Pascal Grosjean, who died following a tragic racing accident in Dubai on Friday 26 November, was in a class of his own in UAE motorcycle racing and a major talent on the world stage. The current UAE 600cc Sportbike Champion, he was celebrating his fourth consecutive race win of the 2011 season when his Yamaha R6 was hit from behind and he later succumbed to his injuries.
Winning was a way of life for Pascal, and he did so on all four Japanese motorcycle brands: Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha. He started racing in the 80cc and 125cc classes of the Swiss motocross championship in 1987. He later switched to road racing and in 1995 came 11th in the Swiss Championship Speed Cup on a Honda NSR 250. The following year he finished 3rd in the same championship.
In 1997 Pascal moved up to the 600cc class and finished 21st in the European Supersport Championship riding a Honda CBR 600. In 2001 he came 5th in the Swiss Promosport 600cc Championship on a Suzuki GSX-R 600 and in 2002 became Swiss champion in the class on the same bike.
Continuing his successful streak with Suzuki, he finished third in the 2003 Swiss Promosport 600cc championship and in 2004 won the championship once more. In 2005 he moved to Kawasaki and was second in the Swiss championship on a ZX6 R. He repeated that performance in 2006 and also finished third at the challenging 24 Hours of Le Mans, riding a 1000cc Kawasaki ZX10 R.
By 2007, Pascal was racing in Dubai, notching up two wins in two races on a Kawasaki ZX6 R. That same year saw him take 3rd place in the World Championship Endurance blockbuster, and 16th overall, on the Kawasaki ZX10 R. He also finished 4th in the six-hour Albacete blockbuster, 6th in the Losail eight-hour race and 7th at Suzuka.
In 2008, he rode the ZX10 R in the Endurance World Championship and recorded five wins out of six races in the 600cc Superstock Championship in Dubai on the ZX6 R, winning the championship and missing out on the sixth win only when a mechanical failure caused him to crash. Last year, Pascal scored eight wins out of eight races in the UAE Superstock 600cc championship in Dubai, winning the championship again and setting five track records in the process. In 2010 he was again crowned 600cc champion.
Pascal won more than races and titles: he won the respect and genuine affection of his fellow competitors and the whole motorcycle racing community. Triumph Daytona racer Mahmoud Tannir said this week: “I never saw him make a single mistake in three seasons. He raised the bar for everyone in the UAE; we all pushed ourselves to see how we could measure up. Pascal was the top guy – he was in a totally different league.”
Mahmoud’s teammate Alan Boyter agreed. “Pascal came to Dubai and simply cleaned up,” he said. “He was head and shoulders above everyone else. He set a new benchmark and raised everyone’s game in the process.”
Pascal had just succeeded in re-creating his own European racing school in the UAE. He was passionate about motorcycle safety and was keen to get riders on to the track to improve their skills.
Pascal was a hugely popular figure in the racing community and known for his laughter, his permanent smile, his jokes and his sense of humour. On the day he died, he walked around the grid before the race laughing and joking with his fellow racers, and went on to win the race in his customary style. His sheer talent, his character and his persona will be sorely missed.