The planks that mean the world.

Clear the stage and start the film for the wall of death rider Don Ganslmeier.

Hard nuts, an inconspicuous backyard workshop, boxes with long missed contents, muscle contests, reckless manoeuvres, a sensation – and a happy end? The Motodrom, the oldest travelling wall of death in the world provides for great cinema.

Sounds crazy? Well it is.

Sounds crazy? Well it is.

Wherever the Motodrom turns up, incredulous astonishment and bright enthusiasm. And some spectators might feel almost as though they have been sent back to an old circus in an almost archaic seeming wooden construction. But instead of candyfloss and popcorn, it smells of oil and petrol. The artistes call themselves Motorellos and are always stylishly dressed when presenting their riding skills: tight trousers, brightly polished boots and gleaming white shirts. Yet for this idea, the passenger appears to be the devil himself: four riders line up side by side in the narrowest of spaces in the almost 100-year-old wall of death made of wood for a parallel ride – the first since over 50 years. And for the first time on four BMW R 25s, of which each machine has over 60 years under its saddle. Needless to say, such an event must me recorded for posterity. At least director Stéphane Gautronneau was of this opinion. He accompanied the troops and their daring project for 15 whole months – with boss Don Ganslmeier leading the charge. 

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One man, one place.

One man, one place.

The Motodrom without Don? Inconceivable. He lives for the Motodrom. A life full of passion in which the profession of the wall of death artiste becomes a true calling. Don is an impressive persona. His true calling becomes visible right from the first second. His passion has characterised him: his eyes are attentive and wide awake, his gestures as purposeful as they are precise, and his body is littered with countless tattoos. When he raises his voice, his statements appear to be transformed into announcements: no contradictions, this is how we are doing it now – after all, someone has to say how things are to be done. However, Don doesn't particularly like the word boss. In the Motodrom, he is practically a compere, coordinator and of course rider. For the perfect lap and the perfect show, he and his Motorellos risk their health in every show. All for their greatest reward – the applause of the audience.

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STORM AND STRESS

But where does this passion and will to achieve perfection come from? At the age of six years, Don visited a fair with his grandfather and saw the wall of death for the first time. And immediately it became clear: wall of death – that's it. At home in the courtyard, there is always a machine rattling and flapping, either a tractor or an old Quickly. So it was only a matter of time before Don started rattling away too. Anything with wheels and acceleration is bound to be tried out. He travels to the wall of death guru Ken Fox in England and undergoes tough and eternally formative training. For reasons of simplicity, "Strauss" is added to his nickname "Don" – for races during his childhood, he always had a Donald Duck comic with him. Don Strauss's first falls on the wall were met by his role model and teacher Ken Fox with merely a lapidary "I told you, just leave it...". Get up, fall down, get up, fall down again, fall down better. For Don, pure passion is met with uncompromising rigour and the pursuit of perfection. 

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The old times have passed. Yet the passion for them remains. Look forwards again.

The old times have passed. Yet the passion for them remains. Look forwards again.

Before, yes before, there were dozens of girls waiting after the shows to go for a coffee – Don tells us with a grin. But today, his whole attention is devoted to the performance he puts on for the audience. Not to mention the fact that he is in a happy relationship with his girlfriend Jay, who of course actively supports the troops. She shares his passion for old machines and the style of days gone by. When the pair are on the road together, they turn quite a few heads, director Stéphane reports. Yet Don is still always on the lookout for the next thrill, the next challenge and for a possibility to live out his passion even more intensively – the pure embodiment of "Make Life A Ride".

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Always one step ahead.

For the mission of riding up the wall of death with four BMW R 25s, they first needed an extra machine. No small undertaking, especially considering the three existing R 25s are bound to be a sensation in their condition. With a great deal of patience, BMW Motorrad was able to make the dream of another R 25 come true with even more passion and a chance find that had been kept in a box. With the help of experienced restorer Sebastian Gutsch, Don sits in his Munich backyard workshop night after night to assemble the fourth R 25 out of all the gathered parts. Here too, he does not leave his health to chance, perfection that he is. He knows every part, has every screw, every bolt in his hands.

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"
Stéphane is simply a crazy animal, a perfectionist, a great guy – just like me".
"

Don Ganslmeier

You can't make an omelette without making a noise.

When converting the wall, the concentrated silence of the workshop is well and truly over. The runway of the almost 100-year-old tank is redesigned for the fourth bike. Sparks and splinters, curses and laughs are flying. The sweaty assembly and dismantling of the Motodrom has meanwhile become a routine for the riders. Yet the conversion of the enormous board design is a new challenge even for them. Back in the thick of it: Don, who doesn't miss any detail. And hot on his heels: director Stéphane. There are only two rules for him: take good pictures and don't get in the way. Don deals with the long-time videographer in a very professional and pragmatic way: "Stéphane is simply a crazy animal, a perfectionist, a great guy – just like me".

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In the eye of the storm: the eye.

For the director who would gladly lean out of a helicopter or balance on cliffs to ensure the perfect shot, working with the Motorellos is an incredibly intensive time. Being on the road up close and personal with the showmen for around 15 months come rain or shine is certainly different than a meticulously planned fashion shoot. Stéphane can be found everywhere at once. Each shot must be perfect, because there is no room for stagings in real life. At the show's high point, Stéphane stands on the floor of the Motodrom with his camera, while the machines shoot past him just a few centimetres away and wind up the wall.

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Four is not too much for anyone.

At the BMW Motorrad Days, it is finally time: the redesigned runway is clear for all to see and the four hungry humming BMW R 25s. Brightly polished boots, tight trousers, white shirts: the Motorellos are highly concentrated and full of anticipation. After a few laps, they commence their world premiere. All four R 25s accelerate simultaneously and leave the runway one after the other in order to switch to the vertical wall. The rattling of the single-cylinder engines can barely be heard amid the spectators' cheers. Thunderous applauses accompany the artistes until finally all four machines are circling the wall in parallel. Just like a vortex, this atmosphere collects in the centre of the Motodrom for Stéphane's camera. And Don's girlfriend Jay wipes a tear from her eye, just like every time. It's great cinema.

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