The French have enjoyed very little success in the premier class of motorcycle racing, which is rather strange, especially because France was the first great motorcycling nation.
French riders and machines dominated the early years of bike racing. Indeed the first great racing motorcycle was a French tricycle, built by De Dion-Bouton in western Paris. Three wheels made a lot more sense than two at a time when roads were rutted, muddy and covered in horse manure. Not a single two- wheeler qualified for the Paris-Marseilles-Paris race of September 1896, but a De Dion-Bouton finished third, chasing two Panhard cars.
Seven years later a fearsome 1500cc Clément motorcycle, manufactured just over the River Seine from the De Dion-Bouton workshop, won the first ‘motorcycling track championship of the world’ at the Parc de Prince cycle track in Paris. The year after, Paris-based Griffon won the inaugural Coupe Internationale motorcycle races around a 33-mile street circuit south west of Paris.