Every sport has it’s own iconic venue, Wimbledon, Wembley, Monaco F1, Golf Masters from Augusta Georgia, they all evoke special memories amongst fans and competitors the world over. In Motocross we have fantastic venues like Farleigh Castle, Gaildorf, St jean d’Angely, Unadilla etc, but nowhere is held in such high esteem and reveered by fans as the Namur circuit in Belgium. Used since the 1940’s the circuit starts on an esplanade in front of the terraces, then drops off and swoops through the woods, under ornemental metal bridges, past the children’s playground down massive drop offs to emerge in front of the Old Cafe Monument before a steep terraced climb back up alongside the ancient fort’s moat to emerge from the darkness of the woods out onto the esplanade.
Together with my good friend Alan Bott we visited Georges Jobe to present him with the original painting of his famous double jump at Hawkstone Park.
Alan had commissioned the painting but wanted to give it to Georges who is battling Leukeamia.
The following day we decided we must make a pilgramage to Namur to check out this iconic venue. I first visited Namur in 1979 on a Chequers Travel Coach trip to watch Graham Noyce clinch the 500cc World Championship. I was amazed how the track raced around this old fort close to the city centre below. I returned 10 years later with one of my Moto travel tours to watch Dave Thorpe break the spirit of his team mate Eric Geboers on his way to his third world title. Thorpey was racing with a badly injured knee but overcame the pain to beat Geboers that day.
From the start the riders swept around the first turn through banked turns and whoops before a massive tabletop dropped them into the woods.
Under the bridge the track sweeps past a children’s playarea then through many off cambered turns alongside the road before clinbing back up into the woods. Every year fans would camp literally right beside the track in tents and motorhomes. On the ritual early morning walk of the track many tents would have massive piles of empty beer cans and bottles outside, evidence of some serious nighttime partying. Several fans would literally sleep through the bikes racing nearby, worse for wear!
In the woods you can still make out tyre tracks in the undergrowth from the last GP in 2006. The track then swoops down over a massive step down I watched in awe as Paul Malin cleared it!, back in 1989.
The track then drops down a massively steep downhill to emerge on the road and race past the Cafe Monument , watering hole for many Brits who made the annual trip to Namur.
This was the place where Hakan Carlquist stopped to down a beer whilst leading the final lap of a GP! In 2006 Stefan Everts clinched his 10th World title here infront of his many friends and fans. Stefan did stop but apparently drank an Iced Tea!, not beer. In the early days the riders raced past on the tarmac road but at later races they did lay dirt on the road. From here riders would hit a jump flat out and land on the cobbled road.
The track then races towards the forts gate before turning sharp right up a very steep bank.
From here the track climbs up several steps and banks running alongside the moat of the Citadelle fort.
You can still make out ruts on the steep uphill.
I remember the heady smells of Frits with mayo, burgers and garlic sausages from the many vendors around the track.
The track makes one last plunge back down into the woods, before swooping out onto the esplanade and the roar of the crowds.
When we visited there was a Vintage Nostalgia Circus set up on the esplanade. Hearing the Lions roar you could be forgiven for thinking it was the spirit of Namur and Motocross trying to break free from the shackles of inactivity and spring into life again! Afterwards we enjoyed a cold beer in the courtyard of the resturant on top, looking down on Namur below. Speaking to Julian, the resturant owner, he says there are many influential people lobbying local government officials to try and bring the glory of world championship motocross back to it’s rightful home. Let’s hope this happens and we can once again hear the roar of the crowds and bikes echoing around this fantastic venue!