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Sep 9, 2012

SRC Kawasaki Wins 24 Hours Of Le Mans, SERT Wins FIM Endurance World Championship

Suzuki Endurance Racing Team's Anthony Delhalle (1).
FIM Endurance World Championship
24 Hours of Le Mans
Le Mans, France
September 8-9, 2012
Race Results:

1. SRC KAWASAKI (Julien DA COSTA/Gregory LEBLANC/Freddy FORAY), Kaw ZX-10R, Superbike, 643 laps

2. S.E.R.T. (Vincent PHILIPPE/Anthony DELHALLE/Takuya TSUDA), Suz GSX-R1000, Superbike, -62.508 seconds

3. BMW MOTORRAD FRANCE THEVENT (Sebastien GIMBERT/Damian CUDLIN/Erwan NIGON) BMW S1000RR, Superbike, -4 laps

4. YAMAHA GMT 94 MICHELIN (David CHECA/Kenny FORAY/Matthieu LAGRIVE), Yam YZF-R1, Superbike, -5 laps

5. HONDA TT LEGENDS (John McGUINNESS/Cameron DONALD/Mattheiu GINES), Hon CBR1000RR, Superbike, -16 laps

6. NATIONAL MOTOS (Vincent BOCQUET/Dylan BUISSON/Etienne MASSON), Hon CBR1000RR, Superbike, -29 laps

7. MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA (Igor JERMAN/Steve MARTIN/Gwen GIABBANI), Yam YZF-R1, Superbike, -34 laps

8. LOUIT MOTO 33 (David PERRET/Nicolas SALCHAUD/Nans CHEVAUX), Kaw ZX-10R, Superstock, -35 laps

9. PENZ13 KRAFTW. HERPIGNY (Arie VOS/Pedro VALLCANERAS/Jason PRIDMORE), BMW S1000RR, Superstock, -38 laps

10. RAC 41 YAM AVENUE IPONE (Kevin DENIS/Cyril BRIVET/Herve GANTNER), Yam YZF-R1, Superbike, -41 laps

More, from a press release issued by FIM Endurance Press Office:

Third win in a row for SRC Kawasaki at Le Mans ahead of the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and BMW France Motorrad Thevent

The forty or so survivors of the 24 Hours of Le Mans kept the suspense alive until the very end. From the early hours of the morning, the SRC Kawasaki and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team battled it out out front, with just a handful of seconds between them. Julien da Costa, Gregory Leblanc and Freddy Foray on the official Kawasaki finally got the better of Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Takuya Tsuda on the Suzuki despite their undiminished will to win.

"The title was also up for grabs but we staked everything on a win. We didn't miss it by much," said Dominique Méliand, team manager du Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, which clinched a twelfth FIM World Endurance Championship at Le Mans.

For BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent, which takes second place in the 2012 FIM Endurance World Championship, a place on the podium of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a victory over fate. After a crash early in the race, Sébastien Gimbert, Damian Cudlin and Erwan Nigon produced a fabulous race but were never able to catch up with the leading duo. The official BMW's most dangerous rival for the third spot on the podium was the Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube. David Checa, Kenny Foray and Matthieu Lagrive were in the fray with the leaders until a radiator failure during the night caused them to lose contact with the frontrunners. Christophe Guyot's team takes third place in the 2012 world rankings.

Honda TT Legends again finished in the Top5. John McGuinness, Cameron Donald and Mathieu Gines hung in there in fifth position waiting to capitalise on any weakness up in front. The Honda National Motos ridden by Vincent Bocquet, Dylan Buisson and Etienne Masson is the first private motorcycle to be ranked at Le Mans. It took the chequered flag ahead of Monster Energy Yamaha YART, stymied first by crashes then by electrical failures.

In Superstock, the struggle for victory was just as intense. After the disqualification of the MCP Starteam 67 for non-compliance with the specs, the Kawasaki Louit Moto 33 came in first after 24 hours of racing action that saw off pre-race favourites such as Junior Team LMS Suzuki, Team Motors Events AMT Assurances (Suzuki) and AM Moto Racing Compétition (Suzuki), who all crashed out of the race, and the Yamaha of DG Sport Herock forced out by an overheating engine. At the end, Louit Moto 33, 8th overall, came in ahead of the BMW Penz13 Kraftwerk, which brings home the FIM Endurance World Cup. At the end of the race, the Yamaha of Team Viltaïs Racing Division and the Suzuki Atomic MotoSport finished third and fourth in Superstock after taking advantage of the misfortunes of the 3D Endurance Moto Center. Having spent much of the race up with the Superstock leaders, the 3D Kawasaki slipped back with a faulty gearbox. Nevertheless, it keeps its second place in the world Superstock rankings ahead of Atomic MotoSport.

Team Motors Events AMT Assurances had the most disappointing result in Superstock. A contact by Guillaume Dietrich forced the Suzuki out of the race. In the top spot for the FIM World Cup coming into Le Mans, Team Motors Events AMT Assurances fell back into fourth position.

More, from a press release issued by BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent:

Le Mans, France - 9 September 2012: BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent ended the season as EWC vice-champions for the second year in succession, after taking a hard fought third place in this weekend's 24 Heures Moto at Le Mans and putting a European motorcycle on the podium for the first time in this prestigious race.

Sébastien Gimbert, Damian Cudlin, Erwan Nigon and Hugo Marchand arrived at Le Mans trailing the championship leaders by 19 points and well aware that a win was required in the 35th edition of the 24 Heures Moto if they were to stand even the slimmest chance of wresting the world title away from SERT at the final hour.

The Le Mans weekend started well, with Gimbert, Cudlin and Nigon securing pole position for the second time in as many years aboard the #99 BMW S1000RR. However, after a solid opening relay by Cudlin, a low speed crash for Gimbert less than two hours into the race left the team chasing a gap to the leaders that, ultimately, proved impossible to close.

As the two leading teams battled it out at the front of the field, the BMW Motorrad France riders focused on making up places with each relay, eventually moving up to third place just before the sun reappeared across the Bugatti circuit this morning.

The BMW teammates were forced to continue pushing hard during the next three relays, as they defended against a concerted challenge from Yamaha GMT94 for the final place on the podium. With just two hours of the race left to run the pace and consistency that has been evident all weekend paid dividends, with the #99 BMW pulling a gap on the pursuers before taking the chequered flag in third place.

While the team and the riders were happy to end the season with a podium at the Endurance World Championship's showcase event, there was also disappointment that their title challenge had been thwarted so early in the final race, just as it was last year in Qatar.

Damian Cudlin:
"I'm pleased to be on the podium; it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but obviously we wanted to win the race and the championship today. However, the guys who beat us here did so fair and square, so it's down to us to up our game just a little more. We've come second in the championship twice now, which is pretty good for a new team. With a bit of work in the off-season, and the same level of support we have now, there's no reason why we shouldn't challenge for the championship again next year."

Erwan Nigon:
"It's all over and we finished third, putting a European bike on the podium at Le Mans for the first time in it's 35 year history in the process, so I'm pretty happy with that. It wasn't an easy race. A lot of riders crashed, a lot of bikes ended broken and the conditions were quite difficult, but we still finished on the podium, which is good. But our first objective was the title and we're again second, which is not quite as good. However, it shows our potential and it makes me even more motivated to come back next year to fight once again for the title, only this time even harder.

Sébastien Gimbert:
"I'm happy to be on the podium here at Le Mans, but also a little disappointed not to have been able to fight for the win and the championship this weekend. I was pushing hard to catch the Kawasaki and Suzuki on my first relay, but then I lost the front after passing a slower rider. We lost some time in the pits as a result, but I was able to find my rhythm quickly once back on track, only for the safety car to come out. As first relays go, it wasn't an easy one. From then on we were chasing, but we just couldn't close the gap to the leaders and had to settle for a place on the podium. We've been second in the championship for two years now, so there is only one way for us to go next season."

Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
"If you'd offered me a podium finish at Le Mans when we started this project then I'd have happily taken it. But we've come a long way since the start, establishing ourselves as one of the main contenders for the championship, and our expectations have increased as a result. Finishing on the podium in the biggest race of the season is an achievement, but we came here to fight for the championship and, once again, we stumbled at the final hurdle. I couldn't have asked any more of the team. They did a fantastic job here this weekend, as they have done at every race this season. We knew they were going to have to push hard and take risks if we were to win, and that's exactly what our riders did here. It didn't work out as planned, but I think the fight back to third place illustrates just how strong a rider line up we have. I'd like to say a big thank you to BMW Motorrad France, to Michelin and to my co-principals, Volker Scheck and Jeff Souren, without whom none of this would have been possible. Congratulations to SRC Kawasaki for the win today and to SERT for once again winning the championship. Will we be back next year to try again to beat them? You'd better believe it!"

Marcel Driessen: Director BMW Motorrad France
"For me it's been a day of mixed feelings. We came to Le Mans with the conviction that we could win and maybe even come away with a world championship title too, but our hopes were dashed with the crash early in the race. But the team and the riders didn't let their heads drop and fought back to secure a podium in the biggest race of the year. Our BMW S1000RR is also the first European motorcycle to finish on the podium in the 24 Heures Moto at Le Mans, and that makes me very proud. In fact, this weekend has been a very successful one for BMW. Team Penz13-Kraftwerk were crowned Superstock World Cup Champions today, while Jörg Steinhausen and Gregory Cluze took their BMW S1000RR powered outfit to second place in the Sidecar World Championship yesterday. A very good weekend indeed."

More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki News Service:

Suzuki Endurance Racing Team has won the 2012 World Endurance Championship after one of closest and most-exciting finishes at the Le Mans 24-Hour race in France.

Team riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Takuya Tsuda completed 844 laps of the world-famous Bugatti Circuit to bring their GSX-R1000 Suzuki home in second place just 1:02 minutes behind race winners SRC Kawasaki, who also finished with 844 laps.

SERT had led the race going into the closing stages but were given a time penalty for an alleged rule infringement during a pit stop, which put them back to second place, but the demotion to second place was not enough to clinch SERT's 12th World Championship with its total of 128 points from the five rounds some 24 ahead of BMW Motorrad France, with Yamaha France GMT 94 taking the bronze medal on 98 points.

SERT rider Vincent Philippe led away the 35th-Anniversary Le Mans 2-Hours from the start from fastest qualifiers SRC Kawasaki; then swapped places several times as the race progressed. SERT led on several occasions, but the event was dominated from the front mostly by the Kawasaki trio of Julien da Costa, Gregory Leblanc and Freddy Foray as the Suzuki team played a calculated race to finish ahead of its closest rivals in the series - Yamaha France GMT 94, Honda TT Legends and BMW Motorrad France.

Said a delighted Team Manager Dominque Meliand, who has headed the most-successful team in World Endurance history for more than 30 years: "The main goal was to win the world title but we staked everything on the race win, as we really wanted to win our home race at Le Mans - and we didn't miss it by much..."

Le Mans 24-Hour Results: 1 SRC Kawasaki (Kawasaki) 844 laps, 2 SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 844, 3 BMW Motorrad France (BMW) 840, 4 Yamaha France GMT 94 (Yamaha) 839, 5 Honda TT Legends (Honda) 828, 6 National Motos (Honda) 815, 7 MCP Starteam 67 (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 814, 8 Louit Moto 33 (Kawasaki) 809, 9 Penz13 Kraftwerk (BMW) 806, 10 RAC 41 (Yamaha) 803.
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