A new season, new players and new stakes: the FIM Endurance World Championship is set to kick off with the Bol d’Or on 21 and 22 September. In all, 59 teams are expected to be on the grid of the 24-hour race on the circuit at Le Castellet in southern France.
Team SRC Kawasaki France start out as the new No. 1 team on the grid. The reigning champions will defend their crown with the same three riders who won them the title at Suzuka last July: Jérémy Guarnoni, Erwan Nigon and David Checa.
They will face off on the track against a couple of familiar rivals, who will also be fielding unchanged line-ups: F.C.C. TSR Honda France (Josh Hook, Freddy Foray and Mike di Meglio) and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black), now managed by Damien Saulnier, also the team manager of Junior Team Suzuki.
YART Yamaha remain a formidable opponent at the Bol d’Or with riders Marvin Fritz, Niccolò Canepa and Loris Baz (standing in for Broc Parkes, who is away competing in an ARRC race at Sepang).
These factory-backed squads will take on BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, a new outfit entered by the German manufacturer featuring the riders and team who dominate the German Superbike IDM championship, with Werner Daemen as manager. The S 1000 RR #37 has been entrusted to Daemen’s IDM teammates, Ukrainian rider Ilya Mikhalchik and compatriot Julian Puffe, together with seasoned endurance racer Kenny Foray, the winner of the 2014 FIM EWC crown.
The appearance of the new factory team’s BMW S 1000 RR 2019 on the track is keenly awaited, together with the new Ducati Panigale V4R’s maiden foray into endurance with German independent team HRT100-Hertrampf Racing. Another German team, ERC Endurance, will also be flying the BMW colours in the EWC class this season, together with Polish outfit LRP Poland and French squad Tecmas BMW GMC.
Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki) and VRD Igol Pierret Experiences (Yamaha), who ride with the endurance world championship’s leading pack, will once again cross swords with the factory teams. Tati Team Beaujolais Racing’s reinforced line-up featuring Alan Techer will be worth keeping an eye on, as will Yamaha-mounted Wójcik Racing Team’s line-up comprising Gino Rea, Christoffer Bergman and Axel Maurin.
Other teams to look out for: Team JEG-Kagayama (Suzuki), who are making their debut after recruiting endurance specialist Greg Leblanc, and FIM EWC newcomers British Endurance Racing Team (Suzuki).
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The battle for the FIM Endurance World Cup is likely to be a thrilling one. Last season’s winners Team Moto Ain (Yamaha) will see their riders Roberto Rolfo, Robin Mulhauser and Hugo Clère facing stiff competition. German team GERT56 (BMW) are out for retaliation with riders Stefan Kerschbaumer, Lucy Glöckner and Pepijn Bijsterbosch. Their route to the Cup will however be barred by Team 33 Coyote Louit Moto (Kawasaki), Motors Events (Suzuki), BMRT 3D Maxxess Nevers and Wójcik Racing Team 2 (Yamaha).
The first official tests for the 83rd Bol d’Or will take place on Thursday 19 September on the Le Castellet circuit.