80s Chevallier 250 and 350 cc: controversial Grand Prix winners reunited
Frenchman Alain Chevallier designed racing motorcycles that ran with the giants of the sport, always fitted with his distinctive tubular steel frames stiffened by using cold-drawn steel; a technique which Ducati would later use to win world championships in World Superbike and MotoGP. French racer Eric Saul took a 250 cc Chevallier-Yamaha to victory in the 1981 Nations GP followed by a 350 cc win in the Austrian Grand Prix in 1982, finishing 4th in the world standings. During the Classic GP Assen Saul is reunited with both of his Chevallier bikes.
Alain Chevallier started preparing bikes for his brother Olivier who won the Grand Prix of Yugoslavia in 1976 riding a privateer Yamaha prepared by his brother. After Olivier lost his life in a crash during the Grand Prix of Le Castellet in 1980, Alain agreed to build a bike for his countryman and good friend Eric Saul who, scoring the first ever victories for the Chevallier brand, did not disappoint. In 1982 Belgian Didier de Radiguès gave Chevallier its 3rd win during theYugoslavian Grand Prix, eventually finishing 2nd in the 350 cc championship with Saul 4th. In 1983 Frenchman Jean-François Baldé took a 250 cc Chevallier to a 4th and final victory in the South African Grand Prix, with 3 Chevallier bikes finishing in the top 10 of the 250 cc world championship.
Eric Saul’s 250 cc win in Monza in 1981 was a controversial one, after Saul, together with 3 fellow competitors, was denied access to the grid. Officials closed the fence, breaking Saul’s windscreen in the process and leaving him stranded in the assembly area.With his bike behind the fence, Saul demonstratively walked onto the grid and sat down on his grid position. The police had to intervene and remove Saul and other riders without a bike from the starting grid. Under pressure from the riders, the race director eventually allowed them to start the race. On a wet but drying track Saul beat Toni Mang for the victory, only to be disqualified after the race under the accusation of having instigated a strike among the riders. Saul protested with the FIM and after 4 weeks he was re-instated as the winner of the Nations GP, handing Chevallier back its first GP win.
The combination of Chevallier, DeRadiguès and Honda moved up to the ‘big class’ and finished 7th in the 1986 500 cc world championship. For 1987 the Italian Cagiva brand hired Chevallier as a ‘chassis consultant’. It was to be the French designer’s final year in GP’s. In 2000 he helped design street motorcycles for a new French company, Voxan. Chevallier past away in 2016 at the age of 68.