On the Edge of 17

“… when I was just a boy that the number 17, the rider and his green Kawasaki meant very much to me”

Like many a French boy who grew up in the ’70s, Herve Poncharal admired French Canadian rider Yvon DuHamel.

Rushing quickly through the paddock, Tech 3 Yamaha team owner Herve Poncharal almost simultaneously smiles at friends, poses for photos with fans and also trade barbs with personnel from enemy teams. He wears many hats so he is pleasant enough to all, but keeps moving.

Until he spies a man talking on an iPhone, though, and it is then that Poncharal stops dead in his tracks. He peers at the phone like it is a new wonder mobile communicating device. However, the generations-old phone is nothing special, one of millions of iPhone 5s in existence.

It’s the sticker on the back of the phone that has stopped Poncharal and piqued his immediate interest. It’s an old Honda decal featuring rider Miguel DuHamel on his RC45. The Superbike wears the DuHamel competition number of seventeen.

“Did you know,” Poncharal asks the phone’s owner, “that when I was just a boy that the number 17, the rider and his green Kawasaki meant very much to me?”

Poncharal reels in the years: “You know, it’s a bit difficult for me, because I’m a Yamaha team for many, many years. But I have to confess that in my youth, when I was a student and I was riding bikes, I fell in love, since I was very, very young, with the triple two-stroke Kawasaki. For me, that has always been the most incredible bike, This is the bike that made me dream.”

As a fresh-faced teen Poncheral followed Yvon DuHamel’s racing career closely and even tried to fashion his own motorcycle to look like the famed Kawasaki that Yvon rode in the 1970s.

“There were posters of the triple everywhere in my room. And of course, Kawasaki Racing, at that time, their icon, their Valentino Rossi, was Yvon DuHamel. I painted my bike like his bike. Also I managed to find a Bell helmet with a 17 on it. I bought the stickers with the green K and 17 on them. For me, then everything was 17.”

Poncheral confesses that in his youth that he came very close to having the number 17 tattooed on his body.

Like DuHamel, there was no off-season for Poncharal and his mad admiration for Yvon DuHamel. In the motorcycle off-season DuHamel raced snowmobiles for Ski-Doo, and Poncharal watched him there as well.

The entire DuHamel family raced the world endurance series in the 1990s and it was there that briefly Poncharal was able to work on the same team as the Canadians. “It was like I was living my childhood dream,” he remembers.

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