International Road Race Legend from Yesteryear: Christian Sarron

The international road racing legend of yesteryear, where has he gone, what is he up to now, and how does he view today's road racing sport? In this section, we ask these former heroes a series of (the same) questions. This week: Katja Poensgen

Christian Sarron - 1988

Who is Christian Sarron?

Name : Christian
Nickname : I had several. My mechanic Iain Mackey called me "Tarzan" for a while, though I'm not sure why. I was also often called "Mr. Clean" because I was always polishing my helmet, suit, and boots. I wanted everything to be neat. Another nickname was "Prince of the rain" because I was always fast in the rain.
Born on : 27-3-1955
Nationality : French
Residence: Ryon
Start of road racing career : 1975. I was 20 years old and had never been on a circuit before, let alone raced. I began in the Cup Kawasaki at Magny-Cours with 300 participants, involving three qualifying sessions. A year later, I replaced Patrick Pons in the Sonoto Gauloises team, competing at the highest level in the World Championship.
Active in : 2Cup Kawasaki, French 750cc Championship, 250cc and 500cc Grand Prix, World Endurance Championship
Number of titles : 250cc World Champion in 1984
End of road racing career : In 1990, I stopped as a Grand Prix rider but continued as team manager of the Yamaha France Endurance Team, winning the Bol d’Or in 1994 with my brother Dominique and Yasutomo Nagai.
Current profession : I own a karting track in Ryon with my younger brother Dominique and am involved in various Yamaha events.

How did you first get involved in road racing?

That's still a mystery to me. I knew no one from the racing world or anyone involved in it. I was completely self-taught; no one ever gave me advice on riding or setting up the bike. I did it all alone throughout my career, adapting my riding style over the years without any coaching or guidance.

Which rider did you have the best battles with on the track?

I need to split this into two periods. The first was 1976-1977, dueling with top riders like Giacomo Agostini, Steve Baker, Kenny Roberts Sr., Johnny Cecotto, Barry Sheene, and Greg Hansford. The second period was with riders like Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Kevin Magee, Wayne Gardner, and later Mick Doohan. Most duels were with Gardner.

Best motorcycle you've ridden and why?

The factory Yamaha YZR500 at the end of my career. These bikes were called "unrideables" with "screamer" engines that delivered power abruptly. They were powerful but very difficult to control. Once mastered, it felt incredible. I also tried the "big bang" engine with much smoother power delivery but preferred the challenging "screamers."

Favorite Circuit you have raced?

Spa-Francorchamps for its fast corners but very dangerous. In 1988, I had pole position, 2.1 seconds faster than Wayne Gardner and 2.6 seconds faster than Eddie Lawson. We fought for safer circuits and better facilities with Mike Trimby. The old Nürburgring was fantastic but extremely dangerous with 172 different corners. I also loved Paul Ricard. Least favorite was Anderstorp in Sweden, but I had my best race there in 1989, finishing second.

What is the strangest or most hilarious experience you've had in racing?

At one of my first Grands Prix in Opatija (now Croatia, formerly Yugoslavia), one of the most dangerous circuits. I was stressed, and two riders had already died during practice. The start procedure was different then, with a few minutes wait on the grid. It was hot, and I had taken my suit off my shoulders. Trying to zip it up before the start, I found something stuck in the back—my mechanic pulled out a hanger from my suit. It was funny amid all the stress.

Do you have a special memory of racing in the Netherlands?

CMSNL is based in the Netherlands
Many. One was choosing the right tires in unpredictable weather, leading the race twice but ultimately making the wrong choice the third time. Another was leading the 250cc race in 1984 before a carburetor failure. Despite this, I later became champion.

The best thing you've gained from racing

Knowing we never truly know our limits and can always push further. I always sought to push my boundaries, the key to my career. I never imagined becoming a racer or world champion, but kept striving for more. Despite thinking racing might kill me, surviving has left me unafraid of death. At 69, I've lived fully

What did you do after your active road racing career ended?

I became team manager of Yamaha France, a Yamaha ambassador, an importer for Arai and Nankai, a Grand Prix commentator for French TV for twelve years, and now run a karting track in Ryon.

Are you still involved in the sport in any way?

As a Yamaha ambassador, I attend Yamaha Racing Experience events and "Classic" events across Europe.

Which current or past motorcycle would you like to ride?

The new Yamaha XSR900GP in the colors of my racing days. I'd also love to ride my 500cc Grand Prix bike again, though parts are scarce, so we use a 750cc engine at classic events.

For which current rider do you have a lot of respect and why?

I respect all riders. I'm proud of Fabio Quartararo's championship win on a Yamaha and enjoy watching Marc Márquez for his spectacular style. I predicted Pecco Bagnaia would become MotoGP champion during his Moto3 days and admired Jorge Lorenzo's and Casey Stoner's riding styles.

Who do you see as the greatest (currently active) road racing talent and why?

Marc Márquez and Pecco Bagnaia.

Who will be the 2024 MotoGP & WorldSBK world champions?

Marc Márquez and Pecco Bagnaia, with Jorge Martin close behind. Bagnaia is slightly stronger over a season, but Márquez will be back next year. For World Superbike, Toprak Razgatlioglu seems very talented, winning three races in one weekend.

With your experience, how do you view the current developments within international road racing?

MotoGP is exciting to watch with multiple potential winners, though the electronics make consistency challenging. Riders can win one race and finish tenth the next, unlike in my time.

This blog was written in collaboration with

issued: Wednesday, July 03, 2024
updated: Wednesday, July 03, 2024

link to this page:

more yamaha news

CMS is an independent supplier of spare parts and has no commercial link with Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha or Kawasaki.