6 Heures Moto Handi Free Riders in the race … with a multiple world champion!

The initiative is French, and commands respect … In creating the ‘Handi Free Riders’ association, Stéphane Paulus, who was left paraplegic following a road accident, had one objective: to enable physically impaired motorcyclists to ride on a circuit, and even to compete in races in due form! These events of the l’International Bridgestone Handy Race, are reserved for disabled riders, as also endurance races, among the so-called ‘able-bodied’ riders. Good news: the Handi Free Riders team will be at the start of the 6 Heures Moto on Sunday 27th August on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps! 

The crew will be comprised out of three riders, of which two less able-bodied: Stéphane Paulus, President of the Association, as also Christophe Bernard from Hennuy! They will be joined by a certain Vincent Philippe, 11-time world endurance champion!

I first came across Handi Free Riders in 2016, when Stéphane Paulus started commercialising equipment allowing one to adapt a motorcycle to one’s disability, Christophe Bernard explained. It was four years following a road accident which left me with an amputated leg, and an arm in a sorry state, almost unusable. When I think back on it, it’s pretty crazy, because prior to meeting Stéphane, I had never ridden on a circuit! Since then, I have twice been crowned champion of France and European champion once in Handy Race. Last year, always with Stéphane, we competed in a 4-hour endurance race on the Carole circuit, in the vicinity of Paris. We loved competing against able-bodied riders … and now we’re ready for the 6 Heures Moto! It was an event I was due to take part in back in 2019, but two weeks earlier I had a fall and had fractured my pelvis … “

Entering two Suzuki and one Yamaha, the Handi Free Riders team are fully aware that by definition the challenge will be tough going … “The problem for Stéphane and myself is physical stamina, Christophe continued. Our stints are obviously shorter than those of the able-bodied riders. Personally, with only one leg and one arm, I can’t hope to spend more than 30 minutes at the handlebars of a ‘bike, that includes, in addition to the adapted gearshift system, a wedge on the fuel tank allowing me to hold on with my torso when braking. We know we are putting ourselves at risk, but what fun it is to be able to compete in such a race despite our limited physical means …”To top it, Handi Free Riders will be able to count on the presence, alongside Stéphane Paulus and Christophe Bernard, of Vincent Philippe, one of the masters of endurance racing. “He accepted the challenge of joining us in this adventure, a smiling Christophe commented. He knows we will not win, but he will do everything in his power to help us complete the race and cross the finish line. It’s an honour to have such a rider by our side. It goes without saying that Stéphane and I will be far slower than him, but you will see that our times will be better than those of some able-bodied competitors! Being able to race a motorbike with such a handicap, allows one quite simply to enjoy a new lease of life.  After the accident I never thought I would be able to get hold of handlebars again, and here I am at the start of the 6 Heures Moto. Magical… “

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