Courtesy of Yamaha Racing
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team and the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team are set to resume the fight for the 2017/2018 FIM Endurance World Championship this weekend at the 41st edition of the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans, Round 2 of the season. Reigning champions GMT94 lead the way in the championship standings once more after taking the maximum 60 points on offer at the Bol d’Or – the opening round of the season – in September and head to the Bugatti Circuit in France confident of continuing their impressive run of form. The YART team are looking to bounce back after a DNF at the Bol d’Or sees them enter the legendary endurance race at Le Mans with zero points, but will be buoyed by their excellent performance at the track in 2017 that saw them battle with GMT94 for the entire race before finishing in second, less than 20 seconds behind after 24 hours of racing.
Triple Endurance champions GMT94 head into the 24 Heures Motos in the strongest position possible, having not only taking the 40 points on offer for the victory but also by being awarded the ten bonus points on offer for the leading at the eight and 16-hour stage. The team that won three races in a row on their way to the title last season enjoyed an incredible battle against YART at the Bugatti Circuit last year, with the teams almost inseparable throughout the entire race. GMT94 put in a strong performance at the official EWC Test at Le Mans a couple of weeks ago and are feeling confident that they can fight for the victory when the lights go out on 3 pm on Saturday. For GMT94 consistency is key with legendary endurance rider David Checa – who is competing in his 16th consecutive season with the team – is once again joined Italian Niccolò Canepa and Mike di Meglio as the trio aim to win back-to-back EWC titles.
YART are looking to bounce back strongly from a disappointing DNF at the Bol d’Or that, despite the brave efforts of a clearly injured Kohta Nozane in getting a damaged bike back to the pits after his crash, meant that did not pick up any championship points. The team has worked hard during the winter to ensure they arrive at Le Mans in the best possible shape, highlighted by the fact that they topped the combined timesheets at the recent official EWC test at the circuit. The second round of the 2017/2018 season sees a change in the YART lineup with former rider Takuya Fujita from Japan returning to the team to replace his compatriot Kohta Nozane. He will join the Australian YART stalwart Broc Parkes and the talented young German Marvin Fritz – plus the team welcome back former rider Max Neukirchner as crew chief – as they look to fight for the victory at Le Mans to get their title ambitions back on track.
The historic Le Mans Bugatti circuit in France was built in 1965 around an already established 24-hour track that has been modified over the years, with its current 4.185km layout in use since 2008. Late braking, hard acceleration, and rear end traction are essential at this circuit, which offers plenty of overtaking possibilities to keep the action going for the full 24 hours.
Practice for both teams has been ongoing at Le Mans since Monday, with the first qualifying sessions due to kick off at 3:10 pm (CEST) local time on Thursday and continuing through to Friday before the main event, the 41st 24 Heures Motos begins at 3:00 pm on Saturday.
YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“I think we’re in a really good position for this weekend. Testing has gone really well and our lap times have been fast, even compared to last year. With the new parts, things really seem to have moved on. As a team, I think we’re going to be strong. It’s the first 24-hour race for Takuya so it’s going to be a learning experience for him, but Marvin and my pace has been the quickest out of everyone so we’re feeling confident as a team. With warm weather, which is perfect for the Bridgestone tyres, I think we’ve got a great chance. Also, we all want to give a massive thank you to Mandy and all the boys for their hard work in the offseason to get this package together!”
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
“I think this is going to be a really exciting race. We won here last year and we obviously want a repeat of that, but the weather is so warm compared to usual, anything can happen. Obviously anything can happen in a 24-hour race and I think that’s even more so for this one! Our win last year was in the cold, as it usually is here, but this time it’s 29 degrees in the shade, so we’re having to try a lot of new things. I think we’re very strong though, the riders are strong, the pit team is strong, everyone is looking confident and I think that’s the most important thing. Everyone is ready. For me, that means the race is going to go well!”
YART Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
“We are going to be competitive for sure. The race is unpredictable, of course, it’s 24 hours and you can’t know what will happen in that time 100%, but we’ve got the fastest bike and the fastest riders. Our target, same as every year, is to win. We missed out by seconds last year and this year we want it to be maybe a little less exciting! We know the package is super competitive, the bike is ready and we are ready. We’ve been the fastest throughout testing. It’s Takuya Fujita’s first race and it’s a big event and a big challenge, but we’re confident in the team as a whole.”
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
“The temperature has increased a lot here so the settings need to be changed to compensate for that. We’ve spent the free practice sessions really working on getting the settings correct and that’s our main goal for the first qualifying session as well. We won’t be using new tires and we’re sticking with one tire for all three riders so we can be sure the configuration is right. The spirit is high and the riders are all feeling good and agree with the current strategy. We weren’t fast this morning but with the new configurations, the times will improve. It’s going to be an exciting weekend for sure. It’s the warmest I remember it being at Le Mans in the twenty-five years I’ve been competing here!”