After eight hours: Hopes of home EWC glory high as Simeon's Yoshimura SERT Motul team leads at Spa
Hopes of a home win in the 24H SPA EWC Motos are high after eight hours of spectacular action with local hero Xavier Siméon’s Suzuki-powered Yoshimura SERT Motul team topping the current ranking.
FIM Endurance World Championship racing is returning to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first time since 2001 this weekend to revive the spirit of the famous 24 Heures de Liège.
Following the spectacular Le Mans-style running start in front of the packed main grandstand and in blazing sunshine, the opening hour delivered stunning action and multiple lead changes. The entire the top five – Gregg Black, Marvin Fritz, Josh Hook, Florian Marino and Markus Reiterberger – took their turn in front as breath-taking multiple overtakes thrilled fans trackside and watching the live broadcasts around the world.
At the one-hour mark, Yoshimura SERT Motul held top spot ahead of F.C.C. TSR Honda France and YART – Official Team EWC, which started on pole but lost precious seconds with a slightly hesitant start by Fritz. And it would get worse for the Austrian squad three hours and 14 minutes into the race when Niccolò Canepa pitted to have a faulty speed sensor replaced.
Canepa had to wait four agonising minutes before he could continue the stint he’d only just started having taken over from Fritz, with Karel Hanika, who had qualified the team’s Bridgestone-equipped Yamaha YZF-R1 on pole, reporting a handling imbalance during his running. After eight hours, YART is fourth in the provisional order.
Out front, the battle for first position soon developed into a fascinating strategical duel between Yoshimura SERT Motul and BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team. The Belgium-based, Dunlop-equipped BMW squad was able to lap some six laps longer per stint, while its France-based rival, which uses Bridgestone tyres, was able to run faster between its more frequent stops with Sylvain Guntoli’s 2m21.056s the current fastest lap on the Suzuki GSX-R1000R.
Yoshimura SERT Motul also benefited from its track placing when racing resumed following a safety car period just after five hours in response to Yan Ancia crashing JMA Racing Action Bike’s entry. Although the Belgian racer was uninjured, the JMA Suzuki suffered more extensive damage when it caught fire.
However, a 10-second stop/go penalty handed to Guintoli for a yellow flag overtaking infringement will reduce what was becoming an unassailable advantage when it’s served.
Speaking following an earlier stint, Xavier Siméon said: “It’s very special and very nice to be riding here. The first laps of stint were a bit special, different than in other races and I feel less pressure after my first stint was done.”
Meanwhile, F.C.C. TSR Honda Racing is firmly in the podium battle in a strong second place after eight hours with Mike Di Meglio and Gino Reo sharing its CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP with Hook. BMW Motorrad Endurance Team is third with YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC fourth followed by Tati Team Beringer Racing and Wójcik Racing Team EWC 77.
Viltaïs Racing Igol had run as high as fourth and was in fifth place when Erwan Nigon crashed its Yamaha after some six and a half hours, which necessitated a lengthy pitstop.
The Dunlop Superstock Trophy riders, who are also chasing success in the FIM Endurance World Cup, have delivered their share of epic action. Team 33 Louit April Moto with new recruit Kevin Calia, plus Christian Gamarino and Simone Saltarelli, is leading Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motobase. National Motos was in the fight for first when it was out due to a stone damaging the Honda’s radiator and causing the engine to overheat. Two unscheduled pit stops for “technical issues” have hit the No Limits Motor Team’s chances while an off for Danny Webb early into his first stint delayed the pole-sitting Wójcik Racing Team STK 777 Yamaha. Prior to its crash, JMA Racing Action Bike’s efforts were compromised when Belgian rider Cöme Geenen fell exiting the chicane, forcing ADSS 97 into avoiding action.
There was 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. It followed a slow start from Xavi Forès.
Points awarded after eight 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 eight hours points are handed out to the top 10 teams per category as follows: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.