David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio won the day on their GMT94 Yamaha, beating reigning champion Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Alex Cudlin) and Honda Endurance Racing (Julien da Costa, Sébastien Gimbert and Freddy Foray) – the latter won their first podium of the season.
Packed with high drama and incidents, the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring turned out to be a suspense-filled race from start to finish. After Vincent Philippe’s masterly holeshot for Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, two Australians – Josh Hook of F.C.C. TSR Honda and Broc Parkes of YART Yamaha Official EWC Team – wrestled each other for the lead. Following a cautious start due to the high track temperature, GMT94 Yamaha surged into the front-end fray, while Suzuki Endurance Racing Team slipped back after briefly going off track and then getting a puncture.
A little over three hours into the race, fate dealt its first blow: F.C.C. TSR Honda got held back by engine shutdown issues. F.C.C. TSR Honda lost a lot of time in the pits, and finished the race in 21st place.
Then, when it looked like YART Yamaha Official EWC Team and GMT94 Yamaha would be battling for the win, YART suffered a three-lap delay after having to solve a chain adjuster issue. The Austrian Yamaha just missed out on a podium place.
The road to the podium opened up for four teams that had been lying in wait – Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, Maco Racing, Bolliger Team Switzerland and Honda Endurance Racing. Maco Racing was unable to grasp the nettle because of a crash, and Bolliger Team Switzerland got held back by electrical issues.
FIM EWC grand finale at Suzuka
In the end, the contest for runner-up position played out between Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and Honda Endurance Racing. SERT prevailed, thereby holding on to its place at the top of the FIM EWC 2016-2017 provisional standings, with a mere one-point lead over GMT94 Yamaha ahead of the championship grand finale: the end-July Suzuka 8 Hours.
Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences wins the World Cup
A dramatic turn of events also marked the Superstock class, for which the 8 Hours of Slovakia was the World Cup final. Moto Ain CRT, the post-qualifying favourite, appeared to have the race win and the World Cup all sewn up, but a spectacular crash three hours into the race kept them back from the podium. Florian Alt and Bastien Mackels of Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences took over as category leaders. But Völpker NRT48 Schubert Motors wrested the lead from them in the final hour of the race. The German team’s BMW with Stefan Kerschbaumer, Jan Buhn and Julian Puffe in the saddle was the first Superstock machine past the finish line and came in 5th overall, also winning the EWC Dunlop Independent Trophy and the €4,000 prize allotted to the winner.
For Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences, 2nd place in Superstock was as good as a win, as it enabled them to carry off the FIM EWC World Cup with a mere one-point lead over Moto Ain CRT. Niccolò Rosso, Kevin Manfredi and Andrea Boscoscuro of the Italian squad No Limit Motor Team were on the third step of the podium in Slovakia.
Next race: the 2016-2017 FIM EWC final round – the 40th anniversary of the Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan on 30 July.