May 8th, 2023
With less than 40 days to go until the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium hosts the second running of the 24H SPA EWC Motos, here’s a reminder of what happened when the FIM Endurance World Championship riders thrilled the fans last June.
There was non-stop action and drama when the FIM Endurance World Championship returned to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the first time in 21 years as the Belgian track delivered a race that matched up to its legendary status.
While BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team celebrated a maiden 24-hour EWC victory to follow up its breakthrough success in the six-hour 2021 season decider, the circuit’s ultra-challenging nature and rain for the final five hours combined to ensure rider skill came very much to the fore in the 24H SPA EWC Motos.
As well as the efforts of riders Jérémy Guarnoni (France), Illya Mykhalchyk (Ukraine) and Markus Reiterberger (Germany), BMW’s success owed plenty to the expertise of its Belgium-based team, led by former rider Werner Daemen, and the reliability of the Dunlop-equipped BMW M1000RR.
Kawasaki-powered and Pirelli-equipped Tati Team Beringer Racing excelled to finish as the top independent team in second overall with newcomer Loïc Arbel joining forces with existing French riders Grégory Leblanc and Alan Techer.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France was holding off Yoshimura SERT Motul for the final podium spot as both squads battled back from major setbacks during the night. A lengthy red flag period to enable the clean-up of a substantial oil spillage with less than three hours meant Gino Rea would have only a handful of laps to reclaim the third place he lost to home hero Xavier Siméon in the pitstop sequence prior to the race suspension.
Despite the challenging track conditions, Rea and Siméon engaged in an intense battle for third place with Rea coming out on top following several changes of position.
Yoshimura SERT Motul had been on top after 10 hours only for Sylvain Guintoli to be forced to pit for a replacement clutch and gearbox for his Bridgestone-equipped Suzuki GSX-R1000R. The work took more than 25 minutes to complete and wrecked hopes of a home win for the team’s Belgian rider Siméon in the process.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France took advantage of the misfortune that hit its fellow Japanese team but there was despair when Rea was onboard the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP as the chain failed after 15 hours of running. It left the Briton with no choice but to push his stricken bike back to the pits. That long delay plus the 15 minutes spent making repairs dropped F.C.C. TSR Honda France down the order before its late comeback.
Worse was to come for both squads when Anglo-Frenchman Gregg Black and Mike Di Meglio, from France, crashed their Suzuki and Honda respectively in quick succession as the Sunday morning rain intensified. Black managed to limp his wrecked machine back to the pits for rapid repairs while Di Meglio was able to continue without stopping having only inflicted limited damage to his bike.
Having started from pole, YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC was forced into an unscheduled pit stop for a replacement speed sensor after three hours. Despite the delay of more than four minutes, the performances of its riders Niccolò Canepa (Italy), Marvin Fritz (Germany) and polesitter Karel Hanika (Czech Republic) put the Austrian team back into contention. Following a battle for the lead between Fritz and BMW rider Mykhalchyk, it was the Japanese marque in front after 18 hours. But the advantage would not last when the YZF-R1, with Canepa onboard, suffered engine failure.
Elsewhere, Wójcik Racing Team EWC 77 completed the top five followed by Viltaïs Racing Igol and Team Moto Ain, which overcame an overheating issue. Team LH Racing claimed Dunlop Superstock Trophy and FIM Endurance World Cup honours in eighth overall with riders Enzo de la Vega, Johan Nigon and Lukas Trautmann. It finished ahead of Team Bolliger Switzerland and Team LRP Poland following a late change of positions between the latter pair.
Team 33 Louit April Moto had led the Superstock category but lost out on glory when Kevin Calia crashed in wet conditions with his Kawasaki suffering a blown engine in the process. Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motobase had been second at the time but appeared to be in trouble when Baptiste Guittet was one of several drivers to crash at Les Combes. However, the French outfit managed to hold onto its second place ahead of OG Motorsport by Sarazin, which suffered with traction issues.
National Motos was in the fight for first when it retired after a stone damaged the Honda’s radiator and caused the engine to overheat. Two unscheduled pit stops for “technical issues” hit the No Limits Motor Team’s chances, which were further compromised when Stefan Hill crashed just before eight hours.
Danny Webb suffered a fall early into his first stint on the Superstock pole-sitting Wójcik Racing Team STK 777 Yamaha, which was also delayed by an accident for Marek Szkopek. BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers dropped out of contention following a spate of delays. A crash for 3ART Best of Bike during the early hours of this morning led to a second safety car period after an accident for the JMA Racing Action Bike close to five hours had resulted in the first safety car. Despite the JMA team’s Suzuki catching fire, exhaustive repairs enabled the squad to continue. Falcon Racing was denied a strong result by a blown engine, but Pitlane Endurance, Team Aviobike, RAC 41 ChromeBurner and Énergie Endurance finished in the top 20 among the eligible teams. TRT 27 / Bazar 2 La Bécane, Team 202 and ADSS 97 all finished, as did Formula EWC outfit Motobox Kremer Racing.
There was early heartache for Webike SRC Kawasaki France with Randy de Puniet crashing out shortly after two and a half hours of racing. After Florian Marino had led the pack into La Source for the first time and was part of the five-way fight for first during the opening hour, hopes of a strong result unravelled when Marino fell following contact at the chicane nearing the end of his stint. More than three minutes were lost while repairs were made to the ZX 10R before Etienne Masson could begin his stint, which was hampered when he also fell at the chicane due to brake issues. It led to a six-minute delay before de Puniet’s crash compounded a miserable afternoon. Marino, meanwhile, was taken to hospital for checks following his fall.
ERC Endurance-Ducati suffered an early setback when the German squad was forced to make an unscheduled stop due to a fuel pump issue, which followed a slow start from Xavi Forès. However, with the problem returning during the night the team was forced to retire.
The second running of the 24H SPA EWC Motos takes place from 16-18 June.
May 7th, 2023
FIM Endurance World Championship ace Sylvain Guintoli has revealed his plans for a four-wheel future – once he’s finished his successful career on two wheels.
A two-time winner of the Le Mans-based 24 Heures Motos, the traditional EWC season opener, Guintoli would relish a shot at winning the four-wheel equivalent, as he told UK title Motorsport News in an interview published last month.
“I love racing cars and I’ve done it in the past whenever I had a bit of time or an opportunity, but I never took it seriously,” the Yoshimura SERT Motul rider said. “I was kind of joking with some mates, but nobody has ever won the Le Mans 24-hour motorbike race and the car race. I know it’s a huge challenge and I completely understand the difficulty of it but if you want to do something big you’ve got to dream big don’t you? Since then, I can’t stop thinking about it so I’m going to try to build this project up.”
However, the 40-year-old is under no illusions that replicating his achievements on bikes in cars will be far from straight forward.
“It won’t be easy because there are loads of things I’ve got to learn, I’ve got to practice,” Guintoli said. “I’ve got to get better at everything and understand how this all works. But I want to do the 24-hour Le Mans car race at some point and I want to be competitive.
“You’ve got to pick your category and you’ve got to pick your fight so I’ve started to do some [club] racing because in cars you’ve got to do a certain amount of races to get the licence you need to drive GTs and the more powerful cars. Things are building and I’m going to try to get better and make it happen. It’s not a short-term project so we will see how it goes. But it’s a good story.”
Guintoli is certainly making progress in car racing. He was part of the TCR class-winning team that finished fifth overall in the Birkett Six-Hour Relay at Silverstone Circuit in Great Britain last October in a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR run by Capture Motorsport and backed by his EWC sponsor Motul.
“I did some races in Radicals years back, they are not hugely fast but they’ve got a bit of aero and slick tyres,” Guintoli said. “They’re not easy to drive fast but that’s a good thing [for learning]. The TCR thing was really good, different because it was front-wheel drive but really good fun. I also did a Mazda race a couple of weeks ago. That was a bit more like go-karting, bumping into each other but I want to learn the proper way, the basics.”
As a former test rider for Suzuki’s now disbanded factory MotoGP squad, Guintoli is well versed in the use of data, which he also believes will aid his transition.
“The way we work with data, and what your input is on the machine and what it does on track is very similar to car racing,” Guintoli said. “You are trying to understand the correct way to brake in a certain car and the correct technique to accelerate and to steer. All this data we use a lot in bikes, so it helps to understand the dynamics of the vehicles. But experience is the main thing. And although there are a lot of similarities [between bike and car racing] there are differences, there’s no pitching in a car or very little, for example.”
Despite having a roof over his head Guintoli says he’s not adopted a more gung-ho approach in car racing, which will put him in good stead for when he does make it to the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“Having done bikes for so long I don’t feel unsafe on a bike at all,” he says. “If I’m riding a bike on track or driving a car I don’t feel safer in a car, it’s a different exercise. You’ve got to get the best out of it in a different way. I’m never on a bike and thinking I could hurt myself, I’m thinking how can I go faster.
“Le Mans is a mid-term thing for me. It won’t be straight away because I want to do it when I’m ready, I want to be competitive. My feeling is you can learn to be decent and I don’t think it will take too much time but it’s the extra you want to achieve that will take longer.”
Guintoli and Yoshimura SERT Motul team-mates Gregg Black and Étienne Masson will resume their pursuit of EWC glory when Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium hosts the 24H SPA EWC Motos from 16-18 June, round two of the FIM Endurance World Championship season.
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