Rungis, 22 October 1972

Rungis is the fruit and vegetable market district, near Orly airport in Paris, frequented by youngsters on motorcycles, scooters and anything that moves. They would set up impromptu races over the weekend, often leading to fatalities, so the authorities decided to organise an official event. However, the multi-thousand-pound Grand Prix of Paris was a flop. Despite much effort by the organisers, it was outside influences that caused its downfall. Saturday practice was scheduled for 4.00 to 6.00 in the afternoon. The lorry drivers who use the market had promised to be finished in time but at four they had only just started to leave and so practice had to be cancelled. Even the practice scheduled for early on the following morning was late starting.

It was not a suitable site. In the market area there were drainage ditches across the circuit, let alone the slime left by rotten produce.

A crowd of 40,000 turned up but more than three times that had been expected. It rained most of the day and these hardy souls were reduced to boredom when only five of the 25 qualifiers for the Formula Libre race finished, which was won by Kent Andersson (350 Yamaha).

That evening ex-125cc world champion Dave Simmons was killed by an explosion in Jack Findlay's caravan. Findlay and his wife were away when his mother smelled smoke. She raised the alarm. Simmonds and Billie Nelson had doused the flames when the explosion occurred.

The Rungis experiment was never repeated.

Mick Grant remembers his ‘miscalculation' on one the course's jumps!

Rungis, on the outskirts of Paris, is better known as the fruit and vegetable market for the city, but one of my most vivid racing memories comes from the only motor cycle meeting ever held there.

It was the last international of the season and I was riding a works 750cc Norton, as were Peter Williams and Phil Read.

I'd had lots of trouble in practice and was near the back of the grid for the push start. Phil had told me how important it was to be up with them in the early laps, so I aimed to go up the inside line and outbrake the opposition.

There was a series of massive humps only half a mile from the start. As I approached them, there was a little group of riders in front, then Giacomo Agostini on the MV, then me, so I aimed to go ahead of Ago on the approach to the corner after humps.

But it wasn't that simple. Because I had little practice, I didn't really know where to start braking. It was just like being on a big Dipper; as I crested one rise, I could just see Ago on the next one.

Suddenly, I closed that gap. Then I decided it was time to brake. Ago had been braking hard by that time, but I hadn't and I found myself soaring through the air with both wheels off the ground and with both wheels locked. Not a situation to be recommended!

When Ago turned for the bend, I hit him amidships. As we crashed, it seemed like hours. Fortunately, there were no guardrails about - just lots of straw bales. When I picked myself up, I could see Ago's feet sticking out from the straw. I helped him up as he was muttering something about spaghetti, picked up the MV, which had only broken its screen, and gave him a push so that he could restart.

The crowd were yelling as I eventually restarted and I thought they might lynch me, but at the finish I realised that they were anti-Ago and I was their hero of the day.

And just to make the day complete, Ago retired with a puncture and later came to me brandishing a three-inch nail, which, I think, he thought had fallen off the Norton.

[Motor cycle News Racing Champions, 1975, ISBN 0850592232]

Click here to see a remarkable film of the event on YouTube.