Vincent Philippe: Tribute to a champion
Vincent Philippe, one of the FIM Endurance World Championship’s most emblematic riders and a mainstay of Suzuki Endurance Racing Team since 2003, has hung up his leathers. A 10- question tribute to a champion.
Vincent Philippe has collected FIM EWC wins and titles since his maiden victory at the 2003 24 Heures Motos. The French rider has decided to retire from racing at the age of 42. He wrapped up a racing career spanning nearly 30 years with a win at the 2019 Bol d’Or.
A 50cc Pee Wee my dad occasionally rented for me. I was 6 or 7 and I would do laps around the house. Then I had a 50cc Morini, and then a 103 Peugeot with a race kit.
I used to do hill races with my dad in the moped class. My first time on the track was when I raced my first season in the Coupe TZR 125 at the age of 14 in 1992.
First time you thought “I want be a champion”
Very early on. It was my dream in secondary school, when I was around 11 years old. In high school I was so caught up in my dreams I had to repeat my first year, but I made up for it and got my diploma.
My bedroom was plastered with posters of bikes and riders like Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey. I‘ve always really admired Mick Doohan. Then Valentino Rossi came along. I’ve even raced with him once, in the 125cc class in 1997 at Le Castellet where I got a wild card.
Best race memory
That’s a tough one! You can’t have just one after all those years of racing. I remember key moments like being selected for the Equipe de France Espoir (Young French hopefuls team). It was the only way I could get from the French championship to the world championship. Then there was my first win at the 24 Heures Motos in 2003 with SERT. That was my first race with SERT. My first world championship title: that was a dream come true. But also our last world title in 2016 with Anthony Delhalle, and our last win at the Bol d’Or in September 2019.
Worst race memory
Being with a teammate (Anthony Delhalle) in his final moments of life. That will always be my worst memory. I still find it hard to talk about it. Other than that, the worst thing is having to withdraw during the race because you’re injured or because you simply can’t go on.
If you had to do it all over again
I’m not one to go back over things with “Ifs”. I look ahead and I don’t regret anything, except maybe not having raced a full season in World Superbike. But I did the best I could with the means at my disposal.
Your advice to a young rider
Have a taste for hard work. Motorcycle racing is fun and cool when you start out. But to get to high level racing you need to put in the work and persevere, and you have to be able to find the resources. I come from a modest background, so I wouldn’t normally have been able to take up this career. It’s even harder these days if you don’t have the means. But you have to keep believing and keep working.
You’ve done road racing, endurance, supermotard, enduro, trials, ice racing and the Le Touquet beach race. Any sports missing from your track record?
I’m looking at rally raid. I got interested it in a long time ago. I know it’s dangerous and it takes a lot of preparation, but it’s a personal and physical challenge that appeals to me. I’ll get down to it soon. This year I’m opening my motorcycle dealership in Besançon, but next year I’ll get my act together to compete in the Dakar 2022.
How will you handle the change in pace and go from pro racer to dealership owner?
All the energy I put into physical training is going into setting up the dealership. But I’m not giving up motorcycling altogether. I’ve got my Dakar 2022 project, and I intend to enjoy myself doing two or three races in 2020, like the 24H Barcelona—I’ve never raced that one—and the Spa 6 Hours. I also plan to run some rider training courses and commentate the Endurance World Championship races for Eurosport France.
10 world titles: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 & 2016 FIM Endurance World Champion
9 Bol d’Or wins: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2016 & 2019
3 24 Heures Motos wins: 2003, 2014 & 2015
2019 Winner of the Bol d’Or
2004 1st Bol d’Or win
2003 1st 24 Heures Motos win
2000 to 2002 GP250 rider
1999 1st Endurance race
1998 & 1999 French Open 250 championship winner
1996 & 1997 French Hill Climb championship winner, 125 class
1992 1st race: Coupe TZR 125