Words: Alan Cathcart Photographs: Kyoichi Nakamura
Rider-engineers are a rare breed – especially those who are equally expert at thinking freshly, designing and competing on their creations at the highest level.
What we have here is an exquisite example of the multi-handed art.
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Britain’s Peter Williams is rightly thought of as the paragon of such talented virtuosos, and by personally conceiving the John Player Norton Monocoque, which he then rode to victory in the 1973 Isle of Man TT, he’s made sure of his place in the record books for all time.
But there’s another much less well-known figure – at least outside his native France – who in this, his 80th birthday year, deserves comparable admiration – especially since he was racing his own self-conceived monocoque-framed bike to 500GP rostrums two years before the first Williams-designed Norton Monocoque ever turned a wheel. That man is Eric Offenstadt, universally known as Pépé, and he actually turned out to be even more multi-talented than Williams.
That’s because his admittedly less successful motorcycle race career than PJW’s bracketed a spell as a top level open-wheel F2/F3 car driver racing for such illustrious teams as Matra and Team Lotus, in which he defeated the likes of future world champions Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark, before returning to motorcycle racing to pick up where he’d left off eight years earlier.
His decision to return to two-wheeled competition came about thanks to a chance meeting with an old friend at the Stand 14 café in Paris, opposite the butcher’s shop run by Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s dad, which was where all Parisian two-wheeled road racers hung out.
During the eight years Eric was away racing cars, his chum Xavier Maugendre’s SIDEMM company, founded in 1968, had become highly successful French Kawasaki importers.
Read more and view more images in the March/April 2019 issue of CR – on sale now!