Sylvain Guintoli was a step above for Yoshimura SERT Motul as the Suzuki-powered rider completed the four-stage First Qualifying for the Bol d’Or – the deciding round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship – in a fastest time of 1m51.695s.
Part of the 2021 Bol d’Or winning line-up, Guintoli clocked his best effort in the 20-minute Yellow Rider session on the 5.673-kilometre Circuit Paul Ricard.
He bettered Markus Reiterberger’s quickest time of 1m51.890s from the Blue Rider group for BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and Alan Techer’s Red Rider best of 1m51.707s for F.C.C. TSR Honda France.
But with qualifying results based on the average time of the fastest two riders at the completion of the final Second Qualifying session, it means the starting order for the 86th Bol d’Or won’t be known until mid-morning Friday with the action due to get under way at 09h00 CET.
How First Qualifying unfolded
Markus Reiterberger picked up where his BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team left off in Free Practice by going quickest in the Blue Rider group. The German set a best time of 1m51.890s, a mere 0.002s faster than Gregg Black managed for Yoshimura SERT Motul. Josh Hook, on his comeback from surgery following a training injury in late July, was third quickest on a 1m52.654s with Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team’s Niccolo Canepà fourth ahead of Lucas Mahias (KM99) and Randy de Puniet (Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar). French Superbike championship leader Kenny Foray was quickest among the Dunlop Superstock Trophy contenders for Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team with Sébastien Suchet and Lorenzo Gabellini second and third for National Motos Honda and Honda No Limits respectively.
Sylvain Guintoli was fastest of the Yellow Rider pack with the Frenchman posting a 1m51.695s for Suzuki-powered Yoshimura SERT Motul. Mike Di Meglio (F.C.C. TSR Honda France) was second quickest with Illya Mykhalchyk (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team) third. Marvin Fritz (Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team) was fourth with Xavi Forés fifth for ERC Endurance Ducati and Florian Marino sixth on KM99’s Yamaha. National Motos Honda rider Valentin Suchet was the pacesetting Dunlop Superstock Trophy rider followed by category rivals Loïc Arbel (Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team) and Axel Maurin (Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motostore). The session was halted before eventually restarting after a mechanical failure for Roberto Tamburini’s Team Moto-Ain entry left oil on sections of the start/finish straight.
Alan Techer, who is still chasing his first Bol d’Or podium, was the racer to beat out of the Red Rider group on a 1m51.707s for F.C.C. TSR Honda France. The Frenchman was a full 1.307s quicker than Yoshimura SERT Motul’s Étienne Masson. Karel Hanika was third for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team, one place ahead of Grégory Leblanc (Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar). Bol d’Or rookie Leandro Mercado was set for a top-six time for Honda Viltaïs Racing, last year’s winner, but slipped to eighth in the final moments as Jérémy Guarnoni (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and Bastien Mackels (KM99) took fifth and sixth places respectively. Kevin Manfredi set the Dunlop Superstock Trophy pace for Wójcik Racing Team, closely followed by Guillaume Raymond (National Motos Honda) and EWC newcomer Alessandro Delbianco (OG Motorsport World Endurance Team).
World Superbike star Loris Baz was the best-performing reserve in the Green Rider session on a 1m52.705s for BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team. He headed Japan’s Cocoro Atsumi, who has joined Yoshimura SERT Motul for the EWC season decider to take on a new reserve rider role having impressed for OG Motorsport World Endurance Team in the Dunlop Superstock Trophy. Robin Mulhauser was third for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team, while EWC newcomer Nelson Major was fourth fastest and quickest Superstock rider for Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team, only to stop on track late in the session. James Westmoreland (Honda Viltaïs Racing) and Wójcik Racing Team’s teenage star Jurand Kuśmierczyk were fifth and sixth followed by F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s new Japanese recruit Hikari Okubo.
Riders will get to experience Circuit Paul Ricard under the cover of darkness when the one-hour Night Free Practice takes place from the new time of 20h30. Click HERE for the First Qualifying results.