Comfortably seated inside the Bar 30, the inescapable address of Sofitel Paris le Faubourg, we had a chat with the five-time Dakar winner, Cyril Despres. An outstanding sportsman who’s recently the shock ambassador of a Swiss watches brand called: Evilard.
After winning his fifth Dakar this year, this top-notch pilot owes his success to himself. After beginning on this legendary race in 2000 in amateur, riding a non-competitive bike and finished second in its category, he quickly attracted the attention of the factory teams. Since then, he has won almost every rally raid major race and the title of World Champion in 2003.
Main pilot of Yamaha motorcycle now, he very kindly agreed to speak with us around a “Perrier Menthe” to describe us his unusual career, his ambitions, his commitment to Africa and his brand new interest into watches…
Les Rhabilleurs – How did you came into contact with Evilard?
Cyril Despres – With a common passion for Africa, the grand-son of the founder, Nicolas Voyame, approached me and offered me to become a brand ambassador. During a trip to Switzerland late February, I went to discover the world Evilard which immediately attracted me.
Were you familiar with the world of watches before?
I had the chance to win some watches during different competitions but without developing a particular interest. I must also say that my original profession, mechanic, did not necessarily allow me to acquire a very nice watch.
In contrast, the “mechanical” side of watchmaking intrigued me and when I visited the workshops Evilard, I was impressed by the technical precision and miniaturization required to develop such pieces .
What about the one you’re wearing today?
It is the « Esquisse Alpha Evo Skeleton » model that I especially like for its design, lightness and movement, visible directly from the watch face.
– NDLR – Nicolas Voyame will confirm us later that the whole movement is realized in Evilard workshop.
Are you wearing this watch when you ride your bike?
I went riding once or twice in Spain and everything went well. I especially liked the rubber strap, very nice when worn, even between my suit and gloves.
According to you, could it resist to a Dakar race?
It is not impossible.
Given that the conditions are really extreme. In South America, we cross the continent from Argentina to Peru towards Chile with, in the middle, the Andes Cordillera.
We reach an altitude of 4,900 meters. It goes from 0 see -3 degrees to almost 40 the next day. Besides the snow, rain, hot sun… and dust, stones, mud that hit our face continuously. In short, it’s a really intense experience!
What is the key of success to achieve this kind of race?
To have a good bike and obviously a good team. To adopt the best strategy.
More importantly, gaining experience, because our road book are given to us the day before the race. We don’t know where we’re going, we don’t have the right to conduct a reconnaissance and it is like that for more than two weeks.
The key is therefore to be physically ready, to be super enduring, to avoid any potential traps, not to fall, damaging the motorcycle, get lost …
It’s a little more than simply ride a motorcycle! (Laughs)
What inspired you to become a professional pilot?
I was a motorcycle mechanic before, and like many French, the Paris-Dakar was a real institution. The ultimate experience!
I really wanted to participate, so I did it the first time as a pure amateur and I loved it.
I then got enrolled in a kind of virtuous circle where I’ve been lent motorcycles, I started to do well, I got spotted and I became a “water carrier” pilot for the Gauloise team at the time.
So I stopped working in my workshop in the 11th arrondissement of Paris for 13 years now and I just love my new life!
For how long?
I just signed a 3 years contract with Yamaha and I think I can make it through. After, we’ll see!
The important thing now is that I have the opportunity to live my passion. This seemed totally impossible 20 years ago.
What about your involvement in Africa?
In my KTM-Gauloise team, I was competing with the Italian rider Fabrizio Meoni who got unfortunately killed during Dakar 2005.
He had founded a school in Dakar and when I won the race that year I absolutely wanted to pursue his commitment. We now have over 350 students spread over two schools aged between 3 to 17 years old with funds collected with my book (http://www.cyrildespres-shop.com/) and partners such as Red Bull, Maison France Comfort recently Evilard…
With mechanics lessons?
Not yet (Laughs).
The aim is above all to educate as many children through the sales of my book.
One last word about Evilard?
I’m not a big fan of ‘luxury’ products but, I must admit that I really like the mechanical aspect of Evilard watches.
I am very happy to wear this model and can only wait for good things to happen from this collaboration.
It is 5 o’clock, Cyril is not far from here he his waited to receive an honorary decoration, the same evening he will leave to Sardinia to compete in his first rally with Yamaha, where he obtained the 4th place just 11 seconds behind the winner…
Some additional information on the SEsquisse Alpha Evo Skeleton model:
Black gold treated dial, Black PVD 316L shiny case, rubber wristband with deployment buckle closed with titanium ceramic bearing.
Limited edition of 100 pieces: 14’680.- CHF HT which makes €11’500.
For more information about Evilard click on the link: www.evilard-watch.com