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Christophe Pourcel – The Enigmatic Frenchman

A couple of years ago, Christophe Pourcel was well on his way to becoming one of the most successful riders ever, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. But, somewhere along the line his career has gotten off-track, and now the question is being posed, will we ever see the 2006 MX2 World Champion race competitively again?

It isn’t uncommon to see a motocross rider hang up their boots at an early age. But at the ripe old age of twenty-four, it would certainly be peculiar if the younger of the Pourcel brothers does decide to leave the only sport he has ever known. You would be forgiven for presuming Christophe is much older than what he is; already he has achieved a World Championship and two 250 regional AMA Supercross titles. Despite only completing two full years in the USA, he is undoubtedly the most successful European rider of the last few years when it comes to racing in the America.

When you look back on the enigmatic Frenchman’s career thus far, it becomes clear when exactly his troubles began to surface. In 2007, Pourcel was already off the pace of Antonio Cairoli (2007 was actually the last time Christophe faced off against the Sicilian for a title prior to this year). Then, his season ended prematurely because of a serious spinal injury suffered at the Grand Prix of Northern Island; this also delayed his full-time American debut. Put simply, this really pushed back his entire career by an entire year. It was also at this time that some of the strange habits that Pourcel is now known for started to develop.

Christophe is quite a quiet person; it’s often hard to find news on the Frenchman during the off-season etc. So, when he was out for all of 2008 and undertaking extensive rehab for what can only be described as potential career ending injuries; not many heard anything from him. It was at this time that he started becoming more and more of a mystery to outsiders. It was this attitude that alienated him from the fans over in the USA; which ultimately resulted in roars of disapproval from the American fans. Some people don’t like his mysterious attitude; others feel as though he is right in standing for what he believes in, and not selling himself short.

Christophe is the type of rider that needs everything to be going well for him to succeed. Prior to this year, it appeared all the pieces of the puzzle were in place for Pourcel to have a great year, especially considering the CP377 Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team was based around what he needed. But, what actually transpired over the course of the year did not meet the expectations most had of Pourcel prior to round one. With Christophe having invested interest in the team, you would expect the CP377 squad to be where he spent the rest of his career, right? You certainly wouldn’t expect him to be counting down the days until he could get off the bike at the end of the season, which is how things actually turned out.

What were some of the stranger things Christophe did throughout the year? Well, in the last few GP’s he hardly spoke to any member of his team. He would turn up on the start gate just minutes before the gate drop and then once the race was over he’d go straight back to his motorhome. Obviously, this left his mechanic and other members of the team quite confused as to which direction to go; but it appeared as though he was just uninterested. One weird trait of the Frenchman (which has been his routine for a few years now) is that he rarely rides a good portion of practice, let alone the entire session. He would just turn up, maybe put one or two fast laps in and ride back to the pits. When it works out well, and he ends up at the top of the times sheets it seems amazing. However, it doesn’t always play out that way for the Frenchman.

Since the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series, Christophe hasn’t proven himself as a title contender. Of course, he has garnered a couple of victories in the last two years (two GP victories in Italy and Brazil). With just two victories to his name through two seemingly troublesome years, he has proven that he still has the potential to challenge for wins. However, with his list of successes being so small compared with other years, the opportunity to grab a big money deal in the USA is not a realistic option until he proves himself once again. But, in Christophe’s mind he has already done so, hence why he is surprised when teams aren’t willing to offer him millions of dollars.

It’s no secret that Pourcel himself feels as though he belongs in the USA. In fact, the Frenchman is so set on his goal of returning to the USA that he has openly stated he will never return to the FIM Motocross World Championship series. As I alluded to at the top of this article, I am starting to wonder if we will ever see Christophe Pourcel race competitively again. Part of the reason Christophe was taking part in off-season supercross races such Bercy and Genova is that he wanted to prove he was still competitive on a supercross track. Having already parted ways with the CP377 Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad; Pourcel elected to ride a near stock KTM 350. However, in the two main events in Genova he failed to impress – pulling off both times with unspecified “mechanical problems”.

Bercy (undoubtedly the biggest supercross race in Europe and the one that garners the most attention from the industry) didn’t go much better. Not only did he struggle to match the pace of American frontrunners Jake Weimer, Eli Tomac, Justin Brayton and Kyle Chisholm he also struggled to beat lesser names like Cyrille Coulon. Admittedly, he did struggle with bike setup on the Friday, and he also claimed to be under the weather. On the Saturday, he was evidently much better even beating out some big names for a heat race win. However, in the main event he crashed hard coming out of the whoops on the concrete hard-pack surface, and was taken to the local hospital with a fractured spleen.

So, with Christophe once again out with quite a serious injury (at the time of writing he is yet to be released from intensive care) it does make you wonder if he will have the drive and determination to return to the top of the sport once again? You just never know whether Christophe Pourcel will come back and deliver, or whether we’ll never hear of him again. The chances of a team in the USA offering him the money he wants for 2013 are extremely slim. So, where will he race in 2013? There is always the option to do domestic races, like the French Championship. But, by doing that he will just drift further and further from the spotlight. Ultimately, there is no telling what the future holds for the enigmatic Frenchman.

Words by Lewis Phillips

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