The 2016/2017 FIM Endurance World Championship finally gets back to business this weekend. This second round sees the teams revitalised after a winter of training and ready to continue the fight at the legendary 24 Heures Motos at the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit. The two teams will do their best to compete for 24 hours of non-stop endurance racing, starting on Saturday 15th April, then racing through the night to finish on Sunday 16th.
The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team prepare for this weekend's 24-hour race with confidence having recorded the overall fastest time in the pre-race testing at the end of March. The team were clearly benefiting from the collaboration with 2017 official tyre partner Bridgestone, setting a 1'36.866 in dry conditions. Regular YART riders Broc Parkes, Max Neukirchner will race alongside Marvin Fritz and young Japanese star Kohta Nozane, who joined YART for their impressive ride in the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2016, securing fourth in the sweltering heat.
GMT94 Yamaha Official line up this week with highly experienced EWC veteran and longest serving GMT94 rider David Checa, joined by young Italians Niccolò Canepa and Mike de Meglio. The team enjoyed a successful experience in recent pre-Le Mans testing, choosing to focus on the race set up and overall performance of the YZF-R1 to be ready for this Sunday’s race. Confidence is also high for the GMT94 team, as runners up in the 2016 EWC Championship and winners of the last round of that year, they are, as always, key protagonists for both the round victory and the 2017 championship title.
The Le Mans Bugatti circuit in France was built in 1965 around an already established 24-Hour track and is dominated by slow corners. 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.
The second race of the 2016/17 season is also the longest featured on the endurance calendar and forms the ultimate endurance challenge for the riders with 24 hours of gruelling action, uncertain weather conditions, and visibility problems between dusk and dawn. All the while it is crucial for the riders to maintain their focus whilst manoeuvring around a 998cc machine that weighs 172 kg, because every second counts.
To make this highly-intense race easier for the riders to cope with, the YZF-R1 has been modified. Not only is the weight and size reduced, but also the sturdiness and performance are enhanced. However, endurance bikes remain heavier than the short-distance race bikes, because of the lights on the bike for riding in the dark, a bigger tank that holds more fuel and the heavier bodywork for extra durability.
Broc Parkes | YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
"I can't wait to get to Saturday and start the race! It feels like long time since we last raced in September last year so we are very ready to get to it. We've had some good testing, and the R1 is working well with the Bridgestone tyres so I'm confident we can do well. The team are looking strong; Marvin, Kohta and Max are all in good shape we're ready. Obviously, anything can happen in a 24hr race but we're going to give our best and see what happens."
David Checa| GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
"An endurance race is always very special. We have worked hard to be ready for the race as the new asphalt here is very abrasive. I think all teams have had the same challenge. We are happy with our set up choice and our team of riders so we will see. I've won two races with Niccolò and Mike has worked well together with us in the winter tests. We are good team and we are fast together. We’ve made a good setting on the R1 so it's good for the three of us."
Mandy Kainz | YART Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
"We are ready for this weekend! I believe the team is the strongest now that it has ever been; we have a luxury problem of four good, fast riders. Our Bridgestone tyres are working perfectly here at the track, and we’ve worked well together to set up for the new asphalt conditions. Our YZF-R1 is running extremely well and is looking strong. We are a truly international Yamaha family, with the team now represented by six or seven different nations!"
Christophe Guyot | GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
"We are very well. We made six hours of testing yesterday and everything is working well so we are very happy. The track is difficult; the new asphalt is not so easy. We had to use a new compound for the rear but we found a tyre with Dunlop that works in any condition. I think we can be very fast in the dark. We may be a little slower when it is very hot, but that will be three or four hours’ maximum. The bike has a very good balance so we are confident for the race. The riders are strong, motivated and fast and our spirit is fantastic. The riders and team are in good condition and ready to go!"
2017 FIM Endurance World Championship
Round 1 – September 17/18 - Bol d’Or (24 h) | Paul Ricard – France
Round 2 – April 15/16 - 24 Heures Motos | Le Mans – France
Round 3 – May 20 - 8 Hours of Oschersleben | Germany
Round 4 – June 24 - 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring | Slovakia
Round 5 – July 30 - Suzuka 8 Hours | Japan