Slovakia to be decisive round
The 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, the third round of the 2017-2018 FIM EWC, is likely to mark a decisive stage of the championship. F.C.C. TSR Honda France starts out as leader of the provisional standings, with 4 teams within 14 points of each other.
Having won the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans on 22 April, Japanese squad F.C.C. TSR Honda France arrives in Slovakia with a 4-point lead over reigning FIM EWC champion GMT94 Yamaha (also the winner of 2017’s 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring). A pitched battle between these two teams is on the cards at the 2nd edition of the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring.
The French factory-backed Yamaha, winner of the Bol d’Or, this season’s opening round on the Paul Ricard circuit in September 2017, got knocked out of the ring at Le Mans. After dominating the 24 Heures Motos for 17 hours in a row this past April, GMT94 Yamaha lost all hope of victory following two crashes, but nevertheless managed to notch up points by finishing the race in 10th place.
Keen rivalry among top three
So F.C.C. TSR Honda France and GMT94 Yamaha are running neck and neck, but a third team is in with a fighting chance in Slovakia. Honda Endurance Racing scored itself a podium place at this season’s first two races. Having finished 3rd at the Bol d’Or and 2nd at the 24 Heures Motos, the British factory-backed Honda squad currently occupies 3rd place in the provisional standings, a mere 13 points behind the leader. With 30 points on tap for the winner of the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, Honda Endurance Racing, which finished 3rd at the 2017 edition of the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, can and will aim higher this year.
Favourites seeking to make up for lost time
The favourites who came a cropper at the 24 Heures Motos are also targeting a win in Slovakia. Squads to watch: Team SRC Kawasaki, 5th past the finish line at Le Mans after a crash and a radiator problem; Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, which finished out of the points after brake problems, YART Yamaha, forced to withdraw after a crash and NRT48 BMW, whose chances were thwarted by electronics issues.
After proving luckless at the Bol d’Or, Bolliger Team Switzerland finished at the foot of the podium at Le Mans and is poised to do battle among the leading pack in Slovakia.
Exciting tussle likely in Superstock
Things are too close to call in the Superstock category, with only a 9-point gap between the leaders of the provisional standings. Tati Team Beaujolais Racing is holding on by its teeth, with a 2-point lead over Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki and a 9-point lead over Moto Ain. So there’s an exciting battle in store for the Superstock win, not least because Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences, the winner of the 2016-2017 Superstock Word Cup, will be back with a vengeance targeting the win after having a rough time of it at both the Bol d’Or and the 24 Heures Motos.
Eastern Europe takes the spotlight
Homegrown squad Maco Racing Team will be front and centre on the Slovakia Ring. The Slovakian team has entered two Yamaha R1 bikes: Maco Racing Team #14, which is competing in the full FIM EWC season, and Maco Racing Team #6, ridden by a Slovakian/Czech trio. All eyes will also be on Czech squad Mercury Racing (BMW), which finished 9th at the 24 Heures Motos, and Team LRP Poland, also BMW-mounted, whose line-up includes Slovakian champion Jaroslav Cerny.
The first official free practice session on the Slovakia Ring starts at 11am CEST on Thursday 10 May. The 2nd edition of the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring will be flagged off at 2.30pm on Saturday 14 May.