SRC Kawasaki wrest victory from Honda Endurance Racing
Team SRC Kawasaki France’s victory will go down as the closest-fought and most gripping one in Endurance history to date. Kawasaki carried the day after a memorable duel with Honda Endurance Racing. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team finished third in a thriller of a race.
The 42nd edition will forever be remembered as a 24-hour edge-of-seat duel on the track. Honda Endurance Racing’s Randy de Puniet and Team SRC Kawasaki France’s Jérémy Guarnoni rocketed away from the grid, and the race came to an equally fast-paced finish featuring the same two teams, this time with Yonny Hernandez and Jérémy Guarnoni in the saddle. The suspense reached an even higher pitch when the safety cars came out to clean the track 15 minutes from the finish.
Team SRC Kawasaki France carried the day thanks to Jérémy Guarnoni, David Checa and Erwan Nigon’s determination to shake off Honda Endurance Racing’s Randy de Puniet, Yonny Hernández and Sébastien Gimbert. Their amazing duel overshadowed a third-place finish by Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, who got back on the podium for their team manager Dominique Meliand’s last-ever 24 Heures Motos. The Suzuki’s riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black finished in practically the same lap as the duo in the lead.
Wepol Racing (Yamaha), Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki), 3ART-Moto Team 95 (Yamaha) and National Motos (Honda) also pulled off praiseworthy performances to finish 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th respectively, more than 10 laps behind the three squads leading the race at a scorching pace.
Thanks to their win, and the fact of staying in command of the race from the 4th hour to the finish, Team SRC Kawasaki France have gone to the top of the provisional standings of the 2018-2019 FIM EWC, ahead of Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.
Reigning champions F.C.C. TSR Honda France, who got to Le Mans as standings leader, have lost a big chunk of points. Two crashes had the Japanese team plunging to the bottom of the rankings. F.C.C. TSR Honda France finished the 24 Heures Motos in 35th place.
Superstock podium winner in Top 10
Motors Events finished 7th to emerge victors in the Superstock class. Their strong comeback and determination to chase the win at Le Mans have earned them the Anthony Delhalle EWC Spirit Trophy. Motors Events also won the EWC Dunlop Independent Trophy. James Westmoreland, Johan Nigon and Adrien Ganfornina rode the Suzuki #50, finishing ahead of Yamaha Moto Ain (Robin Mulhauser, Roberto Rolfo and Stefan Hill) and Kawasaki-mounted Team 33 Coyote Louit Moto (Enzo Boulom, Chris Leesch and Kevin Manfredi).
This throws the Superstock Endurance World Cup wide open, as none of these teams had scored any points at the Bol d’Or, the championship’s first round.
The fourth Superstock, Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, were on target for a podium when they were slowed by exhaust problems.
Dashed hopes for starting grid’s front-row threesome
Team ERC-BMW Motorrad Endurance started the race from pole and were among the top three in the early stages, but then had to withdraw shortly after midnight following a crash caused by engine failure. YART Yamaha, who were 2nd on the grid, waged battle in the leading pack until they too suffered engine failure at around 1.30am. VRD Igol Pierret Expériences, who started the race from 3rd place, managed to score one point. After three crashes during the race, their Yamaha #333 finished 20th.
GERT56 by GS Yuasa, the top Superstock on the grid, suffered a similar fate, being forced to withdraw after a crash followed by electronics problems.
76,000 spectators watched this spectacular race at Le Mans – the second round of the 2018-2019 FIM EWC – which was flagged off by Jorge Viegas, the new President of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme. Jorge Viegas (who raced the very first edition of the 24 Heures Motos back in 1978) also handed Team SRC Kawasaki France their trophy.
Next race on the Endurance World Championship calendar: the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring on 11 May.