The first round of the 2014 Endurance World Championship is in the bag, as the 24 hours of the Bol d’Or at Magny-Cours are now in the bag. Taking the top step on the podium was last year’s Bol d’Or winner, SRC Kawasaki, but the win didn’t come easily for the Kawasaki factory team.
“The week got off to a bad start. With Fabien Foret out and the crash for Matthieu, I wouldn’t have fancied us to win,” admitted SRC Kawasaki Team Manager Gilles Stafler. “The best win we ever had in a 24-hour race was our first in Le Mans in 2010. But this one was the toughest. There was also a luck factor in the choice of the tyres and we had the support of really top-notch technical staff.”
Because of Matthieu Lagrive’s crash during the free practice session, this meant that SRC Kawasaki teammate Gregory Leblanc and Nicolas Salchaud had to pretty much split the racing duties for the 24-hour race. At one point, SRC Kawasaki was in the 20th spot, after an early crash, but the team rallied together, and capitalized on the misfortunes of others to bring home another Bol d’Or win.
Finishing five laps down, in second, was the Yamaha France’s factory-supported team: Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin; and in third was the Superstock Class leader, Junior Team LMS Suzuki, which was 11 laps down at the finish.
Noticeably absent from the finishing board were the usual suspects of Honda Racing, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), all of whom had to retire mid-race because of mechanical troubles, but had strong showings prior to their retirements.
After 24 hours of racing around a tiny historic track in France, the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycle endurance race, and final round of the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end. A race of attrition, SRC Kawasaki claimed the top podium step, followed by Suzuki France’s Team R2CL (which was blessed with the addition of Guy Martin for the event), with Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube rounding out the final position.
The conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans also means that the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship rankings have been settled, with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) clinching the Championship, yet again, despite the team’s disappointing 26th place finish overall in Le Mans. Second in the Championship is the Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube squad, with SRC Kawasaki closing out the top three spot, for the four-round championship.
While we were busy getting sunburned in Austin, on the other side of the globe in Magny-Cours, men and women road motorcycles around a french track for 24-hours straight, in a little something called the Bol d’Or.
With SRC Kawasaki making a return to the pole-position, the French squad made it two years in a row at the winner’s circle, giving them a fantastic start to the World Endurance Championship. At the helm of their Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R were Gregory Leblanc, Loris Baz, and Jérémy Guarnoni, who battled through rain and the cold night to put the Kawasaki on the top step.
With the weather changing almost constantly during the weekend’s race and close to freezing at night, the 76th annual Bol d’Or proved to be both an exciting and grueling race that saw teams changing to wets, slicks, and cut-slicks almost constantly in the pit stops. Racing for 24 hours, the SRC Kawasaki Team did the unthinkable, and beat the heavily favored Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) in this year’s Bol d’Or endurance race. Losing most of its time in the pits, SERT had to contend with a crash in the fourth hour of the Bol d’Or, which sent lead-rider Vincent Philippe home early with a broken collarbone.
Completing the remaining 20 hours of the race with only two riders, SERT was able to close the gap to SRC Kawasaki in the final hours of the contest to only 60 seconds, but after several more pit stops the team would have to settle for finishing just on the same lap as the Kawasaki squad, as they slowed their pace to ensure victory. While one could make the argument that SERT lost the race instead of SRC Kawasaki winning it, riding a flawless and careful 24 hours is a part of the winning strategy in the FIM World Endurance Championship. Kudos to the SRC Kawasaki Team.