“The first time I rode a motocross bike was magical,” recalls Sébastien Charpentier about the day as a ten-year-old he rode a bike for the first time. “I was hysterical as I rode through the woods. The noise, the smell...I discovered motorcycling that day. I knew from that day that I wanted to race. The passion already was boiling inside me.”
From that moment onwards Charpentier was enthralled by motorcycles. He was already a fan of watching the sport but now he wanted to be in the thick of the action. Growing up in the heart of France he would never have believed that someday he would be a double World Champion and a hero of his homeland. At the time all he wanted to do was ride his bike.
“There is a feeling of freedom that you have when you are on the motorcycle. You are in control of it all. As you get more experienced and you start to climb the ladder and become a professional rider you are aiming to work for a manufacturer and it’s very important to prepare as well as possible. Being a professional rider is a very important commitment and I tried my best to become a champion. When I raced for Ten Kate Honda in 2005 and 2006 are the most satisfying moments of my career. I had a goal to be World Champion and I made a lot of sacrifices to achieve it but it paid off.”
The sacrifices that a rider makes to achieve their goals are visible and invisible. They are the injuries that we see riders sustain from crashes but they are also unseen. The sacrifices that go on behind the scenes are riders train their mind and body for the moment to succeed. For Charpentier that moment came as a 32 year old in the 2005 Supersport World Championship.
Moving to the crack Ten Kate squad came with pressure. Charpentier was a regular podium finisher and front runner, he finished fourth the previous season, but he was still waiting for his first race victory. He didn’t have to wait long. Round 2 at the racer’s paradise of Phillip Island is where Charpentier’s dreams finally came true.
“The adrenaline of being on the starting grid and being surrounded by your team with the fans so close is very exciting. You learn how to control yourself and, for me, this sport has brought so much to my life. It’s not always about winning because sometimes, in the moment, you can have some incredible emotions. Even when you are beaten for the win but the battle has been amazing to stand on the podium is a happy moment. Winning on a difficult weekend brings so many different emotions but it also brings you so much confidence.”
He would take the championship lead that day and not relinquish it for the rest of the campaign. Indeed, Charpentier would hold that lead until midway through the following season when Kev Curtain would challenge for the title. The 2006 fight for the Supersport title went down to the last day of the season. In front of a partisan French crowd, all weekend Charpentier was the man to beat and the pressure eventually took its toll on the Curtain who crashed. Pole position and the race win gave Charpentier back to back titles to become the first double Supersport champion.
“I had a lot in common with Ten Kate. We had so much confidence in each other and in the biggest moments we had a partnership that led to us being champions together. For two years we were World Champions and those are moments and memories we’ll never forget. I wasn’t always lucky during my career but in that period the stars were aligned for me. I fought hard and never gave up to reach my goal. At that time we were the best team in the world.
“When I got the knock on my door saying that Garrit ten Kate wants to see you for a meeting I was surprised. We sat down and he said that he wanted to sign me to a two-year contract to join the team in 2005. I had stars in my eyes because I knew that now it was up to me. I had to give it my all because I knew that the material and the team would be the best and I could try to become World Champion.”
For those two years Charpentier was able to get the most out of himself and reward his team and Honda for their faith. At the end of 2007 Charpentier’s career as a top-flight rider came to a close. As a double World Champion, it was a long journey since that first time on a motocross bike in a French forest. Today though, his passion for bikes still burns just as bright.