And the defending champions have come out of the blocks hard in the early start to the new season, stamping their authority with victory at Bol d’Or.
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team pulled off a superb win, crossing the line with a 10-lap lead over Team SRC Kawasaki. Japanese team Trick Star Racing, made a brilliant debut at the Bol d’Or to round out the final step on the rostrum.
SERT’s clean sweep at the first race of the FIM EWC 2016/2017 season scooped them up 40 points for the win, plus the 20 bonus points awarded to the team in the lead both eight and 16 hours into the race.
SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson had a perfect race, with the team running like clockwork, staying in the lead for an impressive 683 of the race’s 687 laps.
Anthony Delhalle, Suzuki Endurance Race Team
“It was a crazy and amazing race. We knew we had a really good package with the GSX-R after the practice sessions, but we didn’t know if the Kawasakis or Yamahas would go faster until the race had begun. But we knew we could do well here, although did not imagine that we would win by nine laps.”
Randy de Puniet finished on the second step of the podium after his first Bol d’Or, alongside his SRC Kawasaki teammates Gregory Leblanc and Fabien Foret. A broken wheel axle slowed the team shortly after nightfall, but SRC Kawasaki quickly caught up with the front group – though they admit the Suzuki clan was invincible this weekend.
Randy Puniet turned in a flawless performance in the saddle of the #11 Kawasaki, proving he’s a genuine Endurance rider who really understands the sport.
A Japanese team also stepped on the podium at the Bol d’Or, with Trick Star Racing pulled off an amazing third place on its very first foray outside the Suzuka 8 Hours with riders Erwan Nigon, Osamu Deguchi and Hitoyasu Izutsu.
Best performing Yamaha team, Maco Racing Team fell just short of the podium after Greg Junod, Anthony dos Santos and Marko Jerman completed a fantastic race, taking fourth place with 37 points.
F.C.C. TSR Honda rounded off the top five with the team featuring Shinichi Ito, four-time winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours, with the Bol d’Or marking his return to the track. He rode the Honda #5 with Australian Damian Cudlin and Kazuma Watanabe, after the team qualified fourth for the race.
A Superstock battle raged just behind the top five, with another MotoGP rider in the spotlight carrying off a historic win. This was Moto3 rider Alexis Masbou’s first-ever Endurance race, alongside Johann Nigon and Hugo Clere on the Yamaha Moto Ain bike.
They finished sixth overall and first in Superstock, ahead of Tati Team Beaujolais Racing (Julien Enjolras, Dylan Buisson and Anthony Violland) and Team 3Art Yam’Avenue (Louis Bulle, Alex Plancassagne and Luca Marconi).
Pole sitter GMT94 Yamaha plummeted to the depths of the standings after two crashes but made a remarkable comeback during the second part of the Bol d’Or 24 Hour, with the GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team wrapping up the season opener with a ninth place.
David Checa, GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
“Our team made a huge effort this weekend and I can’t thank them enough for giving their all. It was a very intense race and the pace was fast from the beginning. We knew this was a strange circuit, with fast straights and tight corners, so we worked really hard to find the perfect bike set-up. What I’d like to take from this race is our speed, especially during its closing part. We will continue working hard. We just hope for some better luck next time out.”
The Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences had led the Superstock class before losing ground because of a fuel pump problem and would finish in 12th overall, and sixth in Superstock.
Finishing in a respectable 14th place, the Team R2CL featured Jimmy Maccio, Australian Aaron Morris and Victor Cox, claiming seven championship points aboard their Team R2CL Suzuki.
Others were less fortunate, with several teams throwing in the towel at the 80th Bol d’Or.
Engine failure put paid to YART Yamaha Official EWC Team’s hopes after 15 hours of racing, having battled to retain second the riders had spent the whole night chipping away at the sizeable advantage held by the provisional leaders before the technical issue forced the team to abandon the race. Collecting nine precious points the team is now placed 13th in the EWC provisional championship standings.
Aussie Broc Parkes, who posted the race’s fastest lap (a 1’59.124), Josh Hayes and Sheridan Morais had taken the Austrian Yamaha up to second place when it happened, after running out of fuel during the first stint.
Broc Parkes, YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“This race has been a blast. I felt very comfortable on the bike from the get go so I could keep pushing more. Ruling out the small issues we had after the start I think hands down we were among if not the fastest team overall. For me it was just so easy to keep a fast pace. The bike was perfectly dialled in for the conditions and I was having a blast. It’s a bit of a bummer we didn’t get to finish the race, but we’ll be back for sure.”
Honda Endurance Racing were also unlucky yet again. After lapping in the top three for the first quarter of the race, the British Honda squad fell back following a crash, then had to withdraw due to a gearbox problem two hours from the finish line.
Earlier in the race, Alex Cudlin was lucky to escape serious injury when the engine of the Penz13.com BMW exploded at nearly 300km/h.
24-Hour Bol d’Or 2017 Results
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Suzuki) 23:51:03.405 687
SRC Kawasaki (Kawasaki) 23:52:48.268 +9Lp. 678
EVA TRICK STAR Racing (Kawasaki) 23:51:39.444 +11Lp. 676
MACO RACING Team (Yamaha) 23:52:46.711 +12Lp. 675
F.C.C. TSR Honda (Honda) 23:51:54.846 +13Lp. 674
MOTO AIN CRT (Yamaha) 23:52:53.128 +18Lp. 669 (SST)
Tati Team Beaujolais Racing (Kawasaki) 23:51:48.469 +19Lp. 668 (SST)
TEAM 3ART YAM’AVENUE (Yamaha) 23:51:55.411 +21Lp. 666 (SST)
GMT94 YAMAHA (Yamaha) 23:51:12.596 +28Lp. 659
Voelpker NRT48 by Schubert-Motors (BMW) 23:51:25.076 +28Lp. 659 (SST)
FIM Endurance World Championship 2017 Championship Points Rnd 1
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