May 8th, 2023
With less than 40 days to go until the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium hosts the second running of the 24H SPA EWC Motos, here’s a reminder of what happened when the FIM Endurance World Championship riders thrilled the fans last June.
There was non-stop action and drama when the FIM Endurance World Championship returned to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first time in 21 years as the Belgian track delivered a race that matched up to its legendary status.
While BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team celebrated a maiden 24-hour EWC victory to follow up its breakthrough success in the six-hour 2021 season decider, the circuit’s ultra-challenging nature and rain for the final five hours combined to ensure rider skill came very much to the fore in the 24H SPA EWC Motos.
As well as the efforts of riders Jérémy Guarnoni (France), Illya Mykhalchyk (Ukraine) and Markus Reiterberger (Germany), BMW’s success owed plenty to the expertise of its Belgium-based team, led by former rider Werner Daemen, and the reliability of the Dunlop-equipped BMW M1000RR.
Kawasaki-powered and Pirelli-equipped Tati Team Beringer Racing excelled to finish as the top independent team in second overall with newcomer Loïc Arbel joining forces with existing French riders Grégory Leblanc and Alan Techer.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France was holding off Yoshimura SERT Motul for the final podium spot as both squads battled back from major setbacks during the night. A lengthy red flag period to enable the clean-up of a substantial oil spillage with less than three hours meant Gino Rea would have only a handful of laps to reclaim the third place he lost to home hero Xavier Siméon in the pitstop sequence prior to the race suspension.
Despite the challenging track conditions, Rea and Siméon engaged in an intense battle for third place with Rea coming out on top following several changes of position.
Yoshimura SERT Motul had been on top after 10 hours 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 wrecked hopes of a home win for the team’s Belgian rider 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 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 his stricken bike back to the pits. That long delay plus the 15 minutes spent making repairs dropped F.C.C. TSR Honda France down the order before its late comeback.
Worse was to come for both squads when Anglo-Frenchman Gregg Black and Mike Di Meglio, from France, crashed their Suzuki and Honda respectively in quick succession as the Sunday morning rain intensified. Black managed to limp his wrecked machine back to the pits for rapid repairs while Di Meglio was able to continue without stopping having only inflicted limited damage to his bike.
Having started from pole, YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC was forced into an unscheduled pit stop for a replacement speed sensor after three hours. Despite the delay of more than four minutes, the performances of its riders Niccolò Canepa (Italy), Marvin Fritz (Germany) and polesitter Karel Hanika (Czech Republic) put the Austrian team back into contention. Following a battle for the lead between Fritz and BMW rider Mykhalchyk, it was the Japanese marque in front after 18 hours. But the advantage would not last when the YZF-R1, with Canepa onboard, suffered engine failure.
Elsewhere, Wójcik Racing Team EWC 77 completed the top five followed by Viltaïs Racing Igol and Team Moto Ain, which overcame an overheating issue. Team LH Racing claimed Dunlop Superstock Trophy and FIM Endurance World Cup honours in eighth overall with riders Enzo de la Vega, Johan Nigon and Lukas Trautmann. It finished ahead of Team Bolliger Switzerland and Team LRP Poland following a late change of positions between the latter pair.
Team 33 Louit April Moto had led the Superstock category but lost out on glory when Kevin Calia crashed in wet conditions with his Kawasaki suffering a blown engine in the process. Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motobase had been second at the time but appeared to be in trouble when Baptiste Guittet was one of several drivers to crash at Les Combes. However, the French outfit managed to hold onto its second place ahead of OG Motorsport by Sarazin, which suffered with traction issues.
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 Superstock pole-sitting Wójcik Racing Team STK 777 Yamaha, which was also delayed by an accident for Marek Szkopek. BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers 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, exhaustive repairs enabled the squad to continue. Falcon Racing was denied a strong result by a blown engine, but Pitlane Endurance, Team Aviobike, RAC 41 ChromeBurner and Énergie Endurance finished in the top 20 among the eligible teams. TRT 27 / Bazar 2 La Bécane, Team 202 and ADSS 97 all finished, as did Formula EWC outfit Motobox Kremer Racing.
There was early heartache for Webike SRC Kawasaki France with Randy de Puniet crashing out shortly after two and a half hours of racing. 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 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.
The second running of the 24H SPA EWC Motos takes place from 16-18 June.
April 13th, 2023
Yoshimura SERT Motul has completed First Qualifying for the 24 Heures Motos – the opening round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship – at the top of the provisional order following an action-packed session in mixed conditions on the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans today.
Gregg Black was fastest among the Blue Rider group for Yoshimura SERT Motul, clocking a 1m37.506s best on his final lap of the 4.185-kilometre track, which had dried following earlier rain. The 20-minute session had been halted 11 minutes from the end after Florian Alt and Lucas Mahias both fell on oil dropped at the entrance to Le Musée bend.
Marvin Fritz then set the pace late on in the Yellow Rider group for the YART Yamaha team with a best lap of 1m35.616s, closely followed by Illya Mykhalchyk (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team) on a 1m35.685s. But there was more drama when F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s Mike Di Meglio and Sylvain Guintoli (Yoshimura SERT Motul) also crashed.
Karel Hanika was on top for the Austrian squad out of the Red Riders but, on a fully wet track, last year’s polesitter could only manage a 1m47.868s, as James Westmoreland (Honda Viltaïs Racing) was the quickest of the Green Riders on a 1m44.945s.
At the end of the four 20-minute sessions, Yoshimura SERT Motul heads the provisional unofficial order on 1m37.153s, followed by YART Yamaha (1m37.242s), F.C.C. TSR Honda France (1m37.764s), Moto Ain (1m38.096s), Honda Viltaïs Racing (1m38.420s) and ERC Endurance Ducati (1m38.617s).
In the Dunlop-equipped Superstock category, which counts for the FIM Endurance World Cup, Team 33 Louit April Moto heads Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team and 3ART Best of Bike in the unofficial provisional order.
French Superbike champion Kenny Foray was quickest for Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team in the Superstock Blue Rider session, Johan Nigon excelled for Honda No Limits in the Yellow Rider group before former EWC champion Mathiu Lagrive (3ART Best of Bike) took his turn to shine among the Red Riders as EWC rookie Luca De Vleeschauwer went quickest for Energie Endurance out of the Green Riders.
Since 2022, EWC qualifying results have been based on the average time of the fastest two riders at the completion of the final session, meaning the starting order for the 46th 24 Heures Motos can’t be determined until after Second Qualifying on Friday morning. But with forecasts suggesting more wet weather, the Le Mans-based Yoshimura SERT Motul squad could well start at the front as it bids for a third consecutive win in the legendary EWC season opener.
Night Practice is up next from 20h30 local time ahead of Second Qualifying getting underway at 10h20 on Friday. Click HERE for all the First Qualifying results.
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