15 DAYS TO THE 12 HORAS DE PORTIMÃO
A new race location – Portugal – for the second round of the FIM EWC 2016 championship. The first edition of the 12 Horas de Portimão will be held on Saturday 11 June on the Algarve International Circuit in the south of Portugal.
After a closely-fought first round in France at the 24 Heures Motos, the FIM EWC is making its first-ever stop at Portimão. All of the championship players will be there, and so will Japanese team F.C.C. TSR Honda, which has decided to maintain the impetus of its 3rd place at the 24 Heures Motos in April. The Japanese Honda will be entrusted to Kazuma Watanabe, Damian Cudlin and American rider Patrick Jacobsen, who is making his debut in endurance racing. Another team in the spotlight at Portimao is the Portuguese squad Parkalgar Racing Team, with two Portuguese riders headlining: Miguel Oliveira, the 2015 Moto3 championship runner-up, and Miguel Praia, the very young retiree from the FIM Superbike and Supersport world championship.
Score-settling on the cards in Portugal
They will be up against the FIM EWC favourites. The SRC Kawasaki tops the standings with its victorious Le Mans trio Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive and Fabien Foret. But other factory-backed teams, which were less fortunate at the 24 Heures Motos, will be looking to make up for lost time. Currently 39 points behind SRC Kawasaki, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team are counting on the winner’s 35 points at the Portimão 12 Hours to close the gap. That will be Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson’s goal on the Suzuki #1. Honda Endurance Racing riders Julien da Costa, Sébastien Gimbert and Freddy Foray, and YART Yamaha’s Broc Parkes, Max Neukirchner and Ivan Silva, respectively 49 and 50 points behind the leader, have exactly the same objective. Forced to withdraw at Le Mans, GMT94 Yamaha have no margin for error. The team riding the French Yamaha has been rejigged. Lucas Mahias has joined David Checa and Niccolò Canepa in their bid for victory.
Amid the misfortunes of the factory-backed teams, the best private teams have proved they’re equally capable of conquering a podium place. Team April Moto Motors Events, which came in second at the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans, will be defending its place at Portimão with Gregg Black, Grégory Fastré and Alex Cudlin riding the Suzuki #50. Another private squad, Team R2CL, is also capable of upsetting the official teams. Their Suzuki #2 will have Nicolas Pouhair, Aaron Morris and Antonio Alarcos in the saddle. A third out-and-out challenger is Team Bolliger Switzerland, with Roman Stamm, Michael Savary and Gianluca Vizziello in the saddle of the Kawasaki.
A fierce battle is on the cards in the Superstock class too, between category leaders Team 3ART Yam’Avenue on their Yamaha, Völpker NRT48 Schubert Motors riding BMW, and AM Moto Racing Compétition on Kawasaki. But, as in the Formula EWC category, we can expect other teams who were unlucky at Le Mans – Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, Starteam PAM-Racing (Suzuki), Team Louit Moto 33 Traqueur (Kawasaki), Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences and Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers – to muscle their way back into the leading pack.
The first official free practice starts at 9h (GMT+1) on Thursday 9 June. The first qualifying will get underway at 1pm on Thursday. The maiden edition of the 12 Horas de Portimão will be flagged off at 9.30am local time on Saturday 11 June, with the first bikes expected to cross the finish line after nightfall, at 9.30pm.