Reigning World Champions Suzuki Yoshimura SERT dominated qualifying and set a new lap record on the Paul Ricard circuit to take pole ahead of the YART–Yamaha Official EWC Team and BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team during preparations for Bol d’Or 2021.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France started from fourth ahead of VRD Igol Experiences who were ahead of two factory teams on the starting grid: Webike SRC Kawasaki France Trickstar and ERC Endurance-Ducati.
41 teams started the 84th Bol d’Or but ultimately only 20 would be credited as finishing the race after crossing the finishing line and meeting the criteria of completing 75 per cent of the number of laps of the winner. Thus there was more tales of tragedy than triumph.
Nor would the high-profile Yamaha Austria Racing Team, the factory backed ERC Ducati effort, Team Bolliger Switzerland or Wojcik Racing Team make it to the chequered flag in what was a war of attrition staged in high-temperatures on an unforgiving track.
After seven and a half hours of racing, BMW Motorrad World Endurance was running in fourth position when Mikhalchik had engine issues that forced him into the pits. Team Manager Werner Daemen’s squad tried everything to continue the race but eventually had to make the decision to retire.
Marc Bongers – BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director
“This obviously is a hard setback for us, also in regards of the title fight in the world championship. Another podium finish with a lot of championship points would have been possible in this 24-hour race but endurance racing once more proved that a lot can happen. Several top teams have run into issues in this very hard race, and unfortunately we have been one of them. We will now analyse in detail to find the exact cause of the issue. I want to thank the entire team and the riders for their very hard work before and at the race weekend. Now we are looking forward to the finale at Most. There, we want to attack again and fight at the very top.”
F.C.C. TSR Honda were looking good and Josh Hook had moved the team up to third ten hours in to the race and was the fastest man on the circuit but then the Fireblade refused to proceed. By the time the bike was trailered to the pit garage they had already slipped to seventh.The team then worked on the bike for more than an hour but alas it was not enough to put them back into contention.
YART had looked set to challenge SERT for the win after building up a 20-second lead by the 11th hour only for an engine failure on the Mistral Straight to rob Marvin Fritz, Niccole Canepa and Karel Hanika of their chance for victory. For all their World Endurance success over the years, a victory at the Bol d’Or continues to elude the Yamaha Austria Racing Team.
Mandy Kainz – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team, Team Manager
“What can I say? We are very disappointed and it’s very hard to give up a win when you are leading like we were, but this is Endurance racing! The race was going to plan until we ran into an issue. The bike was running perfectly and there was no indication that something was wrong, so it was a shock to us all when we ran into a technical issue. It was a ‘full gas’ race from the start, everyone was pushing, and people were retiring everywhere. It’s unbelievable that after 11 hours were we so close to SERT and fighting for the win. We were looking forward to seeing how the race would unfold but unfortunately on the back straight the technical issue happened, and we were forced to retire.”
The Yamaha backed Wójcik Racing Team and Wójcik Racing Team 2 also retired from the race. Wójcik Racing in the hands of Dan Linfoot, Gino Rea and Sheridan Morais was running inside the top ten before the bike threw a rod.
The lead Kawasaki Team, Webike SRC Kawasaki France Trickstar, were also in a position to challenge for a podium before they had their own technical issues. Bolliger Team Switzerland Kawasaki had their engine expire.
The ERC Endurance Ducati entry crashed out of the race before the 11th hour mark.
Surviving and thriving as their competitors fell by the wayside was the Yoshimura Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, who also set the fastest lap of the race and led for 615 of the 704 laps completed of a circuit where competitors hit 330 km/h down the Mistral Straight.
SERT riders Gregg Black, Xavier Simeon and Sylvain Guintoli controlled the race, despite the rivalry with the other official teams and inclement weather conditions, which deteriorated during the night as heavy rain descended. The only hiccup for the team came around midnight when the first raindrops appeared on the circuit and Simeon was the victim of a crash that caused slight damage to the Suzuki.
Back in the pits though, the technical staff carried out a fast check and repair, which allowed the #1 machine to get back on the track quickly, keeping in touch with the front runners. Shortly afterwards, the team were back in the lead again and stretched the gap hour-by-hour.
After leading the race almost from start to finish, the Yoshimura SERT Motul GSX-R1000R crossed the finish line 19 laps ahead of its main rival and, by taking pole position, the lead at the eighth and 16th hour of the race and the victory, the team collected 65 points, the maximum possible for the event. This allowed the team to move from fourth in the championship to now lead with a total of 141 points.
Damien Saulnier – Suzuki Endurance Racing Team Manager
“We are more than proud to leave with the victory and a lot of points. But in the pits, I found the race very hard; very long. I imagine that it was the same for the riders with the gaps that were widening, it’s psychologically hard to keep up. It’s a race I’ll remember! This victory gives us comfort and security for the end of the season. But we must not rest for now, because the race of Most will be also difficult on a circuit which we do not know. We’ll have to stay careful and very focused because the points are difficult to win, but easy to lose.”
In second place 19 laps behind the leader, Moto Ain got on the podium in their very first season in the EWC class thanks to Randy de Puniet, Robin Mulhauser and Roberto Rolfo. They ran a flawless race with only a minor crash towards the end.
Third at the finish, four laps behind Moto Ain, BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers wrote their name in history. It is rare to find a Superstock team on the podium of a 24-hour race. The last time a Superstock team was on the podium of an FIM EWC race was at the 2014 Bol d’Or. In the saddle of their Kawasaki, Anthony Loiseau, Jonathan Hardt and Julien Pilot led the Superstock class practically throughout the race. BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers stayed in the lead for 621 of the 681 laps completed in this category.
The podium of the 84th Bol d’Or was also noteworthy for its diversity. It featured three manufacturers, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki, and three tyre manufacturers – Bridgestone, Dunlop and Michelin.
Proving that today’s Superstock bikes hold up well against the official EWC machines, two other Superstock teams finished in the Top 5. RAC41 ChromeBurner were fourth and the only Honda past the finish line. No Limits Motor Team (Suzuki) were in 5th place.
VRD Igol Experiences finished 6th overall. Florian Alt, Florian Marino and Nico Terol had been in the Top 5 in the early stages of the race before crashing and having to mount a recovery. The independent Yamaha team won the points for the 3rd-ranked team in the FIM EWC. This puts them in second place in the standings behind Yoshimura SERT Motul, the new leader on the eve of the season finale at Most.
11 of the 20 machines past the finish line were Superstocks. OG Motorsport by Sarazin and Falcon Racing finished a noteworthy 7th and 8th, ahead of two EWC teams, Motobox Kremer Racing and Maco Racing Team.
Aussie Anthony West joined the MACO Racing Team for the event and will also ride for the team at the 8 Hours of Most next month before returning to Australia to continue his ASBK campaign.When the rain came down in the middle of the night Westy was the quickest rider on track at one stage of the race. He also had to push the bike back to the pits after running out of fuel but ultimately his efforts were rewarded with a top ten finish.
The 2021 Bol d’Or also marked the return of the public for the first time since late 2019 and 48,000 spectators attended the Paul Ricard circuit for the event.
The 84th edition of the Bol d’Or was the third round of the FIM EWC 2021 season. The final round, the 8-hour race at Most in the Czech Republic, will be held on 9th October.YART and F.C.C. TSR Honda are still in with a chance of taking the title as just as this Bol d’Or showed, anything can happen in Endurance racing…
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