Reigning world champion F.C.C. TSR Honda France beat YART Yamaha by a mere 54 seconds to win a race packed with drama until the very last lap. Yamaha Wepol Racing completed the podium at the first round of the 2018-2019 FIM EWC.
The FIM EWC world champions lived up to their title by starting off the new season with a win at the Bol d’Or. On the Paul Ricard circuit, F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s riders Freddy Foray, Josh Hook and Mike Di Meglio snatched victory from YART Yamaha’s Broc Parkes, Niccolò Canepa and Marvin Fritz. There was a mere 54-second gap at the finish between the Japanese Honda and the Austrian Yamaha, which had started from 2nd and 3rd position respectively on the grid.
Wepol Racing pulled off a surprise third place. The Penz13 squad, who finished 2nd at the 2017 Bol d’Or on a BMW, had switched to Yamaha on the eve of the 2018 edition. “We got our first look at the bike on Tuesday, just before the race,” says Mathieu Lagrive, who partnered with Daniel Webb and Sheridan Morais to ride the Yamaha #13.
Wepol was involved in a lengthy battle with Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki), who finished at the foot of the podium thanks to riders Roman Stamm, Sébastien Suchet and Jonathan Hugot.
Never over till it’s over in Endurance
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team were often in the lead, but various technical gremlins and a capricious clutch caused Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black to drop back to 5th at the finish.
Other favourites too saw their podium hopes go up in smoke, like Team SRC Kawasaki France. The final act of the drama-filled race came when Randy de Puniet, Jérémy Guarnoni and David Checa’s Kawasaki suddenly developed electrical problems, as a result of which they finished 7th after leading the race during the night and in the early morning.
The intensity never let up: from the 10 seconds separating the 3 teams in the lead 5 hours into the race to the 30-second gap between the podium contenders 3 hours from the finish. At the finish, 5 different manufacturers were represented in the Top 6 of a race marked by incessant lead changes.
As in the EWC class, the Superstock podium was international. German team Gert56 rapidly took the lead when Team 33 Coyote Louit Moto, the initial leader in class, had an engine problem. The Gert56 Superstock BMW with Julian Puffe, Stefan Kerschbaumer and Filip Altendorfer finished this year’s Bol d’Or in 6th place overall. Franco-Japanese squad Webike Tati Team Trick Star (Kawasaki) took 2nd place in Superstock with riders Julien Enjolras, Kevin Denis and Osamu Deguchi. The team had also won the 2017-2018 FIM Superstock World Cup.
Italian squad No Limits Motor Team (Suzuki) won 3rd place in Superstock with riders Eddy Dupuy, Luca Scassa and Michael Mazzina, additionally winning the Anthony Delhalle EWC Spirit Trophy for putting up a determined fight throughout the race.
Not all of the teams who started from the top positions on the grid were able to finish the race. ERC-BMW Motorrad Endurance were 4th on the grid, but gave up shortly after nightfall following a collision and crash two hours into the race.
Honda Endurance Racing also threw in the towel on Sunday morning because of major engine problems.
SET Racing got itself noticed among the FIM EWC rookies for a fine performance. The all-new Swedish team had settled into 10th place after starting from 30th, but withdrew at noon on Sunday with a broken engine.
69,000 spectators on the Paul Ricard circuit
69,000 spectators watched the 82nd Bol d’Or under the sunny Provençal sky: 1,000 more than the 2017 edition. Next race on the 2018-2019 FIM EWC calendar: the 24 Heures Motos on 20 and 21 April 2019 on the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans.