KAWASAKI SRC NOTCHES UP A SPARKLING VICTORY
Team Kawasaki SRC was the uncontested winner of the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans. The Kawasaki #11 was ahead of Team April Moto Motors Events, which ran a superb race right from the start, and F.C.C. TSR Honda, the highly competitive Japanese newcomer to Le Mans.
Team Kawasaki SRC’s FIM EWC season has got off to a flying start. Gilles Stafler’s team wiped out the competition at the 39th edition of the 24 Heures Motos and swept the deck, pocketing the 40 winner’s points plus the 20 bonus points awarded to the leader at the 8-hour and 16-hour mark. Despite a minor crash at the start of the race on a treacherous track, the Kawasaki SRC coasted past the chequered flag with a 9-lap lead over Team April Moto Motors Events. This Suzuki with Gregg Black, Grégory Fastré and Alex Cudlin in the saddle was a real eye-opener, leading the race in the first 14 laps thanks to Gregg Black. Third at the finish line, F.C.C. TSR Honda also took the lead midway through the race, for 115 laps. Well-known in Japan, with three wins at the Suzuka 8 Hours, this Japanese team backed by Bridgestone made a dramatic entrance at the 24 Heures Motos. The Japanese Honda entrusted to Kazuma Watanabe, Alan Techer and Damian Cudlin ran a faultless race, but was unable to stand up to pressure from April Moto Motors Events in a final-stage duel.
Also in the leading pack, Team R2CL finished in third place on the podium after being held up by a rear wheel problem – which did not stop one of its riders, Lucas Mahias, posting the fastest lap time: 1’38.448.
The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team finished 5th, unusually for the reigning champion. Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson did an amazing climb-back from the depths of the standings after two crashes. SERT was not the only favourite to bite the dust. Riding the YART Yamaha, Broc Parkes and Max Neurkirchner, manning the bike on their own after Ivan Silva’s fall, gave no quarter, and finished 11th. After a long spell battling for the podium, Honda Endurance Racing fell back because of electrical problems, and finished 19th.
Other teams were forced to retire. The Penz13.com BMW Motorrad withdrew from the race during the evening with an engine problem. GMT94 Yamaha threw in the towel after Louis Rossi’s three crashes, and so did Jackson Racing. Team Louit Moto 33 Traqueur also had to withdraw because of electrical problems.
A sparkling Superstock victory kept the Yamaha colours flying high: 3ART Yam’Avenue topped the class with riders Louis Bulle, Alex Plancassagne and Lukas Trautmann. They finished 6th overall after starting out 50th from the grid. They came in ahead of Superstock rivals AM Moto Racing Compétition (Kawasaki) and Völpker NRT48 Schubert Motors (BMW). Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki lost its stab at victory after a crash.
The next race of the FIM EWC will take place on Saturday 11 June, 12 Hours of Portimão, the second round of the 2016 season.
What they say…
Gilles Stafler, team manager of Kawasaki SRC
“This is Kawasaki’s 13th win at Le Mans, and the 5th win for our team. If you’d forecast it on Thursday, I wouldn’t have believed it. We really have to thank Pirelli for giving us the means to win despite the conditions.”
Greg Leblanc, Kawasaki SRC rider
“Now that I’ve equalled Alex Viera’s record of wins at the 24 Heures, I’ll have to beat it.”
Matthieu Lagrive, Kawasaki SRC rider
“This is my first win at Le Mans. I savoured it with a great deal of emotion in my father’s arms. He was the one who got me into motorcycle racing.”
Fabien Foret, Kawasaki SRC rider
“Two great teammates, a good bike and the right tyres: that was the recipe for this victory.”
Hervé Moineau, team manager of Team April Moto Motors Events
“The team ran its first race at Le Mans in 2009. We’ve had good and not-so-good seasons, but this year we’re aiming to field a winning trio of riders, with Gregg Black and Alex Cudlin alongside Grégory Fastré.”
Kazuma Watanabe, F.C.C. TSR Honda rider
“This is my first time at the 24 Heures. It’s a tough and physically demanding race, but I’m proud to have ended up on the podium, and I’d like to thank my teammates.”