24 Heures Motos du Mans motorcycle race evokes Safran’s history
From Saturday, April 15 to Sunday, April 16, 2017 the Le Mans circuit hosts the 24 Heures Motos, a legendary 24-hour motorcycle race that’s one of the world’s biggest events of this type.
So what’s the link with Safran, a top-tier manufacturer of systems and equipment for the aerospace and defense industries? In fact, Safran and motorcycles go back a long way together… Step into the wayback machine and set the dial for 1919…
With the end of the First World War, French aircraft engine manufacturer Gnome et Rhône, the ancestor of Safran, saw a sharp drop in its workload. Looking to diversify the company’s business profile to provide work for its factories, company head Paul-Louis Weiller opted for the construction of motorcycles, which were in strong demand at the time.
But since they had no experience in this sector, Gnome et Rhône started in 1919 by building an English motorbike under license: the ABC, designed by British engineer Granville Bradshaw. At the same time, the company’s design department was developing the first real Gnome et Rhône motorcycle, the Type B. A number of models would follow over the coming decades (see the slide show), until production was shut down in 1960.
Since setting records and winning races was excellent promotion for its products, Gnome et Rhône entered races, successfully, right from its first models. When production began to slip in the mid-1950s, management decided to enter the famous Bol d’Or, a 24-hour motorcycle race that is still run today.
In the 1956 race, a streamlined Gnome et Rhône, specially designed for this race, won its class (175 cc engine, 15 hp), at an average speed of 96 km/h (60 mph), reaching a top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph).
To see this winning model, as well as a large collection of Gnome et Rhône motorcycles from 1919 to 1960, join us at the Safran Aerospace Museum in Réau (Seine-et-Marne department, not far from Paris), located right near the large Safran Aircraft Engines plant in Villaroche. For more information on the museum, go to: https://www.museesafran.com/