the team.

Jean Michel Bayle at the American Honda museum
Jean Michel Bayle at the American Honda museum

“Since coming back this time, there have been many memories. I went to the house I used to live in, in Redondo Beach. I went to some of the old running trails I used to use for training, spent time with my friend Danny LaPorte, went to the museum of Honda America to look again at all the old bikes, and just enjoyed being back in the same area again. It’s the first time I’ve been back here in 23 years, since I stopped racing in the USA.

Jean Michel Bayle at the house he lived in 23 years ago
Jean Michel Bayle at the house he lived in 23 years ago

“I was an HRC rider in Europe and 125cc World Champion when I first came to America. I went to race in supercross before the 1989 season, and when I came here, nobody came to Europe because the supercross championship was very different. So even as a World Champion I was like a beginner here. Of course it was difficult to show to people that I was able to race here so I had to show my talent to the people but also to American Honda. At the end of 1989 when I receive my contract with American Honda, even if it was a small contract and riding 125cc, I was so proud to be part of the family and the team. After I went on to win in 1991, but already to sign my first contract with American Honda was a big step.

“The history was already big when I came for the first time to Honda in America because I knew the story and the history of the team was very strong. We could see in the museum all the bikes of Johnny O’Mara, David Bailey, Ricky Johnson. I came just after that. When you see the results they had before I came, it’s not quite pressure but you feel like you have to do the same, at least. It’s great to see after me the bike of Jeremy, and all the titles he had. He rode with my bike in 1993 and 1994, so of course it’s nice to see all this and to have been a part of it.

From 1973 to 2015 - Honda's off-road machines
From 1973 to 2015 – Honda’s off-road machines

“When you are racing, you are in racing mode so you are focused on what you are doing and you don’t pay attention to all these kind of things. You try to put the emotion on the side because you don’t want any emotion to slow you down. But when you come back years after you see things differently and I think you have much more appreciation for it. That’s why for me to see all these bikes, and to know I was right in the middle of it all makes a great feeling.

“Of all the bikes we saw on Tuesday, my favourite is the no.6 CR500 of David Bailey. David was an exceptional rider. He had a very bad accident. His mechanic Cliff Whyte was working for him and after the accident he didn’t want to work any more in racing, so he was still working in American Honda but not in racing. When I got here in 1990 he accepted to work for me, so I know that this bike was tuned by my mechanic also. He was my favourite rider, David Bailey, with my favourite mechanic, so for sure it’s my favourite bike.

From 1973 to 2015 - Honda's off-road machines
From 1973 to 2015 – Honda’s off-road machines

“The proudest moment was to win the three main championships in 1991 as nobody did it before because it was so difficult to be present in the three championships all year. Many riders were winning in 250 or supercross, but they had some technical problems with the 500 or a crash or something. For me to be able to get the three championships in one year was very big.

“I appreciate it all more now, even the results on track, because now you can view the situation from more far so of course you see it differently. Also when I was racing, I always had a goal to go from race to race and always forward, so you didn’t want to look back and think about the past.

Team HRC and the Honda line-up at the American Honda museum
Team HRC and the Honda line-up at the American Honda museum

“Because of all that, my 1991 CRF means the most to me from my motocross career. I love this bike because I spent so many hours working on it. I like also the 1992 bike because it was a completely new CRF and we did a lot of work on the bike, changing the frame, and taking new ones on the plane to tests. So it was a lot of work, but after the bike won many championships with Jeremy so of course to know that I was a part of that makes me feel happy.

“Of course I have the same feeling working with HRC now; that’s why I said yes to come back. Honda is not only in motorcycles, they are racing everywhere. For me to be back working for HRC means something very important. I was racing for them, and now to be a part of the team again working for the young riders who will make the next piece of history is a very great feeling.”

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The storeroom at the American Honda museum
The storeroom at the American Honda museum
The 1973 Honda Elsinore raced by Gary Jones
The 1973 Honda Elsinore raced by Gary Jones