KAWASAKI SCOOPS BOL D’OR, SUZUKI THE TITLE
The Bol d’Or’s return to the Paul Ricard circuit proved to be a real crowd-pleaser, with 74,000 spectators turning out to watch the hotly contested race. The Kawasaki SRC team won the race, while SERT was crowned FIM EWC world champion.
“We wanted this 14th title. I was set on it. We’re really on the verge of tears!” said SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team) manager Dominique Méliand after his team won third place at the 79th Bol d’Or on the Paul Ricard circuit in Castellet – because that third place also meant winning the EWC championship title.
“This Bol d’Or was a tough one considering everything that happened,” continued the seasoned team manager, for whom the race had got off to a good start. Battling the GMT 94 Yamaha for the world title, he watched as David Checa crashed on the very first lap. After some excruciatingly long minutes in the pit box, the R1 – the reigning world champion – went back on circuit four laps behind the leaders. “I had a problem right away. The other teams had problems later on. That’s the way it goes,” was David Checa’s fatalistic comment.
GMT 94’s Yamaha began a fantastic fight-back, and so did another podium candidate: BMW Motorrad France Team Penz 13.com, which had also experienced a delay. Team Bolliger Switzerland’s Kawasaki, for its part, was forced to retire after Nicolas Salchaud fell.
Another of the night’s victims was the Monster Energy Yamaha YART team, which suffered engine failure around five o’ clock in the morning when it was in third place.
Meanwhile, Honda Racing Team, which had taken the lead in the second hour of the race, was fighting it out with SERT and Kawasaki SRC, with all three teams alternately in the top spot.
But eleven hours into the race, around 2am, SERT lost its lead because of a rear wheel axle problem and conceded nearly eight laps to the leader, Honda Endurance Racing.
“I was really scared last night. I was filled with doubt,” SERT rider Vincent Philippe admitted. “When you’re going at 250 kph and you find you’ve got a skewed wheel, it’s pretty tough.”
By dawn the BMW Motorrad France Team Penz 13 bike had climbed to third place, and the GMT 94 Yamaha was steadily working its way back up. “We rejoined the race in 54th place at the start,” said Freddy Foray. “This performance wipes out our disappointment about the world title. It’s good to score a podium at the Bol d’Or on its return to Castellet.”
At around 10am, BMW Motorrad France Team Penz 13 fell victim to a broken chain and lost all hope of the podium. A few minutes later the Honda Racing Team machine returned to the pits with overheating problems, as a result of which it was retired.
Four hours from the finish line, the podium suddenly looked obvious: SRC Kawasaki, GMT94 Yamaha and SERT. Those positions were firming up. Kawasaki was out to win. “Our aim was to fight it out above all, while keeping in mind that we had that little extra lead time,” explained Vincent Philippe, for whom this is his ninth endurance world title win.
GMT 94’s Yamaha was unable to catch up with the Kawasaki in the lead, and settled for a podium place. As for Kawasaki SRC, its manager Gilles Staffer, a native of the Var, said: “I live 60 km from here and I’m a member of the Moto Club Paul Ricard, so I was really set on this victory. We needed a win this year, after our setbacks at the Suzuka 8 Hours and then at the Oschersleben 8 Hours.”
Superstock: Tati Team Beaujolais Racing wins the race, Team Traqueur Louit Moto 33 the FIM World Cup
The Superstock bikes racing the Bol d’Or were also competing for the FIM World Cup. Suzuki du Junior Team LMS was heading the provisional classification but was forced to retire after an overheating problem. This cleared the way for the runner-up, Team Traqueur Louit Moto 33, which placed fifth overall and second in the Stocksport class to win the Superstock World Cup. “We got off to a blistering start to catch up with the Suzuki”, said Gilles Caballo, the manager of the Traqueur Louit Moto 33 team. “Then they had their problem and I told my riders to cool it.” Tati Team Beaujolais Racing won the race with a superb overall fourth place.