Back on track at Le Mans
With 40 days to go until the rubber meets the track at the 24 Heures Motos, a handful of favourites headed to Le Mans for some early testing on the Bugatti circuit. Going by their performances, we’re in for an intense and thrilling race.
A few of the top Dunlop and Bridgestone-backed teams were at Le Mans for some private testing. Being on home ground at Le Mans, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Dunlop) is preparing to make a front-row comeback. Following a problematic Bol d’Or and a still-evolving new GSX-R 1000, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team used the winter break to master the bike’s electronics and review the lessons learned at the Bol d’Or. ‘At SERT, we’re learning all the time,’ says returning team manager Dominique Méliand. ‘Watch out for surprises at Le Mans. We have all used the winter to perfect our machines.’
Teams to look out for
The one team SERT will be keeping a close eye on is the current title holder GMT94 Yamaha, which has had an impressive succession of wins since last year’s 24 Heures Motos. Having opted to work on the Nogaro circuit in south-west France, GMT94 Yamaha clocked a very satisfactory round of testing. Same goes for YART, the other factory-backed Yamaha squad – Bridgestone-shod for these tests at Le Mans. YART Yamaha team manager Mandy Kainz revealed that the team’s R1 2018 incorporates a few parts tested on the Yamaha Factory that clinched a third win at Suzuka last July. Alongside Broc Parkes and Marvin Fritz, YART Yamaha has recruited Japanese rider Takuya Fujita, who immediately got the pace right after just a few exploratory laps on the Bugatti circuit.
Another serious contender is SRC Kawasaki; the team did its testing in Spain, on Pirelli tyres. But Honda Endurance Racing could pull off a surprise win. Back in the running after a third-place finish at the Bol d’Or, the factory British team got help from Chris Pike, Honda’s operations manager for the FIM World Superbike Championship, to get on top of the electronics and fine-tune the set-up of the CBR1000RR #111 – successfully, as the tests on the Bugatti circuit showed.
The factory Japanese team F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s CBR100RR was also on the track at Le Mans. Alan Techer has evidently recovered fully from the injuries he sustained during testing in Japan and will be sharing stints with Josh Hook and Freddy Foray, as at the Bol d’Or.
Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki – the team has recruited Louis Rossi as Hugo Clère and Alex Sarrabayrouse’s teammate – also looked in good shape at the Le Mans tests.
Team April Moto Motors Events did a maiden round of tests at Le Mans after switching back to Suzuki. Their bike #50 – the GSX-R1000 2018 – is an unknown quantity so far, but that won’t stop the team wading into the fray.