Race report: Japanese joy made in France as Yoshimura SERT Motul wins EWC 24 Heures Motos
Yoshimura SERT Motul has made it back-to-back wins in the 24 Heures Motos to begin the defence of its FIM Endurance World Championship title in style.
Riders Gregg Black, Sylvain Guintoli and Xavier Siméon were supreme for the Le Mans-based squad to win the 45th edition of an event that welcomed fans back after two years of COVID-19 restrictions and resulted in a combined attendance of 62,000.
Always quick, always consistent, the trio combined perfectly and never faltered, the only major scare coming when their Bridgestone-equipped Suzuki GSXR-1000 ran short of fuel during a lengthy safety car period late on Saturday afternoon.
Otherwise, it was a result that reflected Yoshimura SERT Motul’s professionalism and meticulous preparation during 24 challenging hours, an approach that was visible up and down the pitlane as tireless human endeavour – mainly by volunteers – took centre stage.
“It’s an incredible victory and much harder than last year,” said British-born Frenchman Black, who was able to take the traditional running start despite breaking his heel during the Le Mans Pre-Test last month. “The other teams were really, really strong so we had to keep pushing for 24 hours, so the stints were intense, fast and the pace was absolutely incredible. My team-mates did a great job, we’re really happy and proud.”
Yoshimura SERT Motul Team Director Yohei Kato said: “Last year we won the 24 Heures Motos and Bol d’Or and this year we have three 24-hour races. We developed the bike and make our team work focused on the 24 hours, so to achieve this win I am very satisfied with our team, our bike and our riders.”
YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC started the EWC season opener on pole position for the third year running after Karel Hanika set a new lap record during Friday morning’s Second Qualifying session. But when the Yamaha YZF-R1 wouldn’t fire up at the start, the Czech rider joined team-mates Niccolò Canepa and Marvin Fritz in engaging in a heroic charge through the field to finish second, despite the starting issue remaining a hindrance throughout the race.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France, with Mike Di Meglio, Josh Hook and Gino Rea riding, was in front after eight hours, but the squad’s challenge soon unravelled with costly pitstops required to fix firstly a gear selector issue and then to replace a broken silencer. A ride-through penalty caused further delay, while team newcomer Rea fell on Sunday morning, but was able to bring the Honda CB R1000 RR-R back to the pits for repair. Although the delay briefly dropped F.C.C. TSR Honda France out of the podium places, it wasn’t long before the position was reclaimed.
Viltaïs Racing Igol ran as high as third and was in a comfortable fourth place as the best independent outfit when a technical failure led to a heart-breaking exit for the French team.
Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motostore hit back from delays caused by a broken oil filter to convert its Dunlop Superstock Trophy pole position into the category win in a fine fourth overall with its production-spec Yamaha. However, BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers, National Motos, No Limits Motor Team and Team 33 Louit April Moto all enjoyed spells at the front of the category with the top three often running in close proximity to each other. It was the ultimate advert for the Dunlop Superstock Trophy, which is contested by smaller, lesser funded teams.
No Limits Motor Team eventually finished second in the Dunlop Superstock Trophy in fifth overall following a flurry of late position changes with National Motos next ahead of 33 Louit April Moto. Kawasaki-powered Formula EWC squad Team Bolliger Switzerland took eighth as Pitlane Endurance and Team LH Racing rounded out the top 10.
Myriad delays restricted Tati Team Beringer Racing to P11, while ERC Endurance Ducati’s fightback following a crash when Xavi Forès avoided a backmarker in the seventh hour was slowed by a lengthy pit stop on Sunday.
Wójcik Racing Team was forced to retire its #77 entry following a mechanical failure and an accident. A holed radiator ended BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team’s hopes of what was shaping up to be a strong bid for a podium finish.
Webike SRC Kawasaki France was had podium hopes of its own but they were dashed when the team was forced to spend more than one hour in the pits during the night.
It was a dramatic start to the race on Saturday when Christophe Seigneur was unable to avoid colliding with a slow-moving Bradley Smith. Seigneur was able to walk back to the pits, but ex-MotoGP rider Smith was taken to hospital for medical checks as a result of the substantial rear impact, having received immediate medical attention at the side of the track when the field circulated under safety car conditions. Smith suffered no serious injuries but will remain in hospital for a period of observation. His team MOTO AIN, worked furiously to repair the damage but with the Yamaha not running in perfect order when it returned and with only two drivers available for the full 24-hour duration, the French outfit made the tough decision to withdraw.
Formula EWC, Sylvain Guintoli (Yoshimura SERT Motul): “It was fantastic, it was really, really tiring with a lot of pace from the competitors so we had to keep pushing all the way. It was 24 hours full speed with a very small margin to try to control the race, but we go home with the big trophy. Endurance is a team sport and without everybody in the team on the technical side, my team-mates you can’t achieve anything so I feel verry lucky to be part of this team. We’ve done well and I hope it carries on.”
Dunlop Superstock Trophy, Philipp Steinmayr (Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motostore: “It’s really awesome, it’s a dream come true and is just the result of really good work from the whole team. They were fast in the pitstops and my team-mates were very fast on the track and we made up the time we lost during the night. It was really hard, my toughest race until now but it’s really nice to get a victory.”
WHAT’S NEXT? 24H SPA EWC Motos, Belgium, June 2-5
A track as legendary as it is demanding hosts international-level motorbike racing for the first time since 2001 when the 24H SPA EWC Motos revives the spirit of the 24 Heures de Liège, once an EWC calendar mainstay. The iconic circuit has undergone extensive safety upgrades mandated by FIM and FMB specifically for the EWC’s return. Central to the changes, which have been ratified by the FIA in line with car racing requirements, are expanded run-off areas at several corners, the repositioning of safety barriers in some sections, plus the minor realignment of Turn 9, for bike use only. More information: https://www.24hspamotos.com/en/