Éric Offenstadt

President of the 2021 Jury

Eric Offenstadt, Président du Jury 2021
© François Pacou - Nuances Photographiques

Éric Offenstadt, alias Pépé, will be the next President of the Jury of the French Riviera Motorcycle Film Festival. It is an extraordinary man, with a strong character, that we invite you to meet during this 4th edition. For all those who have been interested in speed since the 60s, Eric Offenstadt is a legend. A recognized car and motorcycle pilot, having achieved exceptional results in both disciplines, he is also a fine developer and designer, always choosing to prioritize his passion, in the development of innovative solutions, to the detriment of a certain material comfort. Éric is a man open to others and to discussion, and we are sure that you will enjoy spending time with him.

Who is Éric Offenstadt ?

In 1961, he won the French Championship 175 cc on Aermacchi. In 1962, he failed to win the national title in the last event of the season, at the Coupe du Salon, against Georges Monneret. In this same event he won a duel with Jean-Pierre Beltoise, who was also racing on a motorcycle at the time, on a 125 Ducati desmodromic.

In 1963, Éric started racing cars and finished second in the Coupe du Salon. Ford France chose to support him the following season, allowing him to achieve an exceptional season; he beat the star of the discipline (the future Formula 1 world champion Jackie Stewart) at La Châtre. However, he narrowly failed, for the first place, in the French championship (behind Henri Grandsire) and his official Alpine. At the end of the year, the daily sport newspaper L'Équipe voted him "most spectacular driver" and 3rd best driver in Formula 3 (behind Stewart and Silvio Moser). Considered one of France's best hopefuls, it was only natural that the young Matra team called on him to help design and drive their Formula 3s in 1965. It was Eric Offenstadt who advised Jean-Luc Lagardère to hire Beltoise and Jaussaud. Disagreements with the race director, however, prompted him to leave the team after three races to concentrate on Formula 2, driving an uncompetitive Cooper-BRM. On a Lola, entered by Stephen Conlan, Eric competed in a few Formula 3 events until a terrible accident in the Curva Grande due to faulty steering destroyed it at Monza. Offenstadt left to compete in the Argentinean Temporada in early 1966, finishing third in the final standings (thanks to a victory in Mar del Plata). Eric and his chief mechanic, Dewar Thomas, installed the BRM engine on the Lola, which was then rebuilt as a Lola-BRM. Two 6th places (in the London Trophy and the Finnish Grand Prix) led the Lotus team (managed by Ron Harris) to entrust him with a car for the French races at the end of the season, alongside Jim Clark and Peter Arundell. At the wheel of the car, Eric achieved excellent results: 5th at Montlhéry and 3rd at Le Mans ahead of Jackie Stewart on the official Matra, which led Jean-Luc Lagardère to ask him to return to the Matra. By refusing this opportunity, on the grounds of a word given to Ron Harris, Offenstadt (and his whole character) lost all his chances of making a career in automobiles. Convinced by his talent, Ron Harris kept him in his team in 1967, racing him in Formula 3 (on Lotus) as well as in Formula 2 (on his Protos). Ill, he only did two Formula 2 races in 1968 with this team, but returned that year to Pygmy (in Formula 3). In 1969, Pygmée chose to take the next step by entering Formula 2. Due to a lack of means, the year unfortunately turned out to be catastrophic, the car was fast in the tests, but suffered from multiple technical problems.

In 1970, Eric decided to return to motorcycle racing. Supported by the French importer of Kawasaki, Xavier Maugendre and the Baranne team, both in endurance (winner of the 1,000 km of Le Mans with Christian Ravel, and the Bol d'Or in the 500 category) and in the 500 Grand Prix (7th in GDR, 4th in Finland). In 1971, Eric designed, and his mechanic François Carrera built, an aluminum monocoque frame with a Kawasaki engine. He obtained the 3rd place in Austria with the only machine at the start equipped with disc brakes (against the received idea of the time). With a 2nd place in Belgium behind Giacomo Agostini (race where Christian Ravel was killed) and 3rd in Spain, he finished 6th in the championship. 1972 saw an attempt at Daytona in 750 cc, with a third time at the tests in front of the official Kawasaki. The monocoque was equipped with magnesium spoked wheels, still against the received idea of the time that they were "too rigid", the tires were mounted for the first time without tubes (against the opinion of the tire manufacturers). For his last season (in 1973), Eric designed a 6-speed gearbox and François Carrera built a tiny, swift but fragile twin-cylinder 500 (4th place in Czechoslovakia and 5th in the G.P. de France). In 1972, Offenstadt, a Honda and Kawasaki dealer, created, with René Robin, his company for the sale of frames, wheels and brake discs (SMAC). In 1974, an innovative road racing frame was designed in cast aluminum with a single central shock absorber. Tungsten-coated cast aluminum brake discs were also developed. In 1975 he was hired by Motobécane to develop the engine for the standard 125 twin-cylinder LT 3 into a Grand Prix machine. In 1976 Victor Palomo (en) on the handlebars of a SMAC-Yamaha equipped with a new magnesium Smac inverted fork, climbed on the podium in Brno and Hockenheim, to finish 6th in the 350 cc World Championship. Tony Rutter (en) was twice British Champion on a Smac-Yamaha. Jacky Hutteau and Vic Soussan also used these revolutionary chassis. Éric then became manufacturer of the H.O. (Houzé-Offenstadt) from 1976 to 1980, then, thanks to the help of Gilles Pernet of L'Équipe: the Moto BUT in 1978. This futuristic machine with an aluminum monocoque frame, front suspension with magnesium drawn wheel with variable flexibility and adjustable anti-dive, was a concentrate of Eric Offenstadt's research. After a year of trouble with a beginner rider, Éric Offenstadt's BUT bike (as well as the operating budget), is entrusted to Olivier Chevallier, who, under pressure from the paddock, does not dare to use it in GP. One week before the GP in France, the machine without tuning is recovered under a tarpaulin and entrusted to Hervé Guilleux who, after a long fight for the podium with Walter Villa, the reigning world champion, ends up at the foot of the podium. This revolutionary and complex French motorcycle would have required a structured and competent technical team. Its performance (4th), in the hands of an improvised team, reduced, without budget and equipped with an ordinary competition-customer engine was completely ignored by the press, which rightly decided the BUT brand to stop its investments there. Hervé Guilleux continued his efforts for another year, with Emmanuel Laurentz, his volunteer mechanic. Eric continued to work in the field of suspension kinematics, with Aprilia, then White Power (tests in Brno with Jeremy McWilliams).

Lucas Mahias sur le GECO R15
© 2016 - Sylvain Dubois

In 2013, at the age of 73, Pépé Offenstadt produced a prototype named Geco R09, which improved on the pulled wheel suspension system, coupled with a suspension and constant velocity transmission on a 2009 Yamaha R1 engine base designed to reduce braking distances and eliminate parasitic wheel accelerations in the various phases of riding. Tests are scheduled for 2014. Numerous manufacturers and equipment suppliers, such as Yamaha and Michelin, are part of the GECO project, which is partly financed by the ProGECO Moto association created in 2013 by Pierre Geffrin. This association, whose aim is to provide technical, logistical and financial assistance to the project and which brings together several hundred individual donors (846 members as of March 4, 2018), communicates mainly through the Facebook group "Geco - une moto française en Moto gp...??" created in 2012 by the writer Jean-Paul Dautricourt. Due to lack of budget the prototype cannot be hired in Le Mans that year. The Geco project (an allusion to the grip of the legs of the Gecko lizard and to the road holding of the motorcycle3) is concretized, thanks to many donors, in 2015 by the commitment of the prototype to the 38th edition of the 24 h of Le Mans4 with the no. 119. Unfortunately, several crashes of the pilots during the tests damaged some parts of the motorcycle, making it unroadworthy for a 24 hours race, due to a lack of budget to change these parts before the start. Out of respect for the support of the Geco project, the motorcycle nevertheless takes the start and abandons after three laps of the race. In 2015, Éric Offenstadt and Jean-Baptiste Labruyère the mechanic paid by the association build a new prototype from the latest model of the Yamaha YZF-R1 2015. This new concept named Geco R15 is quickly developed by Stéphane Egéa, Charles Geers and Nicolas Salchaud. Since the beginning of the project, Éric de Seynes, the boss of Yamaha Europe provided the material, he named the second prototype Geco R15: "The R1 proto of unconventional development". In 2016, Éric de Seynes authorized Lucas Mahias, 2017 World Supersport Champion, to test the Geco R15: Lucas applied 22 bars of pressure in the front brake lever for a deceleration of 13.17 m/s2, when the best figures in the German SBK championship were between 11.2 and 12.5 m/s2. The Geco's development projects would still be in progress at the moment.

This text is largely composed of Wikipedia data. Please do not hesitate to contact us if any information seems to be wrong.

Excerpt from an ongoing film project.

The appointment of the other members of the Festival Jury is in progress.