Lion Rally

The big cat throws a party for almost 2000 enthusiasts

In the straight past the grandstand, some motorcyclists are very fast, and of course some others not so, but all have their supporters, their own bands of enthusiastic friends or fans who scream encouragement from the pits.

Lion 1971 - Friends or fans cheering from the pits

This year again, almost 2000 enthusiasts met around 70 km from Brussels, on the Hasselt road, where the Zolder circuit hides, secluded in the middle of a pine forest.

Lion 1971 - The amateur racers parc ferme

This was a circuit better known at the time for its Formula 2 races but which each Autumn would receive several hundred bikers from all over Europe, celebrating in the late 1960s and early 1970s the famous Lion rally.

Lion 1971 - Participants...

A beautiful autumn sun shone and graced rallyists with its warm presence on the Friday and Saturday. However, by Sunday the sun had disappeared and was replaced by a decidedly sullen sky.

Mind you, this did nothing to discourage the 'amateur racers' some of whom had travelled large distances with the firm intention of fighting it out on the track during the traditional five lap timed series.

Lion 1971 - at the campsite

Once again, Paul Lammerant and his dedicated and well-versed team from the Brussels Moto Club offered participants an organisation close to perfection. Among the many and extremely varied attractions on Saturday's meeting programme, there was the chance to visit a mine and learn about the hard-working miners.

Lion 1971 - (right): One of the two restaurants

The registrar's office was packed late into the evening coping with a constant stream of new arrivals of all nationalities. As for catering, it was provided on site by two excellent restaurants; as well as the typical 'friteries' selling Belgium fries.

Lion 1971 - Rallyists enjoying the delicious local food

Under the traditional huge circus tent, an excellent rock band played on Saturday evening to the delight of those who loved to dance or just listen to good live music.

Lion 1971 - An improvised acrobat in action

For the others, perhaps less keen on the music, but more at home with good Belgian beer, everything was on hand and enjoyed in great quantity; so much so that around 3000 litres of beer was drunk that evening.

Suddenly a hurrah rose up from the assembled crowd! A biker probably a little worse for wear decided to showcase his acrobatic talents and managed to hoist himself up to the top of the marquee, egged on by a spontaneous crowd of supporters.

As at each gathering, among the horde of motorised metal steeds, some machines attracted more attention than others, initiating comments from the bike connoisseurs.

Lion 1971 - Certain machines attract more attention than others

This particular year, it was the owner of a Munch 1200cc who stole the show with his machine's huge engine, which seemed to be overflowing the frame.

Lion 1971 - The enormous monster...

Watching its owner emerge from the middle of a sea of tents on such a monstrous animal was a spectacle in itself!

Lion 1971 - ...stole the show!

As usual in Zolder, the Vincent Owner Club arrived in full force. From the 'Black Shadow' to the 'Black Prince', all models were in evidence, and all in excellent condition.

Lion 1971 -The Vincent OC came once again in full force

Many of those present couldn't help but dream of owning such fabulous machines, their fantasies likely to last long after the rally itself had finished.

I can totally appreciate their dreams. Almost 50 years ago, I did the very same thing, each time an opportunity presented itself; just like that other hardcore fan of the brand and connoisseur of fine machinery, the late writer and gonzo journalist Dr Hunter S Thompson.

Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.
- Hunter S Thompson

- Jean-Francois Helias