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Jean-Louis Tournadre, the unlikely 250cc World Champion!!!

Text: Mauro Tedeschi

A few days ago my friend Silverio reminded me that among the few private riders who were able to win the world title in motorcycling, it was also necessary to include the Frenchman Jean-Louis Tournadre, a name that is little known these days...

A very strange, almost incredible story, of the Clermont-Ferrand rider who was a postman by profession and then devoted himself at weekends to his great passion for motorcycling... After winning the 750 national title in '79 at just 21 years old, the following year he made his debut in the World Championship with a Yamaha 250... A very reserved team, with only the father as an assistant in the pits, but a career that in the first two years marked a series of good results that culminated with a podium in Brno... For 1982, as Tournadre himself reports in an interview, the technical situation is decidedly better thanks to the sponsorship of Primagaz and above all thanks to the supply of first-class Michelin tires obtained thanks to his friendship with the son of a senior manager of the French house, but , certainly, no one could imagine inserting his name among the claimants to the title, and instead ... Thanks to his victory in Nogaro at his home GP, deserted by all the big names, and thanks to a truly remarkable consistency of performance, Jean-Louis starts to fight for the championship point for point with the favorite Kawasaki of Toni Mang...

Going back to the words of the French rider, in addition to Nogaro's victory, it is the GPs in Czechoslovakia and Germany (which I report below) that make the difference... In particular, in Brno when braking at a chicane Mang flanked by Tournadre, he ends up dropped and back on the track having to settle for eighth place, while the Frenchman is second behind Lavado... Incredibly Jean-Louis finally became World Champion, the first Frenchman in history to achieve the feat, just 1 point ahead of Mang... It was the culmination of a career destined to end prematurely, after 2 injuries in 1983 and sporadic returns to the Resistance where, in 1987, he finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans...

In 1983 (photo: Graham Etheridge)

Therefore, an authentic Tournadre meteor that in just one season managed to print his name in the annals of motorcycling, deserving even today the warmest applause... Hockhenheim 1982 On September 26, 1982, the decisive 250cc race took place in Hockenheim for the attribution of the title disputed between the Kawasaki of Toni Mang and the Yamaha of Jean-Louis Tournadre... The French rider led the standings by 8 points and in theory fourth place would be enough for him to win the title, not an easy task given the low power of his engine and the endless straights on the German track... After a few laps, Jean-Louis' situation already looked compromised when his compatriots Patrick Fernandez and Christian Estrosi, who preceded him, slowed down and started to pull him along the straight, creating a suction effect that allowed him to increase the rhythm... In the final phase of the race, Fernandez and Estrosi let Tournadre pass in order to reach the coveted fourth place, defending him, too, from the threatening recovery of Manfred Herweh ... Bitter victory by Toni Mang, against Paolo Ferretti and Thierry Espiè, immortalized by the handshake between the two rivals with the Frenchman at the foot of the podium... Tournadre will then declare that there was no aid agreement with his compatriots before the race but it is a fact that things went exactly as described... The fate of world champion Toni Mang is incredible: during his career he will win 5 world titles, but will lose two in the last race in front of his fans, in 1980 with Ekerold at the Nurburgring and in 1982 with Tournadre at Hockenheim!

250cc podium, Hochenheim 1982, can be seen, from the back, Jean-Louis Tournadre greeting the winner of the race, defeated in the championship, Anton Mang (photo: Christian Bourget/Sports-Images)



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