For the second time in a row, SRC Kawasaki wins the 34th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 4th round of the 2011 Qtel FIM Endurance World Championship with Julien da Costa, Grégory Leblanc and Olivier Four. Unlike last year, the official Kawasaki team gave its best until the very last lap. Some said the SERT was weakening with its new team of riders, Anthony Delhalle, Daisaku Sakai and Baptiste Guittet, as Vincent Philippe was injured. Despite this mishap, the team, now even more determined and thanks to the unique race strategy applied by SERT team manager Dominique Méliand - called "the Chef" by the whole paddock - once again paid.
The two official teams faced some minor technical issues which could not give any advantage to either. Towards the very end of the race, SERT focused to secure the second place, essential to score many points for the 2011 Qtel FIM Endurance World title, to be decided in the next round in Qatar.
Monster Yamaha YART took a well-deserved podium with a third place. The Austrian Yamaha of Igor Jerman, Steve Martin and Loris Baz did a fantastic comeback during the night, after Loris Baz crashed at the beginning of the race and the team was sent to the bottom of the time sheet. Kawasaki Bolliger Team Switzerland (Horst Saiger, Roman Stamm and Jérôme Tangre) and Honda TT Legends (John McGuinness, Keith Amor and Cameron Donald) also ran a great race. From the early hours of the race, they positioned themselves just behind the leaders and respectively scored a final fourth and fifth place. As an Endurance newcomer, the official British team definitely proved that they now were in the circle of the world’s best endurance teams.
Yamaha of YMES Folch Endurance finished 6 ahead of race favourite BMW Motorrad France 99. Starting from pole position, the official BMW led after four hours of racing, but had to around 4 am they experienced electronic and clutch cable problems which led to lengthy pit box interventions. In the end BMW Motorrad France 99 finished 17 laps behind the winner with 9 points behind the SERT in the provisional world championship standings.
Manufacturers and tyre suppliers share the podium: Kawasaki with Pirelli, Suzuki with Dunlop and Yamaha with Michelin. In the Superstock class, Suzuki clinched victory with Team Motors Events Bodyguard AMT, ahead of the Kawasaki of Maccio Racing. The Suzuki Junior Team LMS finished third, after having encountered some gear change troubles. With 35 points ahead of Atomic Motosport, Team Motors Events Bodyguard AMT takes the 2011 FIM World Cup Superstock.
The beginning of the race was quite dramatic with several crashes. The first of them involved the Yamaha Racing France GMT 94 Ipone, crashing during the lap 4 with David Checa. In his turn, Matthieu Lagrive fell two more times due a faulty throttle and dirty track conditions. Yamaha 94, too damaged to carry on, gave up just after 10 pm.
BMW of Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers, in 13th position, abandoned around midnight following problems with the front forks and serious overheating issues. Just before 7 am, Honda National Motos disappeared from the time sheet after a crash, and so did the Bihr Metiss. In the Superstock class, the Yamaha DG Sport retired from the race at 10:30 pm after their engine broke down.
Next and last round of the Qtel FIM Endurance World Championship is scheduled in Qatar on November, 12th, for the 8 Hours of Doha.
Gilles Staffler, happy SRC Kawasaki team manager
- "I have an extraordinary team of riders and some great mechanics. They all did an awesome job!"
Dominique Méliand, SERT team manager
- "We are a bit disappointed because we only enter a race to win it. But however we did a fantastic race so far and scored great points for the championship"
Anthony Delhalle, SERT rider
- "That was a physical and demanding race. They all started very fast and the pace remained very high. We are a bit bitter not to win, but the positive thing is we are now back in the lead for the championship"
Loris Baz, newcomer on the Monster Yamaha YART
- "I've learnt a lot. In Endurance, you have to make it with the other two riders. We lost because of me, the occasion to fight for victory but we did great lap times during the night. It was physically and mentally challenging".