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Eazi Grip

Dan Linfoot celebrates maiden EWC Victory at Le Mans 24hr with Yoshimura SERT Motul

Yoshimura SERT Motul made it back-to-back FIM Endurance World Championship victories with a fighting first place in the 24 Heures Motos, as the 10th EWC season promoted by Warner. Bros Discovery Sports began with plenty of unmissable action.

The Suzuki-powered team’s triumph in the 47th edition of the Le Mans-based race followed on from its victory in last September’s title-deciding Bol d’Or. But while the contribution of riders Gregg Black, Dan Linfoot and Étienne Masson was key to its Circuit Bugatti success, the squad’s path to glory was eased when Karel Hanika crashed shortly before the 16-hour mark while leading by four laps.

What was shaping up to be the perfect start to Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team’s EWC title defence ended as a case of what might have been. The Austrian outfit set new lap records in both qualifying and the race and led comfortably until Hanika’s uncharacteristic error in cold conditions, which dropped it back to third place behind runner-up BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team.

“It’s always good to finish the race but the objective is to win,” Black said. “We won in 2021 and 2022 but those races were a bit easier because we could relax towards the end. We were quite fast with YART but with the crash we dropped quite far back and had to push all the way to the end. BMW and YART had issues and we ended up leading the race when on paper we thought maybe we would finish third or second. But we made no more mistakes and kept pushing. In the end we only had one lap over BMW so we couldn’t relax. It’s amazing to be back on the first step [of the podium here], just amazing. Dan, Étienne, the whole team have done such great work all winter, we showed our speed and got our revenge from last year. It’s just awesome.”

For Linfoot, his maiden EWC victory was the perfect way to begin his career as a Yoshimura SERT Motul rider. “The last stint you were over-thinking everything, you hear every noise of the engine, you short shift early, you downshift with some space,” Briton Linfoot said. “It was tough but I rode under the limit, found a nice rhythm and kept my head. It’s amazing, I’m speechless, my first race with the team, in the team’s home race. I’m just so thankful to everybody for accepting me into the team, helping me with everything I need. It’s just an incredible day.”

Hanika injured his shoulder in his Sunday morning crash and the decision was taken for his team-mates Niccolò Canepa and Marvin Fritz to complete the race as a pair.

“I’m really sorry for my team because I blame myself, I should be more careful in these conditions,” the Czech said. “To be honest I don’t really know the reason of the crash, we have to analyse. My team-mates did an amazing job to take us back to the podium position but it’s a big shame we couldn’t fight for the win. I probably could have continued but it would be a bit risky with my shoulder. The condition of it is not the best, so we decided to continue this way [with two riders].”

Like YART, Yoshimura SERT Motul had to make up for lost time, the team fighting back to take third from Kawasaki Webike Trickstar shortly after 03h00 having earlier dropped out of the lead fight when a traction control issue caused Black to crash nearing the end of the third hour.

Yoshimura SERT Motul Team Director Yohei Kato said at the time: “In the pit box we missed a fuel reset and Gregg tried to reset but made a wrong button. The traction control didn’t work well and he had a high side. But all three riders have shown a great performance so we will catch up soon.”

There was an emotional win in the Dunlop-equipped FIM Endurance World Cup category with National Motos Honda gaining revenge for its agonising Bol d’Or retirement last September when it was on course for the Superstock title only to stop with 20 minutes remaining. Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda finished second followed by 3ART Best of Bike after the #36 Yamaha was hastily repaired after a crash nearing the final hour.

“We are very happy because the last year at the Bol d’Or we lose the race after 23 hours,” said Swiss Sébastien Suchet, who along with his brother Valentin and Frenchman Guillaume Raymond, claimed top honours in the Dunlop-equipped Superstock class. “For this year we wanted to finish the race and we win. The Bol d’Or was very difficult but now we are all happy, for my team and my team-mates and for the next race we will push again to the maximum.”

Reiterberger, who was partnered to second place by Illya Mykhalchyk and BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team newcomer Sylvain Guintoli, said: “We had a problem with the exhaust but second is still a very good position for us and we didn’t give up. It was unbelievably cold [during the night], colder than last year. I had a glove under my glove and a heat vest under the suit but it was still super-super cold, the visor was frozen and I really didn’t feel the fingers under braking so I break like I feel.”

Behind the overall top three, Kawasaki Webike Trickstar held third for a time, dropped back with gear selector and exhaust issues before moving ahead of Tati Team Beringer Racing for fourth with three hours remaining.

Although it wasn’t the record-setting sixth 24 Heures Motos victory KWT rider Grégory Leblanc craved, fourth spot still represented a strong start to KWT’s second EWC season with new recruit Christian Gamarino achieving his best EWC finish to date on his step up to the championship’s headlining class, after he helped Team 33 Louit April Moto win the FIM Endurance World Cup in 2023.

For Tati Team Beringer Racing, meanwhile, fifth among the Formula EWC outfits was a positive beginning to its new-for-2024 Honda alliance although a long pitstop after midday caused concern. Team Bolliger Switzerland enjoyed a fine run to sixth followed by BMRT3D maxxess Nevers on its graduation to Formula EWC level. Motobox Kremer Racing took eighth with KM99 ninth and Wójcik Racing Team EWC completing the top 10 after both suffered several delays. Mana-Au Competition, Maco Racing and Honda Viltaïs Racing were non-finishers.

Following home the Superstock top three, Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki placed fourth followed by TCP Racing on its debut as a permanent EWC entrant. TRT27 AZ Moto, which included Isle of Man TT legend Michael Dunlop in its line-up, was next among the all-season Superstock teams on its maiden EWC appearance with Honda power followed by JMA Racing Action Bike. Team 18 Sapeurs Pompier CMS Motostore, Team 202 and Team Players were all delayed by crashes but crossed the line following extensive repairs.

Team Aviobike by M2 Revo and Wójcik Racing Team STK were not classified due to technical issues, while Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team, ADSS97, Team Étoile, Team Slider Endurance, Honda No Limits, Pit-Lane Endurance, Uniserv Moto82 Team, Team Racing 85 by Soleane and Team 33 Louit April Moto all retired.

How F.C.C. TSR Honda France dropped out of the 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, ending the team’s chances of a repeat 24 Heures Motos win in the process. “I was taking care but we have no grip on the rear,” Di Meglio said. “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. It’s not good to start like this but we keep calm.”

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 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.”

Alt: Honda Viltaïs Racing “didn’t deserve” early retirement

Florian Alt said his Honda Viltaïs Racing team “didn’t deserve” the engine failure that robbed it of a possible podium finish in the second hour of the 24 Heures Motos. The top independent team in the FIM Endurance World Championship had been in third place during the early stages of the race. “I’m really, really not happy because we didn’t deserve it, we didn’t have any issues in the test, we didn’t have any issues last year and this time it was some material which was not in our hands,” German rider Alt said. “I am really sorry for the mechanics, they did an amazing job, they rebuilt the engine in two hours to try to continue but actually it was impossible. We were so fast, it was bad luck but we come back.”

Title-winning Team 33 Louit April Moto out of luck

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.”

Posted on Monday, April 22nd, 2024 in News

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