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Deus Swank Rally On Ice

Words: Gary Inman

Photos: Jan Van Vijnckt/ Conograph

It has been a long-time since Deus Ex Machina’s Italian HQ put out the call for a frozen Swank Rally, the winter edition of their off-road time trial event. The last occasion was back in 2018, when the Swank Rally preceded the final running of Snow Quake, at the Ice Rosa Ring, Italy. A handful of those Snow Quake veterans made it out to the new French location of Chamrousse.

  Belgian dirt tracker and photographer, Jan Van Vijnckt captured the scene, driving from the Low Countries with fellow friends and racers Rob Meersman, Koen of Rescycles, Wannes Elias, Louis Borra,
Noah Geijsman, Andreas Bulckens and Robert Van Hoecke. They who joined 50 or so hardy racers in the French mountains, very close to Alpes d’Huez (a name familiar to any Tour de France fans).

  ‘Conditions in the morning were hard. The ice on the track was rutted with frozen snow piled on top making it tricky,’ says Jan. ‘It felt like a good rodeo ride: twisting the throttle open, lean backwards and hope you don’t get thrown off.’

  With all the riders going to the effort of studding their tyres for just about the only vintage-friendly motorcycle ice race of the year, and many also driving hundreds of miles, they were determined to have fun, and by midday the track was improving.

‘We had a break for lunch, and has some time to for snowmobile rides, and take part in a little treasure hunt for hidden Deus Ex Machina goodies.’

  Many of the familiar faces from events across Europe showed up. Hawkeye from England, Dimitri Coste and Hubert Bastie from Paris, Gillee and the Belgian squad, plus Deus’ Northern Italian crew.

When asked to choose his favourite bike Jan was torn between Dimitri’s Triumph (#67) and Regis Guyot’s Rickman BSA (#07/68). ‘Clean, fast and perfect build with all the good parts.’

  There was a second round in the dark. ‘The night race was more than epic. The track was better than in the morning,’ says Jan. ‘It was more the feeling of riding on sand, and you see that everybody was improving their lap times. For me this was the best part of the day, and everybody had the biggest smiles on their faces.’

  Pushed for a favourite photo Jan chose the Unit Garage family from France, ripping around on their sidecar (featured in Sideburn 45). ‘These guys are real heroes. Really nice guys on and off the track. Giving it all, and always there to help when needed. Sharing their knowledge and then showing how they do it.’

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