Winter private testing at Le Mans
With 45 days to go for the 24 Heures Motos, a few high-profile teams returned to the track on the Bugatti circuit for two days of very constructive private testing.
Ten-odd teams took to the track at the Bugatti circuit in fickle weather conditions with 45 days to go for the 24 Heures Motos. Everything was in place to enable the squads to steam ahead with preparing for the upcoming second round of the FIM EWC on 20 and 21 April at Le Mans.
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, the two Le Mans-based teams, were playing on home ground. They used the tests to fine-tune their setup. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team looked into every single detail. “We’ve made some changes to the suspensions and I’m quite pleased with the new solutions,” says SERT boss Dominique Méliand.
For Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, the two-day tests were an opportunity for the 10-strong latest crop of graduates to get right into the action and meet the team’s riders Hugo Clère, Louis Rossi and Alexis Masbou.
YART Yamaha wrapped up the tests on a positive note. Niccolò Canepa and Marvin Fritz are looking calm and confident. “I’m really happy because I was already faster than last year, says Niccolò Canepa. Lap times are really good and the bike has improved from last year.”
Marvin Fritz is equally confident. “We set up the bike good and worked with our new Bridgestone tyres for long runs and tyre life. Today we tried the new rain tyres in cold and windy conditions. We have a really strong pace and we feel really good on our R1.”
Meanwhile, YART Yamaha’s 3rd rider Broc Parkes, who is also competing in the Asia Road Racing Championship, was at Sepang, where he dominated the tests brilliantly in the run-up to the opening race on 9 and 10 March in Malaysia.
Honda Endurance Racing, who are going into 2019 with a freshly-honed CBR1000RR and a new rider line-up (Randy de Puniet, Yonny Hernández and Sébastien Gimbert), were also very satisfied with the tests at Le Mans. “The riders seem really happy with the upgrades to the Fireblade, says team manager Jonny Twelvetrees. Randy has settled in really well with the team and he’s happy with the progress he’s made. Although the weather wasn’t kind, we have managed to get our wet setting dialled in, as over a 24-hour race anything can happen so we have to be prepared for all conditions. We’ve also been able to work closely with Dunlop, where we tried out two new front tyres and also a rear.”
Having moved up to Formula EWC this season, Yamaha Viltaïs Pierret Experiences is going full steam ahead on all fronts. “These tests have been very positive, says team manager Yannick Lucot. We were able to do some good work with Dunlop in all track conditions, both dry and damp. We’re proceeding step by step but confidently; our crew are diligent and focused and our three musketeers Florian Alt, Xavier Siméon and Florian Marino are already clocking excellent lap times.”
Yamaha Viltaïs Pierret Experiences intend to further fine-tune their performances during three days of testing in Barcelona in late March.
This set of tests proved particularly useful for Webike Tati Team Trick Star. The Kawasaki-mounted Franco-Japanese team, who won the Superstock World Cup last season, have just moved up into the blue-riband EWC category and are getting to grips with the advantages, such as the suspensions. “We’re making slow but steady progress, says team manager Patrick Enjolras. We’re learning all about the suspensions, chassis setup and Dunlop tyre management. These tests are vital to help us understand things and head in the right direction.”
Another test session on 2 and 3 April at Le Mans will involve a larger number of the teams competing in the 24 Heures Motos.