2022 Bol d’Or: Yamaha wins race as Honda claims title

| | World News
Picture: FIM EWC

Yamaha’s Viltaïs Racing Igol claimed its first FIM Endurance World Championship victory st the Bol d’Or on Sunday.

Following a dramatic final 90 minutes at Circuit Paul Ricard for the 100th-anniversary Bol d’Or, the Viltaïs outfit overhauled fellow privateer Yamaha team Wójcik Racing for victory after long-term leader ERC Endurance-Ducati stopped with a mechanical failure while comfortably in front.

A final late twist having seen the Polish squad’s M1 slowed, forcing Mathieu Gines to push the bike to the pitlane for repairs. When Dan Linfoot eventually returned the #77 machine to the track more than five minutes had been lost, along with all hopes of victory, Florian Alt, Erwan Nigon and Steven Odendaal claiming the spoils for the 85th edition of the French race.

Wójcik Racing’s eventual second place still represents its best finish of the season with Webike SRC Kawasaki France third in what was boss Gilles Stafler’s final EWC race before he retires.

For ERC riders David Checa and Xavi Forés, however, their late heartbreak was extremely tough to take after they’d shared riding duties for a large part of the race when Chaz Davies hurt his back and couldn’t continue. Despite the highly emotional scenes in the team garage, Checa regained his composure to return to the action for the last hour following rapid repairs by his German outfit, eventually meeting the flag in fifth.

A fourth place finish meant the 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship title was claimed by F.C.C. TSR Honda France. The team, composing of Josh Hook, Mike Di Meglio and Alan Techer - who rode in place of the injured Gino Rea - suffered multiple mechanical issues throughout the 24-hour race before completing the event four laps down on the eventual victors. The trio had the Brit in their thoughts as they claimed the podium to collect the overall trophy with screens declaring Rea - who suffered serious injuries during practice for the Suzuka Eight-hours - as World Champion during the celebrations.

Yoshimura SERT, YART Yamaha and TATI Beringer Racing all suffered terminal mechanical issues while taking their respective turns to lead the 24-hour race.

“I know from the past never to think the race is over until the chequered flag,” Hook said on the achievement. “We’ve come back from much worse situations and won races in the past. We did run into some dramas as everyone else did it seems.

“We never gave up on it and just kept chipping away. We did a lot of really good race runs all throughout the night and we were consistently fast all three of us.

“Basically, we were going to see where we were at when the sun came up in the morning but we never counted the win out at all. It came to a point in time when we had to toss up whether we focused on the championship, which is obviously our main objective, or the race win. We decided to take care of the engine after getting a little nervous and seeing everyone else’s bikes blowing up. There wasn’t many left in the end! We tried to be as conservative as possible and just bring home the championship for our team, Honda and all our partners.”

“This race has been incredible,” Viltaïs’ Steven Odendaal confirmed. “To be in a French team winning on French soil is just something amazing.

“Yannick Lucot, my team boss, had a really big dream of this day and my teammates and I, we fulfilled this so we’re really, really happy with this victory.

“Obviously we did not expect this, we just knew we had to make everything the maximum and we just did this and finally we’ve got this big trophy, which is amazing, and I’m really happy to walk away with my first EWC podium being a victory.”

A gofundme account has been set up to assist with Rea’s rehabilitation needs in the coming months.

Picture: FIM EWC