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Apr 21, 2019

World Endurance: Race Report From The 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Action from the FIM Endurance World Championship race in Le Mans, France.

SRC KAWASAKI WREST VICTORY FROM HONDA ENDURANCE RACING

Team SRC Kawasaki France’s victory will go down as the closest-fought and most gripping one in Endurance history to date. Kawasaki carried the day after a memorable duel with Honda Endurance Racing. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team finished third in a thriller of a race.

The 42nd edition will forever be remembered as a 24-hour edge-of-seat duel on the track. Honda Endurance Racing’s Randy de Puniet and Team SRC Kawasaki France’s Jérémy Guarnoni rocketed away from the grid, and the race came to an equally fast-paced finish featuring the same two teams, this time with Yonny Hernandez and Jérémy Guarnoni in the saddle. The suspense reached an even higher pitch when the safety cars came out to clean the track 15 minutes from the finish.

Team SRC Kawasaki France carried the day thanks to Jérémy Guarnoni, David Checa and Erwan Nigon’s determination to shake off Honda Endurance Racing’s Randy de Puniet, Yonny Hernández and Sébastien Gimbert. Their amazing duel overshadowed a third-place finish by Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, who got back on the podium for their team manager Dominique Meliand’s last-ever 24 Heures Motos. The Suzuki’s riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black finished in practically the same lap as the duo in the lead.

Wepol Racing (Yamaha), Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki), 3ART-Moto Team 95 (Yamaha) and National Motos (Honda) also pulled off praiseworthy performances to finish 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th respectively, more than 10 laps behind the three squads leading the race at a scorching pace.

Thanks to their win, and the fact of staying in command of the race from the 4th hour to the finish, Team SRC Kawasaki France have gone to the top of the provisional standings of the 2018-2019 FIM EWC, ahead of Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.

Reigning champions F.C.C. TSR Honda France, who got to Le Mans as standings leader, have lost a big chunk of points. Two crashes had the Japanese team plunging to the bottom of the rankings. F.C.C. TSR Honda France finished the 24 Heures Motos in 35th place.

Superstock podium winner in Top 10

Motors Events finished 7th to emerge victors in the Superstock class. Their strong comeback and determination to chase the win at Le Mans have earned them the Anthony Delhalle EWC Spirit Trophy. Motors Events also won the EWC Dunlop Independent Trophy. James Westmoreland, Johan Nigon and Adrien Ganfornina rode the Suzuki #50, finishing ahead of Yamaha Moto Ain (Robin Mulhauser, Roberto Rolfo and Stefan Hill) and Kawasaki-mounted Team 33 Coyote Louit Moto (Enzo Boulom, Chris Leesch and Kevin Manfredi).

This throws the Superstock Endurance World Cup wide open, as none of these teams had scored any points at the Bol d’Or, the championship’s first round.

The fourth Superstock, Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, were on target for a podium when they were slowed by exhaust problems.

Dashed hopes for starting grid’s front-row threesome

Team ERC-BMW Motorrad Endurance started the race from pole and were among the top three in the early stages, but then had to withdraw shortly after midnight following a crash caused by engine failure. YART Yamaha, who were 2nd on the grid, waged battle in the leading pack until they too suffered engine failure at around 1.30am. VRD Igol Pierret Expériences, who started the race from 3rd place, managed to score one point. After three crashes during the race, their Yamaha #333 finished 20th.

GERT56 by GS Yuasa, the top Superstock on the grid, suffered a similar fate, being forced to withdraw after a crash followed by electronics problems.

76,000 spectators

76,000 spectators watched this spectacular race at Le Mans – the second round of the 2018-2019 FIM EWC – which was flagged off by Jorge Viegas, the new President of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme. Jorge Viegas (who raced the very first edition of the 24 Heures Motos back in 1978) also handed Team SRC Kawasaki France their trophy.

Next race on the Endurance World Championship calendar: the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring on 11 May.



More, from a press release issued by Yamaha:

Disappointment for YART Yamaha as they Abandon at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 24 Hours of Le Mans came to a premature end for the YART Yamaha EWC Team, who were forced to abandon ten hours in the race after damaging the engine of their YZF-R1 in a crash while running second.

The race, which got underway at 15.00 CET with the traditional Le Mans style start, was held in much warmer temperatures compared to qualifying on Thursday and Friday. For the YART Yamaha riders, Marvin Fritz, Niccolò Canepa and Broc Parkes, this meant less grip was available than in qualifying and the trio also had to contend with brake issues during the early stages of the race.

As evening approached and the temperature started to drop, the three YART Yamaha riders were able to up their pace and move up to challenge for the podium places. The number 7 Yamaha YZF-R1 with Fritz onboard was running in second position when the German rider suffered a minor crash.

The YART Yamaha team were quick to get the bike repaired and back into the battle for the podium, but the engine had been damaged in the crash and the bike stopped shortly afterwards, forcing the team to abandon the race.

The YART Yamaha team will return to action for the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, which takes place on 11th May and where they were victorious last season.

Marvin Fritz

YART Yamaha EWC Team

"This was not our race. After 10 hours of racing, at one o'clock in the morning, we had to retire from third position due to a technical problem. We all worked really hard for this race and we definitely had the pace for a podium finish, so it's really unfortunate. We struggled at the beginning for grip but later, with the cooler conditions, we had a good feeling and we were catching the leaders. Anyway, it was not to be, but big thanks to YART Yamaha and Bridgestone for all their hard work. Now we need to focus on the next race at the Slovakia Ring, which is in just two weeks. We have great memories of this race, having won there last year."

Broc Parkes

YART Yamaha EWC Team

"I had really good pace in all my stints and I felt really strong, but our race was done after just 10 hours. Endurance can be cruel sometimes! Now we need to put the disappointment of Le Mans behind us and focus on the next race at the Slovakia Ring, as it's a good circuit for us and one at which we won last year."

Niccolò Canepa

YART Yamaha EWC Team

"Unfortunately, our Le Mans race ended after just 10 hours. The strategy was to control the race in the early stages and then push hard during the night. In the last few hours we were the fastest on track and looking to fight for the win, but we were forced to abandon before the halfway stage. Now we will keep working towards the next races. The team and the teammates are all strong and the results will come."

Mandy Kainz

YART Yamaha EWC Team Manager

"Le Mans was a hard race for us. The temperature was higher than expected and in the early stages of the race we struggled a little for grip and experienced some brake issues, which meant we were not quite as competitive as we were expecting after qualifying, which was held in cooler conditions. Anyway, we tried to make a safe race so we could be in a position to fight for a podium at the finish. We were consistently in the top four but then Marvin had a small crash whilst in second position. We got the bike repaired and it seemed we had no issues, but then the bike stopped 10 hours into the race and we were forced to abandon. On first inspection it looks as if the engine suffered damage in the crash. It's a shame because the team did a fantastic job and, as usual, the riders were three of the fastest on track in all conditions. But this is endurance; you can have the best bike and the fastest riders, but you also need a bit of luck on your side in endurance racing. No luck, no trophy, and that was our fate this weekend in Le Mans."



More, from a press release issued by Honda Pro Racing:

Honda Endurance Racing grabs podium spot in second at the 24 Heures Moto Le Mans

The Honda Endurance Racing team with Randy de Puniet, Sebastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez did fight to a illustrious heroic Le Mans 24 Heures Moto podium at the second round of the 2018/2019 FIM Endurance World Championship. The trio brought their Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 to the rostrum. The fight for the win was decided in the last three minutes only. With the #55 National Motos Honda (Emeric Jonchiere, Stéphane Egea, Baptiste Guittet) another CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 entered the Top-8.

The Honda Endurance Racing team entered the podium of the 42ndedition of the 24 Heures Motos of Le Mans. For the second round of the 2018/2019 FIM Endurance World Championship, Randy de Puniet, Sébastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez fought to a heroic runner-up position after a gruelling full day distance.

After leading the race in the opening stages, the rear light broke lose and had to be fixed including a switch of the circuit. This was managed with a loss of only a bit over three minutes.

The team then head out on track again, taking on the battle down in eleventh position. But the Fireblade trio of de Puniet, Hernandez and Gimbert never gave up and soon was not only fighting for the podium positions again, but closed in to the leaders.

Even a small off of de Puniet could not hinder the team in making its way back up the ranks. De Puniet was lucky to escape from his crash with neither him nor the Fireblade SP2 taking damage. He could continue without having to pit in for repairs.

During the night, the team mostly relied on de Puniet, sending him out every second stint. The former MotoGP rider didn’t disappoint and shortly after seven o’clock he rode the fastest lap of the race in 1’36.819 minutes.

The Honda Endurance Racing team constantly was the fastest team on track, making up those almost four lost minutes due to the repair and the small crash. The morning hours saw the #111 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 constantly swapping positions with their opponents for the win and the podium.

In the end the race turned out to be what will be remembered of one of the closest and most exciting races in the history of Endurance racing with the #111 Honda Endurance Racing team taking the second spot behind SRC Kawasaki (#11) in what where the last three minutes of the race. The team managed by Jonny Twelvetrees had to come in to the pits for a splash-and-dash refueling for not risking the result on the rostrum and with that handed the top step of the podium to the opponents. Not even a 10 minutes safety car 15 minutes to the end of the race would had made the dream of the 24 Heures Moto win happen. Still second is a big achievement for the team, which started with a completely new formed crew and a new evolution of the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.

A strong race was ridden also by National Motos Honda on the #55 Fireblade. The trio of Emeric Jonchiere, Stéphane Egea and Baptiste Guittet had started in 25th position and ended up deep into the top-10 by scoring a eighth place finish.

Reigning Endurance world champions of F.C.C. TSR Honda didn’t get any luck at this year’s Le Mans Moto edition as Mike di Meglio encountered an early crash, throwing the team back to the end of the field. The Fireblade SP2 was repaired in a record braking time to send the trio of di Meglio, Freddy Foray and Josh Hook back out on track to put their pursuit race up.

F.C.C. TSR Honda just had fought back to eighth in the race’s ranking as they would encounter another issue in which the complete brake system had to be changed and replaced. The squad went back out on track just for Freddy Foray to collide with another rider in a racing incident. The bike slid along the track and that made damage to the engine’s cover’s where oil was lost. The team still kept on working hard to not only fix the hole, but to replace inner parts as well which meant another loss of two hours in the pits.

The team even then never gave up and sent the bike back out with no chance of having a shot for world championship points but to “fulfil” the spirit of endurance by finishing the race – and so did F.C.C. TSR Honda France in 35thspot and in the official ranking of the race.



More, from a press release issued by Honda Endurance Racing:

Honda Endurance Racing team battles until the end to finish second in the 24 Heures Moto

The Honda Endurance Racing team finished the 24 Heures Moto of the FIM Endurance World Championship in second position on the podium. Randy de Puniet, Sebastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez had to give their all as the fight for the victory was decided in the last three minutes of the race only.

The Honda Endurance Racing team entered the podium of the 42ndedition of the 24 Heures Motos of Le Mans. For the second round of the 2018/2019 FIM Endurance World Championship, Randy de Puniet, Sébastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez fought to a heroic runner-up position after a gruelling full day distance.

After leading the race in the opening stages, the rear light broke lose and had to be fixed including a switch of the circuit. This was managed with a loss of only a bit over three minutes.

The team then head out on track again, taking on the battle down in eleventh position. But the Fireblade trio of de Puniet, Hernandez and Gimbert never gave up and soon was not only fighting for the podium positions again, but closed in to the leaders.

Even a small off of de Puniet could not hinder the team in making its way back up the ranks. De Puniet was lucky to escape from his crash with neither him nor the Fireblade SP2 taking damage. He could continue without having to pit in for repairs and not even at the next take over of Hernandez nothing had to be repaired.

During the night, the team mostly relied on de Puniet, sending him out every second stint. The former MotoGP rider didn’t disappoint and shortly after seven o’clock he rode the fastest lap of the race in 1’36.819 minutes.

The Honda Endurance Racing team constantly was the fastest team on track, making up those almost four lost minutes due to the repair and the small crash. The morning hours saw the #111 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 constantly swapping positions with their opponents for the win and the podium.

In the end the race turned out to be what will be remembered of one of the closest and most exciting races in the history of Endurance racing with the #111 Honda Endurance Racing team taking the second spot behind SRC Kawasaki (#11) in what where the last three minutes of the race. The team managed by Jonny Twelvetrees had to come in to the pits for a splash-and-dash refueling for not risking the result on the rostrum and with that handed the top step of the podium to the opponents. Not even a 10 minutes safety car 15 minutes to the end of the race would had made the dream of the 24 Heures Moto win happen. Still second is a big achievement for the team, which started with a completely new formed crew and a new evolution of the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.

Randy de Puniet 111

If you had told me before the weekend, that a 24 hour race would be decided in the last three minutes I would have told you: That is not possible. But today we have seen it is. In the end we came home in second, which is a great achievement in such a historic event like the 24 Heures Moto, but of course we wanted the win. We are still happy, because the race itself went almost faultless and if we had bad luck we had the luck on our side in it. I am sorry for my crash but when I saw nothing was broken I just carried on. Those were some tough stints and to ‘lose’ it in the end by a couple of liters is hard to believe – but as I said, still we are happy about how our CBR1000RR Fireblade never missed a beat and that we were on the podium.

Sébastien Gimbert 111

I am happy about how my 20th – and last – race at the 24 Heures Moto went. We pushed the whole race on the maximum and are on the podium in second position now, so we can’t be anything else than happy. It is a good result for the whole team and it is a perfect way for me to sign off from Le Mans 24 hours racing. The bike was incredible the whole race and it was just beautiful to ride. Sure, I would have loved to win, but this was not possible today.

Yonny Hernandez 111

I do not have much experience in Endurance racing, as last year’s Bol d’Or was my first race and today I finished my first 24 hours race. It is really tough and hard and long. Especially the last part of the race was difficult for me, because I wanted to push more, as our opponents were a bit faster, but it was not possible for me. In the beginning we lost a little bit of time due to an issue on the bike, which is a pity but it was also not a big deal. We have to take the positive things and those are we have led the race, we have fought for the podium and the win throughout and now we stand on the podium. We have earned a lot of points and this is also important for the Championship.

Jonny Twelvetrees

Team Manager

Now, that was a crazy finish. We were trying to consider all eventualities and looked at all options that we had available, should certain scenarios happen. In the end it was special and big stress. For the moment I am still shocked and it was so close for us. This podium is special and we will look at this as one of the best in history as it was so special and close. It was a big finish to an amazing race. The riders were superb, the team worked really well and the bike, we had a smooth problem at the start but apart everything worked well. Credit to these guys, who ran a good race and we came second.