Emily BONDI has won the French motorcycle championship for her first year on track!
Emily BONDI is just 22 years old. A competitor at heart, she holds the status of top-level athlete at IÉSEG. A few weeks ago, she became French motorcycle champion in all categories, in her first season on the racetrack. She tells us about her daily life, her passion for motorcycling and her ambitions.
Emily, how did you develop your passion for motorcycling, to the point of taking part in competitions?
I discovered motorcycling thanks to my parents, and even thanks to my grandparents, who were all bikers and who passed on to me this passion… and even the competition spirit! When I was very young, my mother used to put me on her tank in front of her, and she’d say to me: “Come on, let’s race with Daddy, let’s go for it! Then we went to live in China for 5 years, from when I was 13 until I was 18. Over there, driving a motorcycle is very expensive, much more than driving a car… So no motorcycles. On the other hand, anyone can drive a scooter! Without a helmet, without a license, at any age! So I was lucky enough to be able to start driving at a very young age, although I was very careful. It was also around this time that electric scooters started to boom, more than 10 years before they did in France… I’d often take my mother’s electric scooter, and have fun going fast, taking corners… just like on a motorcycle!
When I returned to France at the age of 18, I took my car driving test first, because I knew that if I took my motorcycle driving test first, I’d never do it afterwards… I soon got rid of that and finally had the pleasure of taking my motorcycle driving test. The motorcycle school I enrolled in is run by a former racing driver, Philippe MONNERET (who, among other things, holds the record for the world’s fastest driver on a circuit, at 357 km/h). It was he who first invited me to come and drive on the track. I have fond memories of those first laps. I learned a lot from him, and even broke my first bike on that occasion! I remember it perfectly, it was a ” small ” Yamaha. The first day I went out on the track with them, I wanted to get close to the ground to put my knee on the track… I’m very stubborn, it’s the counterpart of my very competitive character… so I absolutely wanted to succeed and… I put in that little bit too much and fell… I broke my first bike on the last lap of my first day on the track!
That first fall didn’t stop you – quite the contrary!
Oh no, it didn’t! First, I repaired the bike I had broken. Then I bought myself another bike, really designed for racing… Today, I have 3 bikes… A bike for everyday use, one for circuit racing and a motocross bike for winter training. I love motocross, and I’m always impatient for this time of year to arrive, because with motocross, you learn gliding and trajectory, and that’s great. But you shouldn’t do it in the middle of the racing season, because when you fall, you always end up hurting yourself! It would be a shame to come to a race with a broken wrist or a broken ankle.
How were you spotted and how did you become a top-level driver?
Philippe MONNERET saw me drive a lot. At the end of the year, he told me to stop… because on this modest racetrack in Ile-de-France, it was becoming too dangerous: I always wanted to go faster, always wanted to overtake the others. So, he invited me to a real racing circuit, the Castelet – Paul Ricard, near Marseille. It was love at first sight, and I decided to drive only there. I was just starting out, but I was already thinking big! So, I got myself a Yamaha R1, the Holy Grail of competition motorcycles, a 1,000 cm3… I registered it so I could ride it on the road, paying almost 200€ a month in insurance, and my father wasn’t too happy about it, I can tell you! The first time I rode it, I was thrilled! Riding a real race bike on a real competition track was a magical moment. I quickly became more proficient, in fact I’ve never progressed as much as I did then. I rode at over 330 km/h on the straight, which was great. I was placed in the best group, among the fastest drivers. Of course, I was the only girl…
I missed racing. I was 22, I’d been back in France for 4 years, I was at IÉSEG and I wasn’t competing anymore. Before that, I had been French Horse Ball Champion, I’d taken part in the Asian Football Championships, I’d done swimming, basketball, slalom… It’s stronger than me, I need that adrenalin. I grew up like that, it’s in my nature… So in January 2023, I signed up for the French Women’s Motorcycle Championships. And that’s how it all started.
I started training seriously, looking for sponsors. I was lucky enough to have a lot of support from people close to me, and that was invaluable. I learned how to approach brands directly, write a sponsorship file, a pressbook and present myself. And in my first season on the women’s circuit, after 8 races on 4 different circuits, taking 5 victories and 8 podiums, I was crowned French Champion in all categories!
How does it feel to be on the podium in your first race and to be crowned champion in your first season?
The first time, I was a bit embarrassed! I thought, “Wow, it’s weird to be here! But I really enjoyed my victories. I never thought we’d get cups, gifts, champagne, it was great. It was such a source of pride and reward for all the hard work I’d put in. When I was crowned champion, I said to myself: “I’ve done it, I’ve gone all the way! I’ve got the cup in my hands… And now what? What’s the next step? And just by chance, next year, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme will launch the first women’s world championship. And who has the most legitimacy to represent France at this championship? I look at my cup and see, written in large letters: “Championne de France”! This challenge excites me enormously!
What does the daily life of a top motorcycle racer consist of?
It’s a very strict daily routine, with very little time left for personal life… Every day, I go to the gym, because it’s essential to have a toned, muscular body when you’re riding at these speeds and taking on 3G when braking… and up to 15G in the event of a crash (i.e. 15 times my weight, compared with around 6G for a Formula 1 driver when braking). If you’re not built for it, you’ll go flying with the bike! When I’m not at the gym, I’m in the garage doing mechanical work, because there’s always something to repair or maintain… An oil change, toe-clips to change, a decoration kit to add… Then, of course, I spend as many days as possible training on the track. I try to go there 3 weekends a month… So it’s a lot of time, and also a lot of money…
That’s my daily life as a top-level athlete… It means waking up early in the morning, taking classes, working (because I’m in an apprenticeship program) and training in the evenings and on weekends. There’s not much room for anything else… A Netflix series? No, I don’t have time for that. During the competition season, I only saw my parents on the circuit… We sometimes had dinner together one evening during the week, but always after training, and never on Fridays! My friends were the same, they came to see me at my races. It’s only now that the season’s over that I can finally get out of the shadow and see them a bit more. It’s a lot of sacrifices, and you don’t realize it when you’re not a top-level athlete… My whole day-to-day life is conditioned by sport, is regulated by sport…
What do you get out of sport in your day-to-day life?
Sport gives meaning to my life. What I’m doing right now is building myself professionally. I’m creating myself as a person, developing my skills. I’m learning how to communicate, and I’m putting into practice what I’m learning through sport, but also thanks to IÉSEG, for example, to develop my communities on my social networks. I’m developing my reputation, my legitimacy, because later I’d like to offer my communications consultancy services to other athletes. I want to show them how, for example, I managed to go from 0 to 17,600 followers on Instagram in less than 1 year, how to approach brands, manufacturers… Why not also work as a sports journalist, as a race commentator? I’d have every right to do so, because I know what goes on on a motorcycle, in the paddock. What’s more, there are very few women in this sport, which is all to my advantage in the end… Everything I’m creating today through motorcycling, through my legitimacy, credibility and reputation, and thanks to IÉSEG too, will help me succeed tomorrow.
How does IÉSEG support you as a top-level athlete?
First of all, I’ve had the status of top-level athlete at IÉSEG since this year, which means that I can make arrangements in terms of timetables, absences… when I need to travel for training or competitions. I really appreciate that.
Then, beyond the courses and the teaching, which is really of a high standard, IÉSEG brings me an incredible experience. There’s a lot of interaction with my teachers and the other lecturers. I get a lot of advice from them, they teach me a lot and give me their vision of things. I always tell myself that if they think it’s the right thing to do, then I’ll listen to them and try! Thanks to IÉSEG, thanks to my work-study program, I learn a lot, from everyone, and that’s essential for me, because when I go on an interview, on a TV set, I’m not uneducated, I know what I’m talking about. I’m doing a Master in “Digital Marketing and Innovation” and throughout my time at IÉSEG, I’ve learned how to develop websites, e-commerce sites, turn all my communication into leads and those leads into contracts and opportunities… Everything I absorb on a daily basis at IÉSEG is starting to pay off. I have more and more tools at my disposal to succeed.
Finally, you’re also involved in an apprenticeship program with your company: what support does it give you on a day-to-day basis?
The support from my company is essential, because it’s all the more demanding and mentally difficult as I don’t just have school and sport: I have IÉSEG, sport AND the company. I work 3 weeks a month at La Franco European Image, an events agency, as a junior project manager. It’s fundamental for me to be a true professional in business, just as I am in my sport and in my student life… I’m lucky that my company believes in me and allows me to take time off from work so that I can practice my sport at a high level. But it’s a give-and-take situation: they support me because I give my all every day when I’m at the agency. We have clients to serve, to whom we are accountable, and I strive to give them the best of myself to organize events that meet their expectations, just as I give the best of myself on my bike.