Sebastien Charpentier: the Charentais more than stubborn !
The first driver to register his name twice at the top of the world Supersport hierarchy, Sebastien Charpentier has never been spared by fate … But the driver is strong and the man is a stubborn first kind… Portrait.
Sebastien Charpentier is the first driver to register his name twice at the top of the world Supersport hierarchy. Two consecutive titles for a boy who has never been spared by fate. But the pilot is strong and the man is a stubborn one of the first kind…
Double Supersport world champion, Sebastien Charpentier has become a real predator over the years. Thirsty for victories and titles, he leaves his share to no one and his confidence in his abilities is matched only by the professionalism he has acquired over the races..
Far from the tensions that surround French sport, Charpentier built himself with the strength of his wrist. And for that, he had to emigrate: it is with the Dutch team Ten Kate that he has found for two years the measure of his talent and his requirements. A cutting-edge Supersport team which, with Sebastien, won its fifth consecutive world title in 2006. A structure which has the full support of Honda Europe on the grounds of Supersport and Superbike.
This same Superbike championship which could well see the French land in 2008 on the new CBR 1000 RR … But Sebastien is not a man to skip the stages and a very difficult 2007 Supersport season looms ahead of him….
In focus, a third world title with the all new CBR 600 RR that he is developing with his Turkish teammate Kenan Sofuoglu. A threat-like teammate who could be Sebastien‘s biggest obstacle on the 2007 title road…
Before winning his first world crown in Supersport in 2005, Sebastien Charpentier had won, on second thought, only one championship: the CB 500 Cup in 1996. A very promising start in the heart of a fiercely contested category, followed by a cascade of hurt and disillusionment…
The first part of his career is a roller coaster ride. The Charentais pilot is looking for himself, he has trouble finding the path to serenity and stability. His taste for four-stroke, he has held since his beginnings: CB 500 Cup of course, but also the European Supersport Championship in which he entered headlong in 1997..
He landed at Brands Hatch, one of the most beautiful and impressive English temples of speed. On the starting grid, he rubs shoulders with young wolves with sharp teeth, such as stage local James Toseland (Superbike world champion in 2004), who have no intention of letting the little "Frenchie" trample their english garden…
But Sebastien Charpentier, without complex, wins on this circuit which he did not know two days earlier: it is the drop of water that ignites the powder! Sebastien is then convinced that he can compete in the races at the highest level: "my goal, at this time, is to reach the GP or the Superbike".
In 1998, he joined the Reflex team for his first full season in Supersport. The team does not have much means, but it is tearing itself apart to reveal the talent of the young Frenchman. At the end of the season, he is thirteenth in the championship. But the money is lacking and the experience cannot be repeated the following year … Result, Sebastien finds himself in the Spanish championship on a machine that does not suit him. He nibbles his black bread without appetite, while having the firm conviction that he is wasting his time…
And the blows of fate are fierce … A bad leg injury keeps him away from the circuits for several months. Until he was spotted by Honda, which hired him as an official endurance driver for two seasons (2000 and 2001). Riding the famous VTR 1000, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2000 by teaming up with a certain … William Costes.
But in 2001, when he was getting ready to finally join the Supersport World Championship, on the road which led him to the first meeting of the season, the team manager who had just signed him a few weeks earlier l ‘calls on the phone and tells him he’s stopping everything! It’s a real blow … A decision that will shake the base of his motivation. Financially, Seb is in agony. Sportingly, he is disgusted.
Another year in pilots’ purgatory before joining the Klaffi team. The boss of the Austrian team, Klaus Klaffenboch, is one of the few who still trust Sebastien. And in 2003, the French pilot will surpass himself. It was the click, even if behind the scenes, he still regrets today not having been able to offer the one who had held out his hand to him the slightest victory. "It was often played with a hair", says Sebastien. Two seasons during which he calms down and learns.
Then comes 2005: the first year Ten Kate, the year of consecration. The team is sure of himself, Sebastien is showing himself stronger in each race. Nothing and nobody can resist him and he is crowned in Assen, two races before the end of the championship.
To suffer and tear away…
In the Dutch team, Sebastien Charpentier has found a real second family. He is in perfect harmony with Ronald Ten Kate, the team manager, but above all with his technical staff. He shares with them his taste for perfection, his thirst for performance, his hunger for victory..
Surrounded by his family – his wife Cathy, his cousin Aurelien – Sebastien Charpentier has built a very tight little universe for himself that nothing disturbs. Very attentive to his physical condition, true passionate about cycling, he trains hard, does not spare his pain and suffers to exhaustion if necessary.
It is also in 2006 that the real Sebastien Charpentier will be revealed. Because after having passed through a year 2005 as clear and limpid as a cloudless sky, Sebastien will be confronted with physical suffering in 2006. Certainly one of the hardest seasons to take for the Honda rider..
Hyper dominant in the first half of the season, Charpentier fell heavily during a private session in Brno, Czech Republic, at the beginning of June 2006. "Kevin Curtain was present in the paddock. With his wife, they helped Cathy get me into my camper van. I had just spent over an hour in the hands of an incompetent doctor who didn’t diagnose anything", recalls General Seb…
The ordeal cruelly marked Sebastien, who returned the next day to France where he was welcomed by his specialist: fractured collarbone, displacement and fracture of the pelvis, the operating table awaited him with weeks of rehabilitation as a result….
Charpentier knows the tune and knows what moral and physical torture it entails. "You are at the top, and overnight you find yourself in the cellar. I broke down in the hospital right after the operation. Cathy has always supported me. There she was in the bedroom, sleeping on a cot, watching over me".
The couple finally return home and rehabilitation begins. Physical rehabilitation, but also moral rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the season continues and Sebastien’s lead in the Supersport World Championship is melting like snow in the sun … Less than two months after his accident, Sebastien is back on track. It will take almost the second half of the season to regain his strength, energy and vitality in the race..
And it was only a few days before the last event at Magny-Cours that the click was made in his head. While he hit rock bottom a few weeks earlier in Germany literally cracking in the race and adding to his pain a benign fracture in his left hand, Charpentier is reborn as the championship seems to have been lost for good. !
Curtain has enough lead to be satisfied with ensuring in the last race. A masterful race which will ignite the public, who are won over to the cause of one of the best French pilots of the past fifteen years. Seb sets Magny-Cours on fire while Curtain gets tangled up with his brushes at the back and makes the incredible mistake of falling … Charpentier is crowned and goes down in the history of motorcycle sport by becoming, in the snatch , the first driver to win the Supersport title twice. Two times in a row !
Tomorrow everything will be fine !
Today, Charpentier has recovered from his 2006 injuries. He is also recovering from the turmoil that surrounds a driver when he is crowned world champion. He freed himself from pressure and criticism. He returned in 2007 with his dominance in the Supersport category. And he has two objectives: to win the title with the new CBR 600 RR and to attack the Superbike World Championship in 2008 on the handlebars of the new CBR 1000 RR..
At 34, Charpentier still has a bright future as a champion ahead of him and Honda has understood it perfectly: he represents one of the most reliable and experienced riders of the moment. A guy who has eaten the rabid cow to get there, like a Bayliss World Superbike champion in 2006. Besides, it is certainly no coincidence that the two men know each other and share the same passion for cycling, which distils suffering and surpassing oneself with each pedal stroke.
So, if Seb recognizes that the quest for a third world title in Supersport risks being paved with difficulties, he is ready to endure anything to get there … Beginning of hostilities in Qatar on February 24, to follow naturally on the Site !
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