World Endurance: Report From The Spa 24-Hour Race (Updated)

World Endurance: Report From The Spa 24-Hour Race (Updated)

© 2023, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. From a press release issued By FIM EWC:

VICTORY IN SPA ENDS YART YAMAHA’S 14-YEAR WAIT FOR 24-HOUR EWC GLORY

Ace Austrian outfit tops provisional EWC standings with first 24-hour win since 2009
Reigning EWC champion team F.C.C. TSR Honda is second with Belgian BMW squad third
National Motos Honda bags Dunlop Superstock Trophy honours

YART Yamaha Official EWC moved to the top of the provisional FIM Endurance World Championship standings with victory in the 24H SPA EWC Motos today (Sunday), a result that ends the Austrian squad’s 14-year wait for a twice-around-the-clock triumph.

Despite a sluggish start for Marvin Fritz, YART Yamaha quickly kicked into gear and took the fight to its title rivals in an epic early showdown at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

F.C.C. TSR Honda led the Spa order after eight hours, with YART repaying the compliment after 16. But while YART largely stayed out of trouble, exhaust problems forced F.C.C. TSR Honda into the pits for five minutes just after the 16-hour mark.

This costly stoppage allowed YART to steal a march, and even a damaged rear tyre just before 19 hours was swiftly changed in the pits, allowing the team to continue its victory charge for its first win over 24 hours since it triumphed at Le Mans in 2009.

A delighted Niccolò Canepa, who joined Fritz and Karel Hanika on the Bridgestone-equipped #7 bike, believes it is just the beginning for YART.

He said: “It has been a few years that we have been chasing this victory and I think it’s the first of many. We all deserve it, and I am so happy about that. Thanks to all the people involved in this project and it’s just the beginning.

“It has been an amazing race. To be honest, it was really, really tough. It was not easy from the beginning to the end. Up until the last laps, there was a question mark.

“The team did an amazing job in every pit stop and my team-mates too. We pushed from the first lap to the last one. We never stopped believing. It’s a long time since we won a 24-hour race. But in our minds, there was only one goal – to win – no matter what.”

Fritz believes the victory gives YART much more than first place in the provisional standings after a number of near misses in its quest for a 24-hour win. He said: “The championship lead is one thing; the biggest boost is the motivation for all the staff and the riders.

“We ride and push so hard at every race and then in every race, something happens at the last moment. The biggest bonus is the motivation to show YART can’t just win qualifying – we can win over 24 hours.

“I don’t know how many times we have been close. I didn’t come here with too many hopes because I know pole position never brings me luck. When we have pole position, I think ‘this is probably not a good omen.’ But finally, we took it all.”

Hanika was delighted to be part of YART’s famous victory. He said: “I am super happy with this win. It is my first 24-hour win, and the feeling is really amazing. The team did a great job. Big thanks to Yamaha, Bridgestone and to all my team-mates, all the people who are part of the team and my family.

“The first 15 hours of the race were non-stop pushing, so it was good to take some rest at the end. It was definitely a very difficult race. The competition was very strong. We couldn’t stop pushing for one lap. It was a very nice race for the spectators.”

BELGIANS WIN RACE FOR THE ROSTRUM

Belgian squad BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team took full advantage of a series of Yoshimura SERT Motul misfortunes to take third place in its home event, with the Suzuki-powered squad placed fourth.

BMW Motorrad was slowed by some mechanical issues in the first eight hours, but Yoshimura SERT Motul endured a luckless race after starting firmly in contention for the lead. Sylvain Guintoli attempted to pit at the wrong garage in the first hour. The team was then hit by a costly stop-go penalty for contact by Étienne Masson with the Holland Motorstore Racing bike in turn seven just after the five-hour mark.

The Japanese team’s misfortune continued when its bike was forced into the pits for three minutes to rectify a technical issue after six hours. Its chances of a top-three finish were then ended for good when its bike required a water pump change with three and a half hours remaining.

Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar claimed fifth place, overcoming an early crash for Kazuki Watanabe, who was taken to hospital for checks, but returned to the track to resume what was then a pretty smooth race.

Belgian outfit KM99 fought its way back into sixth after a fine night with its Yamaha, blazing from 14th place overall after eight hours to sixth spot after 16. This came after Bastian Mackels crashed at Eau Rouge in the opening hour, before his team-mate Lucas Mahias slipped off near the pit entrance at the seven-and-a-half-hour mark.

Honda Viltaïs Racing took seventh place, with Motobox Kremer Racing eighth, MANA-AU Competition ninth and TATI Team Beringer Racing taking the 10th and final scoring position in a race hit by light rain in the closing stages.

ERC Endurance Ducati was unable to follow up its fourth place at the EWC opener in Le Mans, retiring after nearly four hours. Wójcik Racing Team EWC followed suit after seven and a half hours, with Team Bolliger Switzerland forced out when its bike was beached in the gravel after 18 hours.

NATIONAL MOTOS HONDA SEALS SUPERSTOCK TRIUMPH

National Motos Honda revived its FIM Endurance World Cup title hopes after topping the podium in the Dunlop Superstock Trophy category.

The French team, a Honda motorcycle dealership and an EWC stalwart entrant, moved up to third place in the standings with victory in Belgium, as Team 33 Louit April Moto took second following a close battle.

Honda No Limits, fourth in the Le Mans season opener, took third to climb to second in the provisional title order, finishing three laps behind the winners and edging out Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda, the new points leader, for the last podium spot.

National Motos’ Sébastian Suchet was elated with a hard-fought victory. He said: “It’s a very different circuit from what we’re used to, but the real challenge of this race was our competitors. They didn’t give up on us the whole race.

“We gained tenths and seconds here and there to achieve this result. We had no room for error, but we did what was necessary. We had instructions that were clear, and it paid off.

“Throughout the race, we were often first, but sometimes second or third and all the time you could throw a handkerchief over us and our competitors.

“You feel fatigue less when you win. I am very happy for the team and for everyone. We’ve been chasing this victory for a while. We had to do everything well but sometimes things don’t go as planned. This time we managed to do everything from start to finish, so I am happy for everyone.”

FIGHTING FOR SUPERSTOCK SUPREMACY

National Motos Honda was deadlocked in a tense fight for supremacy with RAC41 during the night. But disaster struck for the latter team after 16 and a half hours, when Chris Leesch crashed, forcing the team to pit for repairs.

It did enough to salvage fourth place, overcoming more mechanical drama in the closing hour of the race to get back on track and top the overall standings on 85 points – six ahead of the Honda No Limits team, which has 79.

TRT27 Bazar 2 La Bécane took fifth spot in Spa, with Slider Endurance placed sixth ahead of BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers in seventh.

Wójcik Racing Team STK was eighth after being forced into the pits just before the 16-hour mark with mechanical problems, before Kamil Krzemień crashed shortly afterwards.

JMA Racing Action Bike was ninth and Holland Motorstore Racing rounded off the Superstock point scorers in 10th spot.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The EWC heads from Belgium to Japan for the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race from 4-6 August.

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Yamaha:

Yamalube YART Yamaha Storm to Sensational Spa Victory

 

Yamalube YART Yamaha (7) en route to victory at Spa. Photo courtesy Yamaha.
Yamalube YART Yamaha (7) en route to victory at Spa. Photo courtesy Yamaha.

 

The Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team produced an incredible performance at the 24H Spa EWC Motos to claim a stunning victory in Belgium and take the overall lead in the FIM Endurance World Championship standings.

The second edition of the 24H SPA EWC Motos showcased exactly why endurance racing returned to the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in 2022 after a 20-year hiatus. It contained everything, thrilling on-track battles, numerous safety cars, and even the threat of rain towards the end of the race. Despite all of this, nothing could stop the YART Yamaha team and riders Niccolò Canepa, Karel Hanika, and Marvin Fritz as they secured their first FIM EWC victory since the 12 Hours of Estoril in 2020 and their first 24-hour race win for 14 years.

A dominant showing in Friday’s qualifying saw the team secure pole position by 0.959s, with all three YART riders lapping within 0.198s of each other. On top of their stunning one-lap pace, the Austrian squad had spent much of the week focusing on race setup with the Bridgestone-shod #7 R1, so confidence was flowing within the team heading into Saturday’s race.

Fritz took the first stint from pole following the traditional “Le Mans” running start, but a slight wheelie off the line meant he entered Turn 1 down in 10th. The German composed himself superbly before fighting his way back through the field and becoming involved in an epic three-way battle for the lead. After exchanging a few spectacular overtaking manoeuvres, he took over at the front and handed the YART R1 to Hanika for the second stint.

Hanika hit the ground running, but almost immediately, out came the first of many safety cars. Once racing had resumed, the Czech rider took the lead and opened up an advantage of two seconds before heading into the pits and giving the bike to Canepa for his first stint.

The Italian gave it full gas and opened up a 22s lead with a string of low to mid 2:22 laps, but just before the two-hour mark, another safety car, this time for oil on the track, would mean that his rivals would be able to close up. After a delay of over 35 minutes, the race was back on, and Canepa again broke away to establish a 12.5s gap at the front before handing the bike back to Fritz.

The next few stints became frustrating for the team, as they repeatedly fought hard to open up an advantage, only to see it effectively wiped out again by a series of safety cars. Due to this, none of the front three teams could break away, with the close racing continuing to the 8-hour mark, when YART collected nine EWC points for being in second.

As the night went on, each YART rider showed astonishing pace and consistency, highlighted by Canepa setting the team’s fastest lap at 3 am local time, a 2:21.015. Their efforts were rewarded with the lead after 15 hours of racing, and as dawn broke in Spa, they started to extend their advantage at the front.

At the 16-hour mark, YART’s lead was up to 14s, ensuring they secured 10 more vital championship points. The team continued to be faultless, maintaining their pace as their rivals lost time due to technical issues, and an hour later, they had opened a two-lap gap at the front, although there was drama on the way.

Approaching 19 hours into the race, Fritz had only completed a few laps of his stint when he suffered damage to his rear tyre that caused a puncture. Somehow, he managed to bring the R1 back to the box, with the team doing a brilliant job of turning around a quick pit stop and getting Fritz back out on track while still leading by a lap.

From here on in, the whole YART Yamaha team pulled together to ensure there were no mistakes, with all three riders remaining focused and controlling the gap at the front, although there was still a surprise in store as rain flags appeared with just over one hour to go.

Despite spots of rain on his visor, Hanika used his experience and took no unnecessary risks to ensure he handed over to Canepa for the final stint with the team’s one-lap advantage over the bike in second place intact.

The Italian showed nerves of steel. Unfazed by the weather, his pace was unrelenting, and he extended the lead even more during the last hour before stopping for a quick splash and dash with 15 minutes to go.

As the race clock hit 24 hours, Canepa brought the YART R1 across the line for the last time to secure first position and the team’s first 24-hour race victory since Le Mans in 2009 after completing 572 laps, one more than their nearest rival.

YART’s victory saw them collect another 40 points, which, when added to the five they secured for pole and the 19 they received for their positions at the eight and 16-hour marks, respectively, meant they amassed 64 of the 65 points on offer in Belgium, and now lead the overall FIM EWC standings with 118 points.

The Belgian-based KM Motos team of Lucas Mahias, Florian Marino, and Bastian Mackels made it two R1s in the top six after they put in a strong showing at their home race to complete 561 laps, while Maco Racing Team’s Balint Kovacs, Enzo Boulom, and Martin Vugrinec finished in 19th (504 laps).

The Moto Ain Yamaha EWC Supported Team of Corentin Perolari, Roberto Tamburini, and Alessandro Polita completed 472 laps to secure 21st, while unfortunately, Wojcik Racing Team EWC 77’s Sheridan Morais, Isaac Vinales, and Mathieu Gines were forced to withdraw from the race after 149 laps.

Next up on the FIM EWC calendar is Round 3, the legendary Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan, on the 4th-6th of August, before the season’s final race, the Bol d’Or in France, on the 14th-17th of September.

Niccolò Canepa – P1 – 572 laps

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“It has been a few years that we have been chasing this victory, and I think it’s the first of many. We all deserve it, and I am so happy about that. Thanks to all the people involved in this project. It is just the beginning. It was an amazing race. To be honest, it was tough from the beginning to the end. Up until the last laps, there was a question mark. The team did an amazing job during every pit stop, and my teammates were incredibly quick. We pushed from the first lap to the last one. We never stopped believing. It’s a long time since we won a 24-hour race. But in our minds, there was only one goal – to win – no matter what.”

Karel Hanika  – P1 – 572 laps

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“I am super happy with this win. It is my first 24-hour victory, and the feeling is really amazing. The team did a great job. Huge thanks to Yamaha, Bridgestone, my teammates, everyone who is a part of the team, and my family. The first 15 hours of the race were non-stop pushing, so it was good to be able to control the pace at the end. It was definitely a tough race. The competition was very strong. We couldn’t stop pushing for one lap. It was a very nice race for the spectators, especially at the start, with some excellent battles, but we managed to come out on top, and that is all that matters.”

Marvin Fritz – P1 – 572 laps

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“The championship lead is one thing; the biggest boost is the motivation for all the staff and the riders. We ride and push so hard at every race, and then something always seems to happen at the last moment. It’s also great to show everyone that YART isn’t just the fastest in qualifying; we can win over 24 hours. I don’t know how many times we have been close. I didn’t come here with too many hopes because I know pole position never brings me luck. When we have pole position, I think, ‘This is probably not a good omen.’ But finally, we took it all, and I could not be happier for the whole team.”

Mandy Kainz

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team – Team Manager

“I am almost lost for words. We have been close several times, but luck has not been on our side; therefore, taking this 24-hour race victory means so much to the whole team. No matter what happened, we never gave up believing. The team worked hard to prepare for the race all week, and I cannot thank them enough for their efforts. Everything came together, and all three riders were sensational, pushing to the maximum every lap to bring home the win. I am so proud of everyone. A big thank you to everyone from Yamaha, Bridgestone, and each member of the team…we did it!”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by BMW Motorrad Motorsport:

24H SPA EWC Motos: Another podium for the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team at its home race at Spa-Francorchamps.

Markus Reiterberger, Ilya Mikhalchik and Jérémy Guarnoni finish third on the #37 BMW M 1000 RR in the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps.

Second podium in two races in the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship.
Superstock pole for the Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team goes unrewarded.

 

Ilya Mikhalchik (37) helped BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team finish third overall at Spa. Photo courtesy BMW Motorrad Motorsport.
Ilya Mikhalchik (37) helped BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team finish third overall at Spa. Photo courtesy BMW Motorrad Motorsport.

 
Spa-Francorchamps. The tension within the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team finally evaporated after 24 intensive hours of racing at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (BEL); Markus Reiterberger (GER), Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR) and Jérémy Guarnoni (FRA) again finished on the podium with the #37 BMW M 1000 RR at round two of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship (FIM EWC), the 24H SPA EWC Motos. They produced a flawless performance to come home third at the home race for Werner Daemen (BEL) and his team. The trio had previously finished third at the opening race weekend in Le Mans (FRA). This season’s results make for happy reading so far; two races, two podium celebrations. The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team also lies third in the Team world championship standings, 33 points behind the leaders.

The second qualifying session on Friday confirmed that the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team would again be among the top teams at Spa-Francorchamps, having taken victory there last year. The #37 BMW M 1000 RR secured second place on the grid.

On several occasions during the early stages of the race, Reiterberger, Mikhalchik and Guarnoni were unfortunate with safety car phases that cost them a lot of time after their pit stops. The result was that the trio dropped back down the field each time – once as far as 19th. However, Reiterberger, Mikhalchik and Guarnoni repeatedly worked their way back through the field, one position at a time.

By the eighth hour of the race, Reiterberger, Mikhalchik and Guarnoni had climbed as high as fourth place. They maintained that position through the night, thanks to consistently good lap times, efficient fuel consumption, flawless work from the riders and team, and a bike that was running smoothly – always poised to snatch a spot on the podium.

That opportunity came with three and a half hours remaining, when the #37 Suzuki team ahead of them encountered technical issues and dropped back. Reiterberger inherited third place, which he, Mikhalchik and Guarnoni comfortably maintained through to the finish. Even the onset of rain in the closing stages could not prevent them from claiming their second podium finish of the season.

Fresh from their debut victory in the Superstock class at the season-opener in Le Mans, the new Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team again made a strong start to the race weekend. The team, making its first appearance at Spa-Francorchamps, set the pace in the Superstock class with the #9 BMW M 1000 RR. By the end of qualifying, Kenny Foray (FRA), Jan Bühn (GER) and Loïc Arbel (FRA) had secured pole position in their category. At the start of the race, Foray was able to match the pace of the EWC teams. However, the first setback was just around the corner. Foray was forced into the garage by a technical issue. The mechanics gave it their all and, after several hours of repair work, the Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team was able to re-join the race in the evening. However, they ultimately had to retire the bike during the night.

The private BMW Team LRP Poland lined up at Spa-Francorchamps with the #90 BMW S 1000 RR. Julian Puffe (GER), Dominik Vincon (GER) and Pepijn Bijsterbosch (NED) were running in the top ten at times but struggled with various issues at several points of the race. After 24 hours of racing, Vincon pushed the bike to the finish line to the cheers of the spectators in the grandstand. However, in the provisional results list, the team is classed as non-classified.

Round three of the 2023 FIM EWC season, the 8 Hours of Suzuka (JPN), takes place on 6th August.

Quotes after the 24H SPA EWC Motos.
 

Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “We are very happy with third place. At the beginning of the race, there were unfortunate situations with the safety car periods, which caused us to lose several positions without having any influence on it. But the team fought back every time, and we deserve this third place. All three riders and the pit crew did an outstanding job, and the motorcycle ran almost like a clockwork. We only had to change the exhaustonce, and the team did it super quickly and precisely. Towards the end, the conditions became very tricky with the onset of rain, and we handled that superbly as well. We celebrate this result; we gladly take it home. It was also important that we solidified our third place in the championship. Now, our entire focus is on the next race in Suzuka. However, there is also some homework that we need to complete to reach the top because we weren’t fast enough for that today. At the same time, it’s a pity that the Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team couldn’t bring their excellent performance to the finish due to a technical problem. But the team worked well and tried to fix the problem. They were able to return to the track and set very strong lap times, but unfortunately, the problem recurred.”

Werner Daemen, Team Manager BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team: “It has been a very hectic race, for me and the entire team. In the beginning, we were unlucky with the Safety Car periods three times. We also struggled a bit when it was warmer as we didn’t have the right set-up for the bike. But once it cooled down a bit, I think we were one of the best teams. The riders did an incredible job again, the mechanics made no mistakes and when you have these ingredients, the podium is always possible. We were lucky that some other brands had technical problems. I have to say thank you to BMW that gave us a bike, as they did at Le Mans, that didn’t have any problem over the 24 hours. Now, we are third in the championship, and everything is open. Next up for us is the Japan pre-test and we are well prepared. There we need another strong result to be ready for the finale at Le Castellet, where we can achieve a podium or more.”

Markus Reiterberger: “After securing second place in qualifying, we were confident for the race. My start was great, and in the early laps, I was able to maintain second place. However, I struggled with grip in the high temperatures, so played it safe, and handed over the bike in fourth position. Unfortunately, in the early stages, we had the misfortune of doing three pit stops during the Safety Car period and had wait at the pit exit which caused us to lose a lot of time. However, we were able to complete the entire race without any mistakes, all three of us gave our maximum, and at times, we were the fastest on track. However, the gap to the front was significant, and the top three were so fast that it was difficult to catch them. But we remained error-free until the end and were able to secure third place. Thanks to the team, to everyone who cheered us on. It was a tough, long race, but we are all happy that we could finish it on the podium.”

Ilya Mikhalchik: “We are obviously very happy. Our speed during the race was faster than we expected. A few times, we had bad luck with the pit lane exit during a Safety Car and lost time but overall, we didn’t make any mistakes and everyone in the team did a great job. Now we focus on Japan and our goal is to finish there in a good position.”

Jérémy Guarnoni: “We are happy of course, it’s another podium, the second in a row after Le Mans. Naturally, we always want to win but this time we were clearly not lucky with the Safety Car and lost a lot of time, maybe two laps. As a result, we lost contact with the riders in front, so it was more difficult for us to fight with them. But it’s a good result for the team and for the championship. I am very pleased with the job everyone did, the mechanics, the team, and my really fast team-mates.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Honda:

Another podium for F.C.C. TSR Honda France and victory for National Motos Honda in Superstock

Stunning performance from all five Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP in the 24H SPA EWC Motos

F.C.C. TSR Honda France clinched a second podium at the Belgium track, and after the win in the Le Mans season opener, the Honda #1 is determined to fight to renew the championship title.

Starting from fourth place on the grid, Josh Hook made a great start, immediately joining the front group and battling for first place during the first hours of the race.

Honda’s endurance specialists put in a series of fast stints without any single mistake in the race and constant lap times. However, entering the last quarter of the race, a technical issue surrounding the exhaust, forced the Honda #1 to enter the pits for five minutes and rejoin into third place.

Despite a few drops of rain at the end of the race, Honda’s endurance specialists did not let up in their efforts and claimed another podium finish after two clocked laps of the fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

F.C.C. TSR Honda France is second in the standings after collecting 54 points, with a total of 117, just one point behind the leader. The next round will be held from August 4 to 6 at the Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan.

National Motos Honda took an incredible and well-deserved win, leading the race from the first quarter of the race. The Honda #55, with very consistent and solid laps, and no mistakes, took the victory that places them third in the standings..

Honda No Limits repeated the third-place podium as in Le Mans after starting the race from ninth place in the Superstock category.

Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda was in second place most of the race, fighting for the lead during some hours. Chris Leesch had a crash early in the morning on a tricky, moistened track that forced him to enter the pits and rejoin in fourth place.  Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda missed out the podium again as happened in Le Mans, but collected very valuable points that place the Fireblade #44 in the front of the Superstock standings.

Honda Viltaïs Racing was qualified in fifth position on the grid, and with a very good pace, the Fireblade #333 was placed in fourth position until the eight hours of racing. Some technical problems with the oil filter and the petrol pump forced the French team to enter the pits and rejoin the race in the 20th position.

Following the fighting spirit and outstanding performance of the Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP, the team had an incredible comeback, crossing the finish line in 10th place overall (7th in the EWC class) that places the team 5th in the championship.

Josh Hook 1

F.C.C. TSR Honda France

We had an excellent start to the race with some good battles and some fast stints. Unfortunately, we had a technical issue surrounding the exhaust, but we can be satisfied with the weekend. Everyone did a great job to help us gain as many points as possible for the championship.

Mike Di Meglio 1

F.C.C. TSR Honda France

It’s a good result for the championship. The race was great because we were fighting for victory for a long time with some very tight gaps. We had a little problem in the morning, so in the end it was good to get 2nd place. A 24-hour race is always difficult. My team-mates were fast and the team also worked well. At Suzuka, with a fast bike, we can hope for a good result to keep fighting for the title.

Alan Techer 1

F.C.C. TSR Honda France

We had a good race. We knew we had the pace to fight at the front. And even though we were a little slower than the leader, we had one less pit stop, so anything was possible. But endurance is unpredictable. We showed that we are fast and that the bike and tyres work well. By finishing 2nd we’ve taken some big points for the championship, even if we’ve lost the lead by one point. I enjoyed the bike throughout the race, so I’m looking forward to Suzuka!

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Yoshimura SERT Motul:

YOSHIMURA SERT MOTUL TAKES VITAL POINTS FROM 24-HOUR RACE AT SPA

Yoshimura SERT Motul finished in fourth place at the second round of the FIM Endurance World Championship held over the weekend of the 17th and 18th June at the EWC 24 Heures Spa Motos. The team also moved up to fourth overall in the championship standings.

The legendary 6.985km Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium, the longest circuit of the Endurance World Championship, is world renowned for being demanding on both team crew and riders. It tested Yoshimura SERT Motul all the way to the final hour.

Yoshimura SERT Motul started the second edition of the Spa EWC Motos from third place on the grid after a set of solid qualifying sessions. The riders took to the track, for the unique Le Mans start, in bright sunshine and high temperatures on a circuit that is very tough.

Gregg Black, once again, proved himself to be the start specialist by taking the holeshot, leading into the first corner. The high-performance of the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000R provided the riders with the confidence required to attack and control the early stages of the race, dominating its rivals.

The safety car was often brought out and luck (good and bad) played a part with pit-in timing. The team continually swapped places with the Yamaha and Honda teams, putting in fast and consistent stints. However, just after five hours, when the top three teams including Yoshimura SERT Motul were battling within a second of each other, the team was given a stop-and-go penalty for touching a slower rider and causing him to crash. A part of the on-board camera fell off as a result of the contact and the team was instructed by Race Control to remove the kit. This work caused a problem which required repair work to be carried out in the pits and the team lost a lap which placed them a lap down from the leader.

To close the gap on the leader, the three riders rode hard, and team crew carried out fast and reliable pit work. When the sun went down, Yoshimura SERT Motul proved its strength and continued to put pressure on its rivals. Sylvain Guintoli posted a super-fast lap record time of 2.20.578 on lap 164, which became the fastest lap of the event.

Mid-morning on Sunday while still battling for victory, Yoshimura SERT Motul experienced an issue with an engine auxiliary item which required crew intervention. The team was relegated to fourth place.

They returned to the race five laps down and each rider gave it everything they had but, it was a gap they were unable to close. In the final hours, rain dropped over a few areas of the track and Etienne Masson put in a valiant performance to take the team to fourth across the finish line.

At the end of a race highlighted by several twists and turns, the Franco-Japanese team didn’t give up and finished just off the podium, in fourth position. The team now has 66 points after a difficult race, which puts it in fourth place in the FIM EWC championship.

Yohei KATO – team director

“It wasn’t the result we’d hoped for. We had two main problems, the first when the onboard camera needed to be removed and then, when we were in second place and closing on the leader, an issue with an engine auxiliary item. I’m sorry for everyone who works with us and supports us. The riders and the bike performed well during the race. We’re now going to do everything we can to win at Suzuka and the Bol d’Or!”

Damien SAULNIER – team manager

“It’s hard to fall short of getting on the podium after all that effort. We had a great week here in Spa and we were very well prepared for the race. The team did a good job, the collaboration with the Japanese worked very well and the tires performed well also. But in endurance racing, you sometimes need a bit of luck, and we didn’t have any. And as it was also the case at Le Mans this year, I hope that bad luck will change sides next time! The team is looking forward to getting back the results it deserves.”

Gregg BLACK – rider

“This was the race for us not to miss. I’m obviously disappointed with our result because we were really well prepared. We took a good start and managed to set the pace when we needed to in order to fight with the leaders. Despite a few small problems and a stop-and-go penalty that was really unfortunate, we were still in with a chance of winning because the whole team did a great job. But a problem in the final hours stopped us in our tracks. We missed the podium and now things are more complicated for the championship.”

Sylvain GUINTOLI – rider

“Of course, we’d come here to do a lot better than that. Unfortunately, we had a few problems during the race. It’s a shame because we gave it our all. Personally, I feel completely drained after this race. But the result isn’t there. It’s a shame. There are still two races to go, so there’s still hope. We just need luck to be on our side at last.”

Etienne MASSON – rider

“I’m frustrated because we were really on the pace here. We gave it our all but, in the end, our efforts weren’t rewarded. We made too many little mistakes; the problem caused by removing the onboard camera, and the penalty, should have been avoided. It cost us a lot in the end. After that, my team-mates and I did everything we could to come back and put pressure on our rivals, but it wasn’t enough. It’s a shame because everyone deserved a better result. We miss winning and we’re starting to feel the clock is ticking!”

 

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