Qualifying report: Hanika goes for a rapid ride on Spa's EWC rollercoaster
A stunning lap from Karel Hanika ensured YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC claimed a second consecutive pole position in this season’s FIM Endurance World Championship, which is returning to the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first time since 2001 this weekend.
The Czech, who received the Nathalie Maillet Challenge trophy for his charging performance on his Bridgestone-equipped Yamaha YZF-R1, was the only rider to dip below the 2m19s barrier. He’s now preparing to line up for the first 24H SPA EWC Motos, which will recreate the spirit of the famous 24 Heures de Liège when it begins at 13h00 CET tomorrow (Saturday) alongside team-mates Marvin Fritz and Niccolò Canepa from Germany and Italy respectively.
Under new rules for this season EWC qualifying results are based on the average time of the fastest two riders from each team, rather than three previously. That means BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team (Jérémy Guarnoni, Illya Mykhalchyk and Markus Reiterberger) will start in second position for the eagerly anticipated day and night race with Yoshimura SERT Motul in third. The Suzuki-powered outfit includes home hero Xavier Siméon along with team-mates Gregg Black and Sylvain Guintoli.
In the Dunlop Superstock Trophy, there was a pole for Polish squad Wójcik Racing Team for whom Italian Kevin Manfredi was the fastest of its trio of riders, which also features Briton Danny Webb and Pole Marek Szkopek. BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers, featuring Belgian Loris Cresson, was second followed by National Motos Honda.
How the chase for EWC pole glory unfolded
Gregg Black underlined Yoshimura SERT Motul’s intent with the fastest time in the Blue Rider group, the first of four groups to take to the legendary 6.985-kilometre track for Second Qualifying. The British-born Frenchman clocked a 2m19.368s best to edge Germany’s Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team) by 0.017s. Niccolò Canepa was third for YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC followed by Josh Hook (F.C.C. TSR Honda France and Tati Team Beringer Racing’s Alan Techer. Xavi Forès (ERC Endurance-Ducati) was sixth quickest ahead of Webike SRC Kawasaki France rider Randy de Puniet. Dominik Vincon (Team LRP Poland), Florian Alt (Viltaïs Racing Igol) and leading Dunlop Superstock Trophy contender Johan Nigon (Team LH Racing) completed the top 10.
YART’s German ace Marvin Fritz was the form Yellow Rider on a 2m19.826s ahead of Ukraine’s Illya Mykhalchyk (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team) by 0.195s with home hero Xavier Siméon leaving it late to post the third fastest time, a 2m20.321s. Gino Rea placed fourth but was a late faller from his F.C.C. TSR Honda France entry. Grégory Leblanc and Etienne Masson were next up for Tati Team Beringer Racing and Webike SRC Kawasaki France respectively with Erwan Nigon seventh quickest for Viltaïs Racing Igol. Team LRP Poland’s late entrant Pepijn Bijsterbosch was eighth ahead of Claudio Corti (Team Moto Ain) and Sheridan Morais (Wójcik Racing Team EWC 77), whose team-mate Dan Linfoot crashed in the first rider group on track. Belgian Loris Cresson (BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers) topped the Dunlop Superstock Trophy classification.
The Red Rider session was interrupted by two red flags but finished with Karel Hanika on top for YART following his epic 2m18.845s lap. Sylvain Guintoli was 1.572s adrift for Yoshimura SERT Motul, while Mike di Meglio (F.C.C. TSR Honda France) placed third despite falling. Florian Marino (Webike SRC Kawasaki France) and Jérémy Guarnoni (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team) were next up with Chaz Davies sixth on his EWC debut. South African Steven Odendaal was seventh quickest for Viltaïs Racing Igol followed by Loïc Arbel (Tati Team Beringer Racing) and Wójcik Racing Team STK 777’s Dunlop Superstock Trophy pacesetting Brit Danny Webb. Christian Iddon was the fastest of the Green Rider group, with the Yoshimura SERT Motil team posting a 2m21.864s best.
FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND-UP: HANIKA LEAVES IT LATE TO TOP EWC ORDER
Karel Hanika left it late to put YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC on top following an action-packed First Qualifying. Hanika had trailed Florian Marino (Webike SRC Kawasaki France) in the Red Rider session but snatched first place among the third of four groups on his last lap by a margin of 0.492s.
Hanika’s 2m20.253s eclipsed the fastest times posted in the earlier Blue and Yellow Rider sessions by Josh Hook and Illya Mykhalchyk and continued his strong qualifying form that was much in evidence at the EWC season-opening 24 Heures Motos, where he set a new qualifying lap record on his way to pole position.
BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team’s Markus Reiterberger set the early pace among the Blue Riders, slipped down the order before shooting back to the top of the times, ousting Josh Hook in the process. However, his best lap of 2m19.910s was struck from the records after he was adjudged to have exceeded track limits. That left Hook fastest for F.C.C. TSR Honda France in a time of 2m20.411s ahead of Yoshimura SERT Motul’s Gregg Black and YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC’s Niccolò Canepa. Randy de Puniet (Webike SRC Kawasaki France) and Xavi Forès (ERC Endurance-Ducati) were next. Hugo Clere (Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motostore) headed the Dunlop Superstock Trophy contenders followed by Sébastien Suchet (National Motos Honda).
While Reiterberger was penalised in the Blue Rider session, there were no such problems for Illya Mykhalchyk, who took over the #37 Dunlop-shod BMW M1000RR and went fastest among the Yellow Riders in 2m20.388s. F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s new-for-2022 recruit Gino Rea was second quickest with Marvin Fritz (YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC) heading home hero Xavier Siméon (Yoshimura SERT Motul). Grégory Leblanc was fifth fastest for Tati Team Beringer Racing with Etienne Masson (Webike SRC Kawasaki France) sixth on another ZK 10R. Kevin Manfredi (Wójcik Racing Team STK 777) edged out Belgian rider Loris Cresson (BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers) for the fastest time among the Dunlop Superstock Trophy contenders. The session was red flagged to enable trackside safety barriers to be repaired after Martin Renaudin crashed 3ART Best of Bike Yamaha, albeit without injury.
Behind Hanika and Marino in the Red Rider session, BMW’s Jérémy Guarnoni was third fastest followed by Sylvain Guintoli (Yoshimura SERT Motul), Chaz Davies (ERC Endurance-Ducati) and Mike di Meglio (F.C.C. TSR Honda France). Team Moto Ain’s Corentin Perolari was seventh as Wójcik Racing Team experienced mixed fortunes. While Mathieu Gines crashed his Formula EWC-spec Yamaha, Danny Webb topped the Dunlop Superstock Trophy ahead of Kevin Calia (Team 33 Louit April Moto) and RAC 41 ChromeBurner’s Chris Leesch.
Christian Iddon edged the battle of the reserves in the Green Rider session with a 2m21.774s best for Yoshimura SERT Motul. Kenny Forray (BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team), YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC’s Robin Mulhauser was third fastest followed by James Westmoreland (Viltaïs Racing Igol) and Balint Kovács, the quickest of the Dunlop Superstock Trophy contenders for Wójcik Racing Team STK 777 in fifth overall.
DISCOVERY SPORTS EVENTS AND CIRCUIT DE SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS ANNOUNCE THE NATHALIE MAILLET CHALLENGE
As part of the first edition of the 24H Spa EWC Motos, Discovery Sports Events and Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps have announced a tribute to Nathalie Maillet, the former circuit manager who lost her life last year. The Nathalie Maillet Challenge has been created in the form of a special trophy to be awarded each year to the rider setting the best lap in qualifying for rounds two of the 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship. François Ribeiro, Head of Discovery Sports Events, said: “This trophy is the perfect opportunity to honour the essential role played by the late Nathalie Maillet, whose invaluable help made this race possible. It was her vision that led to the first discussions, and which ultimately led us to where we are today.” Amaury Bertholome, Managing Director, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, said: “The 24H SPA EWC Motos taking place this weekend is the culmination of a process that began in May 2016 under the impetus of my predecessor Nathalie Maillet. This trophy reflects perfectly her character, a person who was driven by an unwavering desire to win and a passion for the circuit that we have in common.”
Formula EWC, Karel Hanika (YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC): “My team prepared a great bike and my team-mates were riding in front of me and they told me how is the situation with the race track and they helped me to prepare the bike for the perfect lap. For myself I was just looking to have a clean lap and this I was able to achieve in the last few minutes. I did no mistakes and was trying to hit my lines and the bike was working great. I believe there was one or two tenths possible to do better but, for sure, you are always on the limit every time you go into qualifying. You are 100 per cent at these moments and I did the best that I could do. Of course we will try to win, it’s our main target every time we go into a race. We’ve worked hard since the last race in Le Mans to improve the things we were struggling with and we believe it’s now properly fixed. We are enjoying riding here at Spa, it’s a great circuit, we’re having a lot of fun and it’s great to share the bike with my team-mates. Thanks to my team, they did an amazing job, and we have the pole position again. I am very happy.”
Dunlop Superstock Trophy, Kevin Manfredi (Wójcik Racing Team STK 777): “After the injury now it’s okay. At Le Mans I had a little more pain on my body but now it’s okay. Danny [Webb] helped me a lot with the bike and with the track a lot. He knows the track from the classic bike races and this is important for my lap time. I was not on the limit and I don’t close two corners very and maybe it was possible to go a little more fast. Now I just hope for the best result for the team, but it’s a new race for all the teams and maybe this is the biggest challenge because anything can happen.”
First Qualifying Blue Rider: Josh Hook, 2m20.411s
First Qualifying Yellow Rider: Illya Mykhalchyk, 2m20.388s
First Qualifying Red Rider: Karel Hanika, 2m20.253s
First Qualifying Green Rider: Christian Iddon, 2m21.774s
Second Qualifying Blue Rider: Gregg Black, 2m19.368s
Second Qualifying Yellow Rider: Marvin Fritz, 2m19.826s
Second Qualifying Red Rider: Karel Hanika, 2m18.845s
Second Qualifying Green Rider: Christian Iddon 2m21.864s
The overall qualifying classification is available by clicking HERE.
The 24H SPA EWC Motos, round two of the 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship, is due to begin at 13h00 CET on Saturday 5 June. Click HERE for details of the global networks broadcasting the race live.