After 16 hours: Big race but big Spa drama for leading EWC teams as BMW squad moves in front
The race to win the 24H SPA EWC Motos has been turned on its head overnight with Yoshimura SERT Motul and F.C.C. TSR Honda France both leading but hitting trouble on the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Yoshimura SERT Motul was on top after 10 hours of thrilling FIM Endurance World Championship action only for Sylvain Guintoli to be forced to pit for a replacement clutch and gearbox for his Bridgestone-equipped Suzuki GSX-R1000R. The work took more than 25 minutes to complete and has wrecked hopes of a home win for Belgian rider Xavier Siméon in the process.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France took advantage of the misfortune that hit its fellow Japanese team but there was despair when Gino Rea was onboard the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP as the chain failed after 15 hours of running. It left the Briton with no choice but to push the stricken bike back to the pits. That delay plus the 15 minutes spent making repairs dropped F.C.C. TSR Honda France down to 10th place.
“It’s unbelievable, we put every foot right the whole race and everybody has done a great job, we did everything right,” said Rea. “I know it’s endurance racing, it happened to Suzuki as well but the chain coming off is not what you expect. It’s frustrating to say the least so we just have to keep on and get a result at least but it’s not the result we wanted.”
A minor brake issue aside, there have been no such problems for Belgium-based BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, which is leading its home round of the EWC with an advantage 1m21.764s over YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC with eight hours of the day and night race remaining.
Illya Mykhalchyk took over the leading Dunlop-equipped BMW M1000RR from Markus Reiterberger 20 minutes prior to the race reaching 16 hours, when the next batch of bonus points were awarded. The Ukrainian rider said: “It’s more luck [that we have not had a mechanical problem]. In Le Mans we don’t have it but it looks like we are fighting for the first place with eight hours to go. It looks good and the bike is showing good potential with no problems and overall we are happy but let’s see how it goes.”
That YART is still in contention for victory is a remarkable achievement and credit to the performances of its riders Niccolò Canepa, Marvin Fritz and polesitter Karel Hanika after it lost four minutes stopping for a replacement speed sensor after three hours.
Kawasaki-powered Tati Team Beringer Racing is a fine third with Wójcik Racing Team EWC 77 fourth but under increasing pressure from the recovering Yoshimura SERT Motul outfit, which earlier secured 10 bonus points for leading after eight hours prior to its long delay.
Team 33 Louit April Moto tops the Dunlop Superstock Trophy and FIM Endurance World Cup order in sixth overall, despite Kevin Calia reporting a gearbox issue after 12 hours. Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motobase is second with Team LH Racing up to third. OG Motorsport by Sarazin is fourth followed by Falcon Racing.
National Motos was in the fight for first when it retired after a stone damaged the Honda’s radiator and caused the engine to overheat. Two unscheduled pit stops for “technical issues” hit the No Limits Motor Team’s chances, which were further compromised when Stefan Hill crashed just before eight hours.
Danny Webb suffered a fall early into his first stint on the pole-sitting Wójcik Racing Team STK 777 Yamaha. BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers has dropped out of contention following a spate of delays. A crash for 3ART Best of Bike during the early hours of this morning led to a second safety car period after an accident for the JMA Racing Action Bike close to five hours had resulted in the first safety car. Despite the JMA team’s Suzuki catching fire, extensive repairs enabled the squad to continue.
There was early heartache for Webike SRC Kawasaki France with Randy de Puniet crashing out shortly after two and a half hours. After Florian Marino had led the pack into La Source for the first time and was part of the five-way fight for first during the opening hour, hopes of a strong result unravelled when Marino fell following contact at the chicane nearing the end of his stint. More than three minutes were lost while repairs were made to the ZX 10R before Etienne Masson could begin his stint, which was hampered when he also fell at the chicane due to brake issues. It led to a six-minute delay before de Puniet’s crash compounded a miserable afternoon. Marino, meanwhile, was taken to hospital for medical checks following his fall.
ERC Endurance-Ducati suffered an early setback when the German squad was forced to make an unscheduled stop due to a fuel pump issue, which followed a slow start from Xavi Forès. However, with the problem returning during the night the team was forced to retire.
More points awarded after 16 hours
In EWC races with a duration of 12 to 24 hours points are awarded after eight and 16 hours in Formula EWC and the Superstock categories. After 16 hours points are handed out to the top 10 teams per category as follows: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.