Spa 24-Hour: BMW victorious in Belgium

| | World News
Picture: EWC

Non-stop action and drama saw BMW Motorrad claim its first 24-hour FIM Endurance World Championship victory at Spa on Sunday.

As the EWC returned to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first time in 21 years, the Belgian track delivered a race that matched up to its legendary status.

BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team celebrated a maiden 24-hour EWC victory to follow up its breakthrough success in the six-hour 2021 season decider last October, with the circuit’s ultra-challenging nature and rain for the final five hours combining to ensure rider skill came very much to the fore in the 24H SPA EWC Motos.

As well as the efforts of riders Jérémy Guarnoni, Illya Mykhalchyk and Markus Reiterberger, BMW’s success owed plenty to the expertise of its Belgium-based team, led by former rider Werner Daemen, and the reliability of the Dunlop-equipped BMW M1000RR.

Kawasaki-powered and Pirelli-equipped Tati Team Beringer Racing excelled to finish as the top independent team in second overall with newcomer Loïc Arbel joining forces with existing French riders Grégory Leblanc and Alan Techer.

F.C.C. TSR Honda France was holding off Yoshimura SERT Motul for the final podium spot as both squads battled back from major setbacks during the night. A lengthy red flag period to enable the clean-up of a substantial oil spillage with less than three hours meant Gino Rea would have only a handful of laps to reclaim the third place he lost to home hero Xavier Siméon in the pitstop sequence prior to the race suspension. Despite the challenging track conditions, Rea and Siméon engaged in an intense battle for position with Rea coming out on top following several changes of position.

The result means the Suzuki-powered reigning champions and April’s 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans winners holds a 15-point advantage in the title chase heading to August’s prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours.

Yoshimura SERT Motul had been on top after ten hours only for Sylvain Guintoli to be forced to pit for a replacement clutch and gearbox for his Bridgestone-equipped Suzuki GSX-R1000R. The work took more than 25 minutes to complete and wrecked hopes of a home win for the team’s Belgian rider Siméon in the process.

F.C.C. TSR Honda France took advantage of the misfortune that hit its fellow Japanese team but there was despair when Rea was onboard the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP as the chain failed after 15 hours of running. It left the Briton with no choice but to push his stricken bike back to the pits. That long delay plus the 15 minutes spent making repairs dropped F.C.C. TSR Honda France down the order before the late comeback.

Worse was to come for both squads when Gregg Black and Mike Di Meglio, crashed their Suzuki and Honda respectively in quick succession as the Sunday morning rain intensified. Black managed to limp his wrecked machine back to the pits for rapid repairs while Di Meglio was able to continue without stopping having only inflicted limited damage to his bike.

Having started from pole, YART Yamaha was forced into an unscheduled pit stop for a replacement speed sensor after three hours. Despite the delay of more than four minutes, the performances of its riders Niccolò Canepa, Marvin Fritz and polesitter Karel Hanika put the Austrian team back into contention. Following a battle for the lead between Fritz and BMW rider Mykhalchyk, it was the Japanese marque in front after 18 hours. But the advantage would not last when the YZF-R1, with Canepa onboard, suffered engine failure.

Elsewhere, Wójcik Racing Team EWC 77 completed the top five followed by Viltaïs Racing Igol and Team Moto Ain, which overcame an overheating issue. Team LH Racing claimed Dunlop Superstock Trophy and FIM Endurance World Cup honours in eighth overall ahead of Team Bolliger Switzerland and Team LRP Poland following a late change of positions between the latter entrants.

Picture: EWC
Picture: EWC