24 hour Bol d’Or starts new 2017/18 FIM Endurance World Championship season at Paul Ricard
Broc Parkes races again with YART partnering Kohta Nozane and Marvin Fritz
Josh Hook joins F.C.C. TSR teaming with Alan Techer and Freddy Foray
Damian Cudlin on National Motos Honda alongside Frenchmen Egea and Jonchiere

First run in 1922, the 24-hour Bol d’Or has been a highlight of the Endurance calendar, with the race held at a number of different tracks over the years. The Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet played host to the event between 1978-1999 before the action returned to the circuit in 2015. This will be the 81st running of the 24-hour endurance race, with the 5.861km circuit, famous for its 1.8km Mistral straight, providing the perfect setting for the passionate French fans who always create an incredible atmosphere.

Australians that have won the Bol d’Or include MCNews.com.au tester Mark Willis (2000 – Yamaha) and Peter Goddard (1998 – Suzuki).

Mark Willis - Bol d'Or 2001
Mark Willis – Bol d’Or 2001

GMT94 were crowned the 2016/2017 Endurance World Champions after crossing the line in 11th at Suzuka and finishing ahead of their rivals SERT, who they trailed by one point in the standings before the race. This weekend they are set to kick off the defence of their FIM Endurance World Championship crown as the new 2017-18 season gets underway with the Bol d’Or 24 Hour in France. 

GMT94 Yamaha’s David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio enabled Christophe Guyot’s team to carry off the title of 2016-2017 FIM EWC world champion.
GMT94 Yamaha’s David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio enabled Christophe Guyot’s team to carry off the title of 2016-2017 FIM EWC world champion.

It was a dramatic end to the previous season which GMT94 dominated by winning three races in a row at Le Mans, Oschersleben and Slovakia. Last year at the Bol d’Or the team endured the worst possible start to the season after two crashes in the first three hours saw them in dead last, five laps behind the nearest team. Incredibly they fought back to finish in ninth, but they found themselves 47 points behind the leaders and forced to play catch up with their rivals for the rest of the season.

SERT took out the 2016 Bol d'Or
SERT took out the 2016 Bol d’Or

Determined to get things off to a better start this season, the team of David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike di Meglio all return to contest the opening round of the 2017/2018 season, with Checa preparing for his 16th consecutive season with the team, one of the longest rider-team associations in motorsport.

Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, winner of 15 world titles, takes to the track with the new GSX-R1000 entrusted to riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black – the new ace up SERT’s sleeve in their bid to wrest back the FIM EWC title in 2017-2018. They will be one of the cornerstones of this new FIM EWC championship featuring a number of other changes.

SERT took out the 2016 Bol d'Or
SERT took out the 2016 Bol d’Or

GMT94 Yamaha will be engaged, like last season, in a fratricidal battle with YART Yamaha, the official factory-backed Austrian team comprising Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Kohta Nozane on the R1. 

Broc Parkes - Bol d'Or 2016
Broc Parkes – Bol d’Or 2016

The Bridgestone YART were left counting the cost of a DNF at the Bol d’Or last season. Missing out on a possible sixty points, they fought back superbly to finish second behind GMT94 at Le Mans and Oschersleben, then led for most of the race at Slovakia before a loose chain saw them cross the line in fourth. YART finished the season in impressive fashion as the strongest full-time EWC team at Suzuka, as they rode their R1 to an incredible fifth-place finish to secure third in the overall standings, just 15.5 points behind the champions GMT94. Looking to build on their pace from the latter part of the season, many are tipping YART for the title in 2017/2018. The fact that their team lineup of Broc Parkes, Kohta Nozane and Marvin Fritz remains the same for the new season only strengthens their chances, as demonstrated by the team topping the timesheets at the recent official test.

Broc Parkes – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“I am so pumped about the new season, especially after we topped both days of the test. On the second day, in the afternoon I only did a three-lap run and that’s when I set the fastest lap! The whole atmosphere in the team with Marvin and Kohta is really good, I am really excited. Yamaha have been helping out to tweak and update some parts on the bike and the overall package feels amazing. The Bridgestone tyres are working brilliantly at the circuit, I did the fastest lap on race tyres, which shows you how good they are. Last year we had a good pace at the Bol d’Or but suffered an issue, so I am looking forward to heading back. It’s a really nice track, very different, although it can be daunting when you first go there with the 1.8km straight! This year, it’s nice to be mentioned as one of the title favourites, but I think anyone from 5-6 teams can win this year, with other manufacturers really upping the ante this season. Our aim is to finish the race, as there are so many points up for grabs during the 24-hour races, so it is vital, and ideally, we will be aiming for the podium.”

Broc Parkes - Bol d'Or 2016
Broc Parkes – Bol d’Or 2016

F.C.C. TSR Honda has made no secret of its ambitions. After placing fourth in the 2016-2017 championship, the Japanese team has signed up for the entire season with an eye on the title, and will be fielding Australian rider Josh Hook together with Frenchmen Alan Techer and Freddy Foray (previously with Honda Endurance Racing).

FCC TSR Honda - Bol d'Or 2016
FCC TSR Honda – Bol d’Or 2016

British official team Honda Endurance Racing has revamped its rider line-up. Endurance specialist Gregory Leblanc will be Sébastien Gimbert’s teammate this season, alongside a first-timer straight from MotoGP and Moto2: Colombian rider Yonny Hernández.

Veteran EWC squad Bolliger Team Switzerland has also made several changes. The Swiss private team will once again be hot on the heels of the factory teams with riders Roman Stamm, David Perret and Robin Mulhauser. Another team to watch out for is Maco Racing, which placed 6th in the 2016-2017 FIM EWC. Riders Greg Junod, Anthony Dos Santos and Louis Bulle will take to the track at the Bol d’Or on the Slovakian team’s Yamaha.

Though they’ll only be competing in two of this season’s races — the Bol d’Or 2017 and the 24 Heures Motos 2018 – two teams will be launching themselves into the fray for the Bol d’Or win. Team SRC Kawasaki is among the favourites, with a rider line-up comprising Mathieu Gines, Randy de Puniet and Fabien Foret, while Team Tecmas BMW is gearing up to do battle at the front end of the race with riders Kenny Foray, Julien Da Costa and Camille Hedelin.

The #11 SRC Kawasaki ridden by Randy de Puniet, Gregory Leblanc and Fabien Foret at Bol d'Or 2016
The #11 SRC Kawasaki ridden by Randy de Puniet, Gregory Leblanc and Fabien Foret at Bol d’Or 2016

The opening round of the 2017/2018 season, the 24 hour Bol d’Or, once again sees 60 points up for grabs, with 40 points available for the win and up to ten extra points awarded for position after 8 and 16 hours respectively.