• 20/04/2024

FIM Endurance World Championship title-winning Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team leads the 24 Heures Motos at the eight-hour mark following an action-filled and unmissable start to the 2024 season in Le Mans.

Although Yoshimura SERT Motul’s Gregg Black led away following the spectacular running start in front of the packed grandstands at 15h00, Niccolò Canepa was ahead after four minutes and remained in front up until the first round of pitstops some 50 minutes later.

While it was a relatively calm opening hour for the leading runners – apart from a brief fall for F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s Josh Hook, a trip through the gravel for Randy Krummenacher (TATI Team Beringer Racing) and myriad position changes – hour two was anything but.

Mike Di Meglio crashed the F.C.C. TSR Honda France #5 entry heavily at Chemin Aux Boeufs after 65 minutes of racing, while there was early heartbreak for Honda Viltaïs Racing when Steven Odendaal pitted with what transpired to be terminal engine failure.

Gregg Black, who was leading at the time, then crashed on the exit of ‘S’ du Garage Bleu just before 18h00 due to a reported traction control issue and several minutes were lost in the pits while repairs to the damaged #12 Suzuki were made.

KM99’s Randy de Puniet, who was in third place at the time, fell at Raccordement just after 19h00 but maintained his third place prior to pitting for repairs.

But there were no such dramas for the pole-sitting #1 YART Yamaha, which reached the eight-hour mark leading from BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and Kawasaki Webike Trickstar. And by leading after eight hours, Austria-based YART bagged 10 bonus points to add to the five it scored after qualified on pole with a new lap record charge from Canepa on Thursday afternoon.

“It’s not so bad,” Hanika said following his first night stint. “I was feeling very well with the bike and also with the tyres, maybe better than the sessions before. It’s very difficult to be constant with the pace because of all the traffic. In these conditions, especially in the dark, you must be really carefully not to be too excited when overtaking the [lapped riders] so it’s better to wait for one more corner. Sometimes the lap time is jumping up and down but when I am alone I feel comfortable, we’re managing the gap and the bike feels great.”

Behind Kawasaki Webike Trickstar, which includes FIM Endurance World Cup winner Christian Gamarino in its line-up, Yoshimura SERT Motul is fourth after eight hours followed in the Formula EWC ranking by Tati Team Beringer RacingKM99Team Bolliger Switzerland, category newcomer BMRT3D maxxess NeversMotobox Kremer Racing and Maco Racing. The top 10 in both Formula EWC and Superstock score interval points.

How F.C.C. TSR Honda France dropped back in EWC victory chase
F.C.C. TSR Honda France was firmly in the victory fight when Mike Di Meglio crashed early in the second hour of racing. This is what the Frenchman had to say afterwards. “I was taking care but we have no grip on the rear. I was not pushing because with the full tank of fuel at the start [of the stint] you need to manage the braking so I was taking care of when to overtake the guys but I lose the front. The race is still long, it’s not good to start like this but we keep calm.”

National Motos Honda heads the Superstock chargers
Category pole-sitting team National Motos Honda has built on his qualifying form by leading the Superstock-based, Dunlop-equipped FIM Endurance World Cup after eight hours of racing, followed by Chromeburner-RAC41-HondaTeam Slider EnduranceTeam Aviobike by M2 Revo3ART Best of Bike, new EWC squad Team ÉtoileHonda No LimitsTRT27 AZ MotoADSS97 and Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki.

But there was early disappointment for Team 33 Louit April Moto, which was beginning the defence of its FIM Endurance World Cup title in Le Mans but was forced to retire with a mechanical failure shortly after 19h30. Guillaume Antiga, part of its four-strong Kawasaki-powered line-up, said: “After the crash of my team-mate Flavio [Ferroni] the radiator is broken and the bike temperature is too much and it’s not possible to continue the race.”

Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team, which claimed the Superstock pole, dropped back following a crash at 22h35.

Rea makes emotional return to racing after serious injury
Despite falling twice, Gino Rea described his return to racing for the first time since he suffered serious head injuries in a crash practicing for the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2022, as a “positive” experience. The Honda-powered Wójcik Racing Team rider said: “In general it’s positive because I felt good, the head was good and my riding was good and my pace was okay. Unfortunately, I crashed on the first lap, it was totally unexpected, I had a problem with my brakes on the first lap. I was trying to adjust it on every corner but I didn’t quite get the feeling. I went to brake, but I had no brake and down I went. But thank you for everyone who supported me through my rehab. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here.” 

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