A labour of love for a legendary French father-and-son tuning team has proved to be a fine legacy to a great man: if a very loud legacy!
It’s not often that a labour of love such as this can be such a brutal attack on the senses.
It’s 10.30am on the Sunday of the Carole Nash Classic Show at Stafford and I’m in the front row of a crowd of eager showgoers who want to hear this amazing French interpretation of Honda’s legendary CBX1000 six-cylinder motorcycle. Just the day before I’d sat open mouthed as co-creator of this beast — Lionel Brancquart — gave me the specifications of this malevolent machine — the Brancquart Competition CBX1000R.
Where your standard CBX is pushing around 90bhp to the ground, this one is producing anything between 170 and 185bhp, depending on what specifications or numbers you believe. And where the stock bike will drone to around 10,000rpm at the redline,this machine has howled its way to the dizzy heights of 22,000rpm.
But today, with this crowd already being warned to plug their ears, a more restrained 19,500rpm is going to be dialled in, just to go a little easier on our eardrums.
Lionel throws his tall frame over the stunted tail unit, stretches over the carbon tank and snaps open and shuts the throttle 11 times. The bike is pulled on to the rollers of the starter and then the fun begins. He checks over his left shoulder to see that the fat rear tyre on the lightweight 16.5in magnesium wheel is being spun and dumps the clutch… he has trouble getting it into neutral but by that time the crowd don’t care. Instead it’s big smiles and fingers in ears.
This thing sounds beautiful: a mechanical metaphor would be likening this machine to the Sirens of Greek mythology. You’re attracted by this beautiful sound but it hurts so much, but you still find yourself moving closer… perilously closer.
I’ve been around race paddocks for many years but I’ve never heard anything so beautiful or so painful. The sound waves stab your ears while the shockwaves pound your chest.
Suddenly hearing the C8X1000R rev to 19,500rpm the sound fitted the specification I’d heard the day before. Those pistons and reciprocating parts have to be so much lighter and more precise to make that sort of power and this much noise and to rev to around double what the original parts would do in a standard CBX, Gerard Brancquart set up Brancquart Competition in 1989. Since then it has become a veritable powerhouse in the French tuning business — and not just on two-wheels. While Gerard and his son Lionel are renowned for their motorcycle work, anything powered by a bike or car engine can tap into their expertise: often historical race projects with Honda’s V4s like the RC30 and RC45 share bench space with Porsche car engines, it’s like what our own Tony Scott has been doing, but on a more industrial scale.
On two-wheels they’ve won the 1996 Thunderbike Trophy with William Costes -this was the 600cc production championship which ran alongside MotoGP and the 500cc two-strokes for a few years. They’ve also won a number of superstock titles, but it’s in the world of endurance that their name is best-known. They’ve come first and second in the 2002 World Endurance championship, they’ve worked on the engines for both the Honda France and Kawasaki France World endurance teams for the past decade, as well as working with various motocross and supermoto teams as well as tuning engines powering quads, jet-skis and four-wheel disciplines such as Raliye Cross. All in all, Brancquart Competition has won around 40 titles in France and the world.
So what made the guys decide to transform the Honda CBX1000?
Lionel explains the passion that made this father and son team tackle the mighty CBX six.
«My father was a great fan of racing and he always had a special passion for the Honda six-cylinder racers campaigned by the likes of Mike Hailwood. For him it was the sound he wanted to recreate, he wanted us to build something that brought back that sound, a replica of the Honda six but with the CBX.”
This was the start of something amazing and all of Gerard and Lionel’s skill resides in this motorcycle. With revs meaning power (and noise) the trick was to cut reciprocating weight inside the Honda. To this end everything has been reworked for lightness in pursuit of power and decibels.
The crank is seven kilos lighter than stock, the Saenz forged rods weigh just 110 grams the pistons are IASA items. In the top of the motor the lightened camshafts are modified by Techniprofil, while the valve gear and valves themselves are modified by Xceldyne with tappets manufactured by Movaltec. These companies work with Citroen in the World Rally championship as well as with Renault in FI, so they’re used to working with engines that have to rev.
The frame itself is a standard CBX1000 Honda item but with changes made to the rear of the frame to accept a Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5 swingarm.
The forks themselves are a result of the friendship between the Brancquarts and the Yamaha Tech 3 team manager Herve Poncharal.
The complete front-end of the CBX1000R is from Colin Edwards’ YZR-M1 satellite MotoGP machine, complete with Ohlins front forks and carbon Brembo brakes.
This comes from Lionel and Herve working together on the training machines that Tech 3 built for the Moto2 championship.
The bike was started in 2007 and was finished two years ago, but some final detail changes were added — the standard colours for the tank and tail unit were changed for the moody carbon bodywork you see here.
Lionel says: “For both my father and I this was a creation where we took an engine which was legendary, but made it into something tru!y amazing, but then allied it with modern chassis parts, tyres, wheels, brakes etc.»
When the bike was finally complete, French magazine Moto Revue tested the bike at Paul Ricard, at the same time as they were testing the BMW HP4 and Ducati Panigale sports bikes. Lionel explains:
«The test rider got off the bike and simply said one word: ‘unbelievable’. We allowed Moto Revue just 20 kilometres on the bike as the engine was new and he was saying that the CBX1000R was better than the new bikes.”
Sadly during the creation of the CBXIOOOR Gerard was diagnosed with cancer.
Patrick Hornstein a friend of the Brancquart family says: «After Gerard was diagnosed with cancer and they knew he only had so much time left they both threw themselves into this project with such energy. I truly believe this bike kept Gerard alive for longer.”
Gerard lived to see his creation live and breathe, but sadly he died just three weeks before attending the Stafford show.
The bike now lives on as a lasting legacy of Gerard’s work and what Brancquart Competition can do. For any CBX owners out there who lust after a machine that looks and sounds like this, then you really need to contact Brancquart Competition, as its suppliers have made small batches of parts so that more of these CBXIOOOR motors can be made.
Lionel explained: «We want to build CBXlOOORs for the street. Obviously they will not be of the specification of this one. Instead it will be built to be used much more frequently, so it will have lower power, and it will not rev quite so high! Also, this means that the chassis can be styled to the customer’s specifications. Forks could come from a Suzuki Hayabusa perhaps and the swingarm could be something that would be chosen by the customer themselves.”
Specification Brancquart Competition Honda CBX1000R 1978-1979
Engine: 1096cc air-cooled, fourstroke inline six-cylinder Bore x stroke: 66.0 x 53.4mm Pistons: Forged I ASA items
Compression ratio: 12.5:1 Carburation: Six Keihin FCR carbs
Camshafts: modified by Techniprofil
Valves: 24-valve, all modified by
Xceldyne with tappets b; Movaltec.
Power: 171bhp 17,200rpm
Torque: S31 b-ft @ 12,200rpm
Clutch: Movaltec carbon clutch
Weight: (dry) 174kg
Wheels: front 3.6in rim x 16.5in diameter magnesium wheel, rear 6.25tn rim x 16.Sin diameter.
Top speed: 170mph
Suspension: Front Ohlins MotoGP spec from Tech 3 YZR-Ml. Rear suspension Delcamp Energie monoshock
Brakes: Front 2 x 320mm Brembo carbon discs, rear one 210mm Brembo carbon disc and calliper