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Meeting Johnny and Jonathan Cecotto again after 3 years at Dijon...

Saturday June 2nd and Sunday June 3rd Dijon, France
It had been almost 3 years ago since I had met Johnny Cecotto. Since I had stopped with my photography activities in the end of 2014 and cancelled my other website of Motorsport Motions I didn’t visit events a lot anymore. The last time I met with Johnny was at the races of Jonathan in Formula 4 back in August 2015. Now I finally had more time again and we planned a trip to Dijon in France to meet up with Johnny Cecotto as he would compete at the Coupes Moto Légende at the Dijon Prenois circuit on June 2nd and 3rd. In 2014 I also visited this event when Johnny was there and at that time I was compared by my daughter Lindsey. My wife Carolien was a bit jealous back then so now she wanted to come along with me. First I had to try to get press passes for me and Carolien. After some contact with Sabrina Ramessur from LVA, the organiser of the Coupes Moto Légende, I received 2 press passes for us and a parking ticket. I want to thank Sabrina for her cooperation in this. We booked ourselves a small apartment in Dijon and on Thursday we drove for a 700 km trip to Dijon so we could enjoy the city itself on Friday. A nice city for sightseeing for sure and it was good to have some time for ourselves to relax because the weekend would be full of work at the Coupes Moto Légende. In the evening last preparations were done and we were ready to visit Johnny Cecotto and also Jonathan who would be there as well with his father. It was out of bed at 7.30 hours and after a shower and breakfast it was time to put all our camera’s in the car and get to the Dijon circuit. It was already crowded when we arrived there but we had the privilege to put our car at the VIP/Press parking lot which was right next to the circuit. With our passes already in hand we could get in easily and it was of to the press room to install our stuff there and to meet up with Sabrina Ramessur. With the cameras installed it was of to the Yamaha box where all the bikes were standing outside. I saw the Yamaha 500cc from 1981 on which Johnny would drive and it was the old bike of which Barry Sheene had ridden back then. That gave me a nice feeling as for Johnny and Barry were very close at the motorcycle racing days in the seventies. I informed Jonathan that we were at the box and it didn’t take long as for Johnny and Jonathan came to us to welcome us again after such a long time. It was great to see them both again after almost 3 years and it was a big hug as always when we meet. Johnny took seat on the Yamaha and I talked to Jonathan a bit. At 11.00 hours Johnny had to go to the autograph session some further up in the paddock. A lot of people gathered to get a sinature on the poster that Yamaha had brought for him. A lot of people also had their own books, photographs and posters with them to let it be signed by Johnny Cecotto. He possibly will have signed millions of times by now in his racing career I think. Now there wasn’t much time left for the first session for group B in which Johnny was part of. The “Motorcycle Grand Prix 350-750 till 1992 machines” group. He would ride together with drivers like Steve Baker, Hubert Rigal, Marcel Ankoné, Freddie Spencer and Wayne Gardner. Johnny came out of the Yamaha truck in his new leathers which I hadn’t seen before for real. It looks much more the same then his old design from the seventies. Great to see him in this design! He stepped on his Yamaha which had warmed up by the mechanics. As he wanted to leave he stopped and there seemed to be a problem with his boot. He couldn’t get the shifting pedal up and down with his boot. So they had to change the setting of the pedal so Johnny could get it done. It didn’t take that long though and he went of to the pré-grid. All riders gathered there and waited for the sign they could get on the track for their racing session. Jonathan had mounted his GoPro on the back seat of Johnny’s Yamaha. It always delivers a great movie of Johnny in action on his bike. Of they went and so I, Carolien and Jonathan went to the barrier on the straight just before the pit entry to take some shots of Johnny and the other racing driver. They passed here with almost 250 km an hour so it was a bit of an examination for me after 4 years not shooting photographs. But it seemed you never loose your skills as it worked out fine. It didn’t happen to be real action shots though so I planned another spot for the session later in the afternoon. In the media room there was a photographer who Johnny signed a lot of pics for earlier. It happened to be Mario Boettger from who I bought photographs many years ago. It was a surprise to meet him there in person. We had some good conversation in German. It was a multi-language weekend for me as I had talked in Dutch, German, French (a little bit) and English so far. We also dropped by at box 16 where Dutch rider Marcel Ankoné was located. That’s the great thing about these classic events, you can get close to the riders and machines just like it used to be man, many years ago in the seventies. It was a short talk though with Marcel because it soon was back in action again. At 14.50 hours the next racing session was planned for Johnny Cecotto. I tried to get as many shots of Johnny in all kind of angles near and on his Yamaha. It still is a strange feeling to be so close to him, something I could have never imagined of back in the days when he was my hero and idol. He still is though but now over the years I feel it more and more like we are friends. But I still try not to bother him that much as I visit an event where he has to drive. I don’t want to give him the feeling like there’s a kind of stalker around him. He still has to be focused on his riding although it’s not a real race. As they got away for the 2nd time this day to make their laps around the Dijon circuit me and Jonathan went to the last corner before the straight to get some action shot. Jonathan thought it was amazing to be so close to the action. He wasn’t used to get in this position as for he normally races on the track and not next to it. He joked he only seas this when he retires out of a race. We got some nice shots during these 20 minutes. It’s great to see how the big names of the past still drive their bikes at such a speed through the corners. Then it was back to the pit box where Johnny had given his Yamaha back in hands of the mechanics. That was it for the day. For now we said good bye to Johnny and Jonathan and got back to Dijon. We would get back early in the morning on Sunday for the 2nd day of the Coupes Moto Légende and I would bring in a present for Johnny. It was delivered a week before we had to leave for Dijon, so I had it with me. We got back to the apartment and went out for diner later in the evening. Afterwards I overlooked the photographs I had taken today and there were some nice shots to see. On Sunday morning it was of to the Dijon circuit again after we checked out of the apartment. It looked like there weren’t as much spectators as it did on Saturday. We thought it could have to do with the MotoGP at Mugello today. Who knows. Anyway we were going to have ourselves a fine day again here. We installed at the media room and I asked Johnny if he was at the circuit already. He was in the Yamaha truck and so we went there with my present. We sat together in the truck and I delivered Johnny my box in which there were 2 coffee mugs in his Yamaha 500cc design from 1979. I asked him earlier this year on Twitter if he wanted a cup of coffee out of this mug. He said: “Yes please!” And so I brought him 2 of these mugs. He and Jonathan seemed to like it very much. Johnny got me a key holder in Cecotto design which is another item to my Cecotto collection. We had a talk during some 20 minutes and then Johnny had to go for his autograph session again. Jonathan told me he and his dad would drive together in 2 weeks at the Nürburgring in a 3 hours race. That would be great to visit so that was something to over think for me. Meanwhile Jonathan arranged a scooter for us to get along the back of the track when Johnny had to ride his first session. Carolien would stay in the pit while Jonathan got her press jacket to be able to come with me on the circuit. After Johnny left the box on his Yamaha Jonathan and I stepped on the scooter. At the track I opened the gate with my photographers pass and of we went. With some 25 km an hour we drove to the end of the straight to the first right hand corner. There was an opening in the barrier and so I said to Jonathan to keep the inside or otherwise we would go on the track. Of course he knew that but I couldn’t resist to make a joke about that. We stopped there now and waited for the riders to come by. Meanwhile Jonathan tried to take some photographs with my bigger camera. It was funny to see him in this position which I normally have. After Johnny and his fellow riders had passed we went further on the scooter to the back of the track where they pass a little slower. There I gave Jonathan my smaller camera and we both could take pictures. Jonathan missed some of the action in some shots where only a part of the machines and riders were visible but he also took some nice ones of me while photographing his dad who passed me in the same photograph. One is shown in the gallery of this report. After a few laps Johnny stopped his racing session and we got back on our scooter. It took a while as for it wasn’t a fast bike but it was very funny to have Jonathan Cecotto as my private driver. I enjoyed it a lot. The scooter was handed back to the Classic Honda GP team from which Jonathan got it. Carolien and I walked further through the paddock to look at the other teams and machines. We dropped in at Marcel Ankoné who I had missed in the first session. I planned to take some action shots of him but he didn’t get by. It seemed his machine had broken down on the pré-grid as for his exhaust pipe was full of gasoline. His mechanics had something to do again. After this we got to the media room again to eat and drink. For the last racing session of Johnny Cecotto I awaited him at the end of the road to the pré-grid to get some different shots of him. He waved at me when he saw me but I had just stopped photographing him. The GoPro of Jonathan was now placed on the front of Johnny’s helmet. It made it a bit difficult for him to put his head down on the tank. It would give a completely different action shot though. After the session started we all got to the pit wall to watch. Jonathan said Johnny would do only 4 laps and then would come in. And so he did. He came into the pit and got back to the Yamaha box followed by us. We waited until Johnny had changed in the Yamaha truck. Jonathan already putted the luggage in their car. Johnny came out of the truck with his gear in a heavy bag. I joked to him that now I understood how he kept so fit. Carolien took some photographs of me and Johnny and after a while also Jonathan stepped in. If I wanted to come to the Nürburgring Johnny would arrange things for me he told. Now we said good bye to each other and we got to the media room to drop our jackets and track passes. At 16.00 hours we started our way back home to arrive at 23.30 hours, tired but pleased about our experiences of the weekend. Another 1500 kilometres were done these day’s. Now work started on going through all photographs. Picking the right ones and polishing them a bit. Making a report again was strange after such a long time. But all the time and money it takes to do this and meet up with the Cecotto’s makes it all worth while. And so here it is again. A new report on the Official Johnny Cecotto Fansite after a 3 year break. Probably there will follow a new report within 2 weeks from here as for I plan to go to the Nürburgring as well...
                                    Click here for the PHOTO GALLERY

Coupes Moto Légende Dijon 2018

at the pre-grid
Johnny Cecotto at full speed
Johnny and me