Le Mans 24-hour: Two on the bounce for Yoshimura SERT

| | World News
Picture: EWC

Yoshimura SERT Motul began the defence of its FIM Endurance World Championship title in style thanks to back-to-back wins in the Le Mans 24-hour.

Gregg Black, Sylvain Guintoli and Xavier Siméon were supreme as they claimed a home victory for the locally based squad in the 45th year.

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 teammates did a great job, we’re really happy and proud.”

“Last year we won the 24 Heures Motos and Bol d’Or and this year we have three 24-hour races,” Team Director Yohei Kato added. “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 teammates 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 riders Mike Di Meglio, Josh Hook and Gino Rea, were 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, 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 ten.

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 Bradley Smith as he pulled away from his grid position. 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 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 remained in hospital overnight for observation. His team Moto Ain, worked furiously to repair the damage but following further complications the French outfit made the tough decision to withdraw.

“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,” Guintoli said of the win. “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 teammates you can’t achieve anything so I feel very lucky to be part of this team. We’ve done well and I hope it carries on.”

Picture: EWC
Picture: EWC