SRC Kawasaki in pole position for Le Mans 24 Hour 2015
Yamaha prove pace of new YZF-R1 as Sheridan Morais sets new Le Mans lap record
The SRC Kawasaki beat fierce competition from rival works teams to claim top spot on the grid for the 24 Heures Motos in Le Mans , which kicks off tomorrow at 15:00 on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans.
With a fastest lap of 1m36.578s, South African rider Sheridan Morais (Monster Energy Yamaha YART) broke the Bugatti circuit Endurance track record previously set by Julien Da Costa (1m36.826s) in 2012.]
Sheridan Morais – Monster Energy Yamaha YART rider – “Today was really good, after yesterday we knew all the riders, including Damian our spare rider, were very fast. It was a matter of getting a clear road, because there is so much traffic. When I was in for a tyre change there was a red flag situation, which was fortunate for me, because I then managed to get quite a clear lap and ride a really good time. The ideal time would be a lot faster, but we were far ahead of everybody else and I’m very happy for this. I wish my teammates could have had some clear track also, because I think then we would definitely have gotten pole position. Second or first doesn’t really matter though, because it’s only 2 metres difference at the start. I’m very, very happy. On a brand new bike we did a very good job.”
However, when the times set over two days of qualifying were taken into account, it was SRC Kawasaki and its French riders Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive and Fabien Foret who came out on top.
“Gaining pole position is not the most important thing in an endurance race, but you need to be well placed at the start to avoid getting caught up among other riders,” said Gilles Stafler, SRC Kawasaki team manager. “Our riders are fast, and our strength is in having a very homogeneous team. This pole position is the reward for the team’s work on the bike, this season as well as in past years. Unlike some of our competitors who are trying to understand a new machine, we know ours perfectly.”
Fabien Foret said: “I set my time of 1m36.900s yesterday and therefore did not use qualifying tyres today. The purpose of this morning’s sessions was really to prepare for the race.”
Grégory Leblanc added: “Yesterday I couldn’t set my fastest lap and I improved today, but the important thing is to know that in the race we can regularly set fast times.”
And Matthieu Lagrive said: “The pole is a small bonus and for us the important thing today was to show that we are competitive in race conditions.”
Second on the grid, but only 0.024s off the lead, was the lap record-breaking Monster Energy Yamaha YART.
Team manager Mandy Kainz was particularly pleased with his new R1: “This Yamaha is absolutely amazing! We are really satisfied. We can say that our riders love this bike. We are a very ‘international’ Austrian team with riders of three different nationalities. Sheridan is South African, Max Neukirchner is German and Ivan Silva is Spanish. Moreover, we have technicians from all over the world. We are a crazy Yamaha international family!”
The Honda Racing bike will start in third position tomorrow. Julien Da Costa, who set a good lap time yesterday, did not take part in practice this morning having decided there was no improvement to be made without qualifying tyres. Freddy Foray and Sébastien Gimbert took to the track, with the latter able to improve his time.
Julien Da Costa – “Third place is really good because our goal was not to qualify on top and we had to focus on our set-up for the race. I am very happy with the job done here in Le Mans, we are in a good pace and we’re eagerly waiting for the race to start.”
Sebastien Gimbert – “I had difficulties to weave in and out through the traffic on track in the morning, anyway I managed to improve my lap time and did my best time in 1:38.141. In the world of Endurance, qualifying practice and race are two separate things; I know that we’ll be performing regarding our race pace because our bike is well balanced and it is pleasant to ride. What people remember at the end of a race is when you cross the finish line, so our aim now is to be at the better place on Sunday at 15:00 and to mark the maximum of points.”
Freddy Foray – “We all agreed with the team on the fact that it wasn’t necessary for Julien Da Costa and myself to go out on track today because the bike’s set-up is already really efficient and it is always useful to rest for one day before a 24 hours race. I did two laps on the race bike anyway because we needed to have a confirmation on our race set-up. I am very satisfied with the Honda bike, but now we are waiting to see the other teams’ rhythm in order to know if we are able to be in the same pace. Tomorrow might be rainy, so the track will probably be wet at the beginning of the race – this will add a little spice to the race! We are definitely prepared for the 24 hours race, the bike is good and now all that we can wish is that we’ll be there at the race finish as well.”
The ever-consistent SERT team worked on the settings of its bikes, recently fitted with Ohlins dampers. The Suzuki works team’s three riders – Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson –all improved their lap times today.
The same was true for GMT94 Yamaha riders Kenny Foray and Mathieu Gines, although David Checa suffered the consequences of falling off twice this week.
Tati Team Beaujolais Racing, with its trio of Julien Enjolras, Cédric Tangre and Michael Savary, set the best time in the Superstock class and were seventh overall. “It’s good for our prestige to obtain such a result, especially as we shared the same tyre throughout the whole session,” said Julien Enjolras. “That is important for the team but the goal remains the race, which is where we will play our cards.”
Rounding out the top three in the Superstock class were the Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki followed by Qatar Endurance Racing Team, which are eighth and ninth respectively on the starting grid.
With lap times so close at the front, with just a second covering the first four teams, the 38th edition of the 24 Heures Motos is looking good – it just remains to be seen if the weather will spoil the party!
Overall classification qualifying – 24 HEURES MOTOS
1. SRC Kawasaki, Kawasaki ZX 10R, 1’37.188
2. Monster Energy Yamaha YART, Yamaha YZF-R1, 1’37.202
3. Honda Racing, CBR1000 RRSP, 1’37.855
4. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, Suzuki GSXR 1000, 1’37.948
5. BMW Motorrad France Team PENZ13, BWM S 1000RR, 1’38.074
6. GMT94 Yamaha, Yamaha YZF-R1, 1’38.466
7. Tati Team Beaujolais Racing, Kawasaki ZX 10R, 1’38.908
8. Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, Suzuki GSXR 1000, 1’38.938
9. Qatar Endurance Racing Team, Kawasaki ZX 10R, 1’38.939
10. Team Bolliger Switzerland, Kawasaki ZX 10R, 1’38.990