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Meet Chris Leesch, rider at RAC41 ChromeBurner.
We are halfway through RAC41 ChromeBurner's season in the FIM EWC Endurance Championship. A great feeling to be able to race again, with the next race being the 24 Hours at the Bol d'Or at Paul Ricard, France on September 18 and 19.
With the interview with Julien Diquet, race manager of RAC41 ChromeBurner, we spoke to someone who mainly acts behind the scenes, now it's time to speak to someone we see more during the races: Chris Leesch, one of three riders for the team. Who is the man under that striking light blue helmet? You can read about it here!
My name is Chris Leesch, 26 years old and I am from Luxembourg.
Actually, as it is with almost every rider I know, from my father. He has always been a passionate rider and even now he still does trackdays! There are so many things that make motorcycling and racing fun. But mostly it's the freedom you feel from the moment you close your visor; all that matters is you and the bike.
I have been riding in the Endurance Championship for a few years now and have always been in contact with the RAC41 team. But with the arrival of Julien Diguet as the new team manager and the new Honda Fireblade, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I am very happy to be here and to start a new adventure with this team!
Race weekends in the FIM EWC Championship are quite long, because the 'race weekend' actually starts on the Monday before the race. That's when we have to show up at the track. Tuesday is almost always marked by the first free practice. For me, this is the moment to make sure the setup of the bike is right. A good setup of the bike means that the electronics and the chassis work perfectly in all conditions for every rider. It's not an easy job!
Pressure starts to mount on Thursdays. Then it's all about "Getting into Qualifying mode", and getting as much as possible out of yourself and the bike, in one lap. And you really have to give it your all, because everyone in this championship is so incredibly fast that you really have to give it your all in order to be on top of the timesheet. In between sessions it is important to get as much rest as possible and that is not easy with all the team meetings, media events and signing sessions. Let's just say that all days are well filled.
The morning before the race always starts out calmer than other days. Everyone is focused on the race and busy with their own tasks. Then the highlight of the week, the moment when the red lights are out and the green ones come on. Finally racing, of course that is what we are here for and where we feel at home!
In the middle of the race week, I am completely focused. It's all about getting into the right mindset. You have to put your nerves aside and actually step into that 'tunnel' where it's all about you and the bike. I prefer to stay away from all the extra things like superstitions and such. When I was younger I believed in that, but as I get older it actually distracts me too much from the racing.
So for me, it's a blessing that I have a girlfriend who supports me with what I do. I have been with her for 3 years now and of course it is not always easy to be in a relationship with a racer, but she is doing a great job. I am grateful that she is always there when I have to race.
I love the challenges and emotions that this type of racing brings from both a rider's and team's perspective. Finishing a race that lasts several hours is already an achievement in itself, imagene when you manage to reach the podium.
One of my greatest moments as a rider was when I reached the podium at the 24h of Le Mans. This was also the first time that I invited all my friends and family to come to the track and watch the race. That made this one extra special and also very emotional.
But above all, racing a motorcycle is just awesome! You can make several stints during the race and you have to be able to adapt to different circumstances that you would never face in a normal sprint race, for example the weather, difference between light and dark, fatigue, tire choices, different strategies. All these factors play such a huge role in Endurance racing that it makes you constantly improve yourself.
Does it bother me to have to share the motorcycle? No. At least, you have to be open-minded and not think too much about yourself when it comes to the setup. It does take a lot of time to tune a bike for three riders, but it becomes a process and everyone works hard to make sure every rider can use it.
Also, you are always building in certain margins while riding. Say, compared to sprint races, we ride at 95%. Of course, a race lasts several hours and you can't ride the bike at the limit all the time, because a mistake can be made and a crash is just around the corner. Crashing is just not allowed, because the whole team suffers from it. It's important to manage the physical side of it in that sense. Basically you always go as hard as the conditions and the environment allow it.
The last race the RAC41 ChromeBurner raceteam participated in was the 6 Hours of Spa. This time with a different championship, as Spa is not on the racing calendar of the FIM EWC in 2021. RAC41 ChromeBurner used this weekend as preparation for the 2022 calendar when Spa Franchorchamps is on the agenda. And let this be Chris' favorite circuit. "The legendary Spa Francorchamps is my favorite track. The layout is unique, fast and sometimes scary. You can find everything from 'flat out' corners in 5 to slow hair pins that you have to do in first gear steep uphills and downhills. I am really happy that Spa is on the calendar for 2022 and that it is almost a home race for me, it is also very nice!
I want to win races! I think we have the ingredients to be battling for top positions in the championship in the Superstock class. The team has the potential to be among the best teams, I think. We invest a lot in the team and work hard to create the right climate to perform. And on top of that I'm convinced that our Honda Fireblade is one of the better bikes on the grid!
Curious to see how Chris Leesch and his teammates Gregory and Wayne will perform at the 24h of the Bol d'Or with RAC41 ChromeBurner? Keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates. You can watch the race live on Eurosport Player. So put September 18 and 19 in your agenda!