The FIM Endurance World Championship is delivering plenty of fast-paced action with the 24 Heures Motos reaching its eight-hour mark at 23h00 CET.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France is on top of the Le Mans-based day and night spectacular as several pre-race favourites suffered significant delay during a high-paced start to the new season.
BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team had been in the thick of the lead fight after seven hours but a crash delayed the Belgian squad by more than 7m30s. YART Yamaha lost almost four minutes with a brake caliper issue while Yoshimura SERT Motul dropped 18 laps to the leaders while its #12 Suzuki underwent extensive repair following a crash for Gregg Black at the Dunlop Chicane on lap one.
In the battle for top honours in the FIM Endurance World Cup, which also counts for the Dunlop Superstock Trophy, Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team led 3ART Best of Bike and National Motos Honda after eight hours.
The eight-hour mark is particularly significant in the race to win the FIM Endurance World Championship and FIM Endurance World Cup with points handed out to the top 10 teams in both the Formula EWC and Dunlop-equipped Superstock category on a descending scale from 10 points down to one point.
Action from the start in EWC 2023
The 2023 EWC season got off to an action-packed start with two dramatic crashes within the first few hundred metres.
Dunlop Superstock Trophy category racer Kevin Manfredi dropped his Wójcik Racing Team Yamaha seconds after the running start before polesitter Gregg Black crashed heavily at the Dunlop Chicane after a brush with F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s Josh Hook.
Black’s Yoshimura SERT Motul-entered Suzuki was badly damaged in the crash but the UK-born France-based rider was able to return to the action following 18 laps lost in the pits while repairs were made.
Hook initially led before Florian Alt moved in front on lap two for Honda Viltaïs Racing. YART Yamaha’s Marvin Fritz also enjoyed spells at the head of the pack during a frantic fight for first place with his fellow German Alt as the early stages of the race unfolded.
A thrilling three-way fight for top spot between YART Yamaha, F.C.C. TSR Honda France and BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team had soon developed in scenes more typical of a sprint race rather than a twice-around-the-clock endurance contest.
However, a lengthy pitstop for YART Yamaha while a brake caliper issue was rectified dropped the Austrian squad back to third to leave 2022 EWC title winner F.C.C. TSR Honda France battling the Belgium-based BMW squad heading to the eight-hour mark with both teams serving stop and go penalties for yellow flag infringements.
But there was more drama when Illya Mykhalchyk crashed the #37 BMW and slip to sixth after eight hours with ERC Endurance Ducati a strong third behind YART Yamaha. TATI Team Beringer Racing is fourth, Honda Viltaïs Racing fifth, while Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar is seventh following an earlier delay when Randy de Puniet reported a minor clutch issue.
The Wójcik Racing Team EWC entry is eighth following a crash for Isaac Vińales, Maco Racing Team is ninth, one place ahead Supestock leader Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team, which was delayed when Jan Bühn reported having to momentarily stop on track to reset an electronics issue.
KM99 plunged down the order after a strong start following a crash for Bastien Mackels during the fourth hour. Moto Ain’s early promise gave way to despair when its Yamaha’s engine broke.
BLACK NOT GIVING UP DESPITE BIG CRASH DAMAGE IN EWC
Gregg Black insists giving up was the last thing on his mind when a first-lap crash all but ended Yoshimura SERT Motul’s hopes of a third consecutive 24 Heures Motos victory. The FIM Endurance World Championship ace’s lead from pole position lasted until the Dunlop Chicane when a brush with Josh Hook’s F.C.C. TSR Honda France entry sent him crashing spectacularly. While his Suzuki GSXR 1000 was badly damaged, Black was uninjured and was able to limp his bike back to pits where his Le Mans-based team could carry out extensive and time-consuming repairs. “I’m gutted for the team and myself, it’s a 24-hour race and we know it’s long,” said the 34-year-old British-born rider. “I got a good start, I was going into the first corner in the lead and I think it was Josh, maybe he just carried too much speed in the corner and hit me. It was a big consequence because we crashed and the bike was quite badly damaged. We lost a lot of time but the race isn’t over, we’ve got points to score and we’ll be strong and will come back.”
EWC STAR REA GETS A GUARD OF HONOUR PRIOR TO LE MANS LAP
Gino Rea received a guard of honour from his FIM Endurance World Championship rivals and their teams prior to the start of the 24 Heures Motos earlier. The Briton was back in action eight months after suffering serious head injuries in a practice crash prior to the 43rd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race in Japan last August. After leaving the grid Rea was clapped and cheered towards the Dunlop Curve before completing a lap of the Circuit Bugatti on a F.C.C. TSR Honda France-branded road bike. “It’s very nice being here and being here with the team,” Rea said afterwards. “It was very nice to do my parade lap but it also makes me want to be here with my leathers and racing so it’s difficult.” Rea, who is still recovering from his injuries while he regains full fitness, hopes to race in the next year’s 24 Heures Motos.
LIVE TIMING: https://www.its-live.net/#/live/ewc/2023/24hmans
HOW TO WATCH: https://www.fimewc.com/where-to-watch