Melissa Paris embarked on a totally radical race adventure last month, racing the Bol D’Or 24 hour endurance race in France. We sat her down for some Q&A about the experience! Photo Credits: Patrick Olombel, Loic Drillot, Francois Pacou, Morgan Mathurin, Melissa Paris
Q1- Melissa, how did this opportunity turn up? Was it your idea? Did one of your teammates contact you?
Murielle Simorre contacted me back in 2014 about doing the 24 Hours of Barcelona. Unfortunately that year I had a schedule conflict with another race and couldn’t do it. However, she extended the invite again in 2015. We were able to pull of the win in the 600 class and I think immediately we started thinking about what the next challenge would be!
Q2- Have you ever raced in France before? Are there any differences in racing rules\etiquette compared to the US?
I did do one event earlier this year at LeMans, but that’s a whole other story. I think racing is a pretty universal language. Even if I’m struggling in the paddock to figure out where the bathroom is, what exactly is in my lunch, or how to turn the lights on in my hotel room… its always the same thing on track.
Q3- Tell us a bit about your teammates! What bikes do they normally race what series do they normally race?
Jolanda Van Westrenen is Dutch and she races in the Dutch national championship on a Kawasaki ZX-6R. She had a nasty crash earlier this year on a street course (yeah, like on an actual road!) and completely destroyed her bike when it hit a TREE! She broke a bone in her hand as well so we were really lucky that she was able to race with us! Murielle actually primarily does track days. They have races at the track day club she rides with, but she probably has the least race experience of all of us, which makes it really impressive how well she rides! She is the one who organizes the whole effort, so this year she has mainly been riding the R1 we raced on.
Q4 - Was this your first ever 24 hour endurance? If so what was one thing that went exactly as expected and one thing that surprised you about the experience?
This was our second 24 hour but our first time doing it on a 1000cc and as part of the World Championship. One thing that went exactly as planned is that our equipment was solid. In 24 hours it’s really easy for a mechanical gremlin to end your day early, but our Yamaha was super reliable and brought us through to the finish. One thing that surprised me was how crazy everyone went about their being an all girls team. I mean, these days it’s much more common to see girls racing, but the fans and the media went bananas!
Q5 - Did you get to spend anytime exploring France outside of the track?
Ughhh.. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t! I never seem to make it work to do any sight-seeing! During the test we did go to dinner in this cool little town right on the sea. The food was amazing of course…
Q6 - So you got spend some quality time on that R1 - your impressions about that bike?
My main impression of the R1 is that it’s just a good bike that’s pretty easy to ride fast! The funniest thing was how fast it was. Paul Ricard is really unique because the back straight is 1.2 miles long. That’s just nuts. It was really crazy to see how easy it was for me to draft by most bikes on track, including ones running in the EWC class (we were in superstock). No joke, our engine was completely stock and we were faster than some of the official teams bikes in a straight line.
Q7 - So now that it's all over and you've had some time to decompress - would you do it all again?Absolutely. Sign me up!