l  Copyright © 2002 until present  -  All rights reserved John Damen  -  Copyright  l
follow me on Facebook
Meeting Johnny Cecotto again after 2 years at Dijon in France...

Saturday May 31st & Sunday June 1st Dijon, France
It had been 2 years now since I met Johnny Cecotto in person for the last time at his house in Treviso when we were on holiday in Italy back in 2012. At the end of April I was contacted by the organisation of the Coupes Moto Légende event at the Dijon circuit in France. Johnny Cecotto was going to take part in their 2014 event and if I could help them with photographs of Cecotto which they could use. I was able to receive a press card for the event if I wished. Of course I gave them some photographs to use and after some contact between me and Johnny I decided to go to Dijon to make a report for this site and for my other site of Sport Motions. It would be at lot of work though and I could use some help with this. Mostly my wife Carolien helps me out but she wasn’t available now. My daughter Lindsey, who also met Johnny a lot in the years he compared Johnny jr. at the races, volunteered and wanted to go with me and meet Johnny Cecotto again. So I arranged 2 press cards for which I thank the LVA organisation of the Coupes Moto Légende. On Friday we drove to our hotel in Dijon and did a little sightseeing there. On Saturday it was of to the Dijon circuit to collect our passes and to meet Johnny Cecotto and Jonathan, his youngest son who also compared him, in person there. As we arrived at the Yamaha Motor France trailer of the Classic Racing Motorcycles Team, for which Johnny was driving, they already were there. To our surprise we also saw that Isabella and Julie were with them. We all said hello to each other and it was great to see them again after 2 long years! For Lindsey it even had been 8 years since she saw Johnny Cecotto in person for the last time at Spa Francorchamps 2006. When Carolien later on heard that the whole family was there she was a bit frustrated she wasn’t able to come with me.... The event of the Coupes Moto Légende at Dijon would be full of action for Johnny Cecotto. On both day’s there were 2 demonstrations on Grand Prix bikes for him, a few autograph sessions and a photo shoot with some big names in motorcycle racing. Next to Johnny Cecotto there were some other World Champions around the Dijon Prenois circuit. Names like Giacomo Agostini, Freddie Spencer, Steve Baker, Dieter Braun, Rodney Gould, Phil Read and Christian Sarron. And also names of racing drivers who didn’t get a title but for sure were some of the best as well like Korhonen, Coulon, Rigal, Fau, Saul, Schurgers, Ankoné and Bonera. Looking into the pit box I saw they prepared a Yamaha OW53 500cc from 1981 for Johnny. Not a bike he used to race himself but for sure a nice one to drive on. The name of Johnny Cecotto was put on the fairing and the bike also had the number 4 like he used to have in his own racing days. He had to an autograph session first at the Motul standin the paddock. Great to see how many people are still so interested in these motorcycle racing Grand Prix World Champions. But all were in a nice line to wait for their chance to get their autographs from their old time heroes like Agostini, Baker, Sarron, Read and of course Cecotto himself. After this the first session for the Grand Prix bikes of serie B was done. In this serie Grand Prix bikes from 350cc to 750cc older than 985 were demonstrated. Johnny drove his laps on the Yamaha 500cc and everything went well. I only made some pictures from him in the pit and driving away. I was going to make action shots of him later that day in the 2nd session. At 12.30 hours there was a photo shooting with some drivers at the pre-grid. Of course Johnny was part of that and together with him and Jonathan I walked to that spot. There were a lot of private old motorcycles lined up for their session. Johnny noticed me on a Honda CB 750cc bike and said that one was the first bike he ever raced on. I asked him to get over there and he stood next to the bike. I noticed the driver that this was Cecotto’s first bike and when he saw Johnny was standing next to him he went very exited. I made some pictures and of course the driver (Patrick Lagrange) would receive this capturing of his moment with Cecotto. While my Dutch friend Johan de Vries made some pictures of Freddie Spencer and Jim Redman on their bikes to promote the Classic event of Eext in Holland later this year all drivers arrived for their shoot. They got together with Spencer and Redman and so it became a little “GP Eext promotion photo shoot”. Back in the pit I assisted Jonathan who wanted to put his GoPro camera on Johnny’s bike to make footage of his laps around the Dijon circuit during the 2nd demonstration. Everything was fixed with help of the mechanic. I wanted to go to the back of the circuit to make pictures of Johnny Cecotto in action. I couldn’t find the way to get along the track and while almost no one speaks English (and I no French) it was difficult to get there. When I finally made it to the gate to enter the track it was locked up! You needed a key to get in......how annoyed I was. I got back to the pit where Johnny Cecotto was waiting to get on the bike but then it wouldn’t start. Hubert Rigal decided that Johnny would take his bike, a Yamaha TZ 750 from 1979. They fired up that machine and Cecotto got away with the 750cc bike leaving the 500 with camera in the box. A little frustrating for me but even more for Jonathan who had looked forward to his capturing of his dad on the bike. I made some pictures of Cecotto on the 750cc bike on the straight but that was all for me depending action shots. Almost right after this the World Champions had to go for another autograph session. This time at the Yamaha stand in the paddock. It was a bit unorganised, some round tables were put down and the massive public came from everywhere. From all sides they attacked the drivers and there was no more chance to get even close for me to make some decent pictures. It didn’t disturb me that much though because we had made them already in the earlier autograph session in the morning. We had to laugh a bit about how people tried to get to the drivers to let them sign their photographs, magazines, shirts, helmets and whatever. But great again to see how passionate people are regarding their old time favourites. We got some nice pictures of this funny situation. Back at the trailer Lindsey also had scored some t-shirt from Johnny and that always makes a lady smile! She also had a good time with Isabella and Julie. I was glad she was enjoying here stay here with me and the Cecotto family. I arranged some autographs on posters from Johnny Cecotto and Steve Baker for Helmut van Schijndel who runs the hotel “Bayrischerhof Tirol” at Ehrwald in Austria to put them into his “Stube”. Day 1 was over for us and we said goodbye to everyone. We got back to our hotel in Dijon to rest a bit and go down in the city to eat later that evening. I didn’t sleep that well at night. It bothered me I didn’t have any action shots so far and I had to make sure it wouldn’t happen to me again on Sunday. Next morning we checked out of our hotel and got to the Dijon Prenois circuit. I managed to get the last key of the entrance to the track at the media centre and that was a releasing feeling. It made my day already and everything was in my own hands now of making sure to capture the action later that day during the two sessions of the Grand Prix bikes. Again there was an autograph session first at the Motul stand where it was very crowded again. In the pit there was another Yamaha OW53 500cc from 1981 prepared for Johnny Cecotto with number 1 on it. Jonathan already had secured his GoPro camera on it into the cockpit. Now it was only hoping that this bike did it’s work and would fire up at the start. Isabella had given me a t-shirt of Johnny Cecotto which they had arranged for me as well. A nice thing to possess and to wear. Lindsey never had been close to a racing track before so we decided to go together towards the back of the circuit. We arrived in time for the first session of smaller GP bikes from 50cc to 350cc. Although Lindsey did not have the proper lens on her camera to take marvellous action shots she did well. While she was standing between the “S des Sablières” and the “Gauche de La Bretelle” I moved around from place to place to get some different angle shots. Also when the session of the bigger ones started with 350cc to 750cc machines with Cecotto I moved a bit and took Lindsey with me to the end of the outer left bent towards the “Parabolique”. A nice view and some great action shots could be made here. We discussed our further working space for this day. I wanted Lindsey to make pictures of the pre-grid in the afternoon of both GP series. I would be going to the inner side of the circuit at the “Gauche de La Bretelle” to take inside shots of the drivers. It should be a great view as well over there. Since Lindsey would like very much to be there too I decided to do another session of the other competitors at this moment at the inner side of the track. We asked permission to cross the track after Cecotto’s session was done. After the track was cleared we walked to the inside of the mentioned curve. The side cars were on the track now and it was a marvellous sight to see them scratch through this downwards left side curve. The passengers almost touched the track with their helmets. A big smile was on our faces at this point of view and also on that from a colleague photographer. I even got more respect for these guy’s and girls now as I did already! After this there was a break between all the events and we got back to the media centre to eat and drink. At 13.45 I got back to the inner side track while Lindsey would do the shooting at the pré-grid. First another session of old motorcycles was done before both Grand Prix sessions would come again. It was nice to see how these men (and women?) drive these old bikes around the marvellous Dijon Prenois circuit. A lot of spectators, nice weather, great bikes and a lot of big names of the World Championship motorcycle racing history. What more could you ask for?! The first lap was always behind the safety car and all the drivers were together. Johnny Cecotto had the honour to be the first one to lead the rest of the field. They could wave to the public still in this very first lap but after that it was speeding up. If you think these guy’s are slow forget it. All of them still now how to treat the gas handle and breaks. Johnny Cecotto still does marvellous lines although he doesn’t drive like in his old days of course. He’s much older and has a family now which is most important to him. But slow?........NO. And Steve Baker and Christian Sarron were battling around as well. I shot some real nice pictures during these sessions at the inside Gauge de La Bretelle. Inthe last lap neither Cecotto and Sarron came through while Baker did. It got me a little worried. When I came back at the trailer there was no problem for Johnny, he had come in because of a slippery back tire in the last lap. Christian Sarron had crashed though but fortunate wasn’t injured except for a painful back and elbow. Jonathan asked me to look at this GoPro footage. That was fantastic to watch. He had filmed Johnny’s action from the front of the bike to the circuit and towards the man himself. He would sent me these and some other movies he had made during this weekend......GREAT!! It had been a long weekend for me and Lindsey as well as for the whole Cecotto family. We all wanted to get back home now while we all had to drive another 7 hours back home to respectively Holland and Germany. We made some photographs from all of us together which closed a marvellous weekend here at the Coupes Moto Légende at the Dijon circuit in France. We kissed and said goodbye to Johnny, Isabella, Jonathan and Julie and went to the media centre to return our press vests and key. We sat there for a short moment to drink and talk to the other Dutch Johan and Hennie de Vries. At 16.00 hours we said goodbye to them and Hélène Douphy, head of the organisation, and it was off for a long way back home. But it was a way home with a lot of nice feelings for both Lindsey and me. Thanks to the organisation for their cooperation, especially for Sébastien Garnier and Hélène Douphy, and of course to all the members of the Cecotto family for their kindness, hospitality and friendship. We hope to see the Cecotto family back soon, hopefully it won’t take another 2 years to do so. You can see another Coupes Moto Légende report on my other site of Sport Motions (in Dutch but with a large number of pictures)....

Coupes Moto Légende Dijon 2014

autograph session at Coupes Moto Légende
Johnny Cecotto on the 1981 Yamaha OW53
posing all together at Dijon