Magny-Cours is set for a great vintage on 14 April
There was a special excitement in the air at Magny-Cours for the opening tests of the FIM Endurance World Championship which will get under way on the Nevers circuit on 14 and 15 April. The main contenders for the 2012 title were there and all of them are announcing improved performance levels that augur a season packed with suspense.
At the front of the pack, we have the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), reigning champions and winners of the last four editions of the Bol d’Or, with a total of twelve world crowns to their name. With a 2012 GSX-R kitted out with a peppy engine, new Showa shock absorbers and Dunlop tyres (but without ABS), the official Suzuki team remains the one to beat, especially now it has signed up Fabien Forêt. The French rider from World Supersport will be taking time out to ride in the Bol d’Or alongside Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle. “I am coming here for the fun of it and hoping to win with a top team. I wasn’t sure I was still on the pace after 10 years of Supersport, but I have got back into the groove pretty quickly”, says Fabien Forêt. His team manager Dominique Méliand agrees: “With regular series of laps in 1’41.2 for our three riders, we are looking good in comparison with the opposition.”
But the opposition is looking good too, and clocking up some no less promising times. Runners-up in the Bol d’Or and winners of the 24 Heures du Mans in 2011, SRC Kawasaki is the rival most feared by the SERT, even though the official Kawasaki team is not currently planning to take part in the whole of the 2012 FIM Endurance World Championship. The SRC Kawasaki is again fielding its winning trio from 2011, Julien Da Costa, Gregory Leblanc and Olivier Four, and can boast top laps in 1’40.6 “without pushing too hard”. “We have worked a lot with Pirelli and made good progress with our choice of tyres”, explains SRC Kawasaki team manager Gilles Stafler. Kawasaki’s colours are also being defended by permanent team Bolliger Team Switzerland, always well up with the pack.
The Michelin clan is also in fine fettle. BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent is hitting the track with its 2011 threesome, Sébastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon and Damian Cudlin. Team BMW, who came close to upsetting the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team last season, are back with a new crew orchestrated by Nicolas Dussauge, twice winner of the 24 Heures du Mans and the Bol d’Or between 2001 and 2003 in the company of Sébastien Gimbert and Jean-Michel Bayle among others. With an optimized chassis that makes for more stable handing, together with a fine-tuned ABS system, the official BMW team seems to be raring to go.
Also in good spirits are the members of Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube. They are fielding David Checa, Kenny Foray and Matthieu Lagrive astride a R1 2012 with ABS. “It’s what we’d been missing since 2008 and with the new Michelin tyres, we know we shall be in the running from the start, says Christophe Guyot, Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube team manager. We have been regularly lapping in 1’41, two seconds better than in the 2011 tests.”
Monster Energy Yamaha YART is attacking the 2012 season with stepped up support from the Japanese factory. Its R1, lighter, zippier and kitted out with the latest version of Yamaha’s ABS system, has big ambitions in this year’s Bol d’Or with Igor Jerman, Steve Martin and Gwen Giabbani in the saddle.
Honda TT Legends is still working hard to get in amongst the contenders. In Magny-Cours, the official Honda team brought together its new crew made up of John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, Simon Andrews and Gary Johnson, astride a punchier 2012 Fireblade. National Motos, competing only in the Bol d’Or and at Le Mans, will also be defending Honda’s colours with Etienne Masson, Josep Monge and Vincent Bocquet.
In the Superstock class, Team Motors Events AMT Assurances (Suzuki), winners of the 2011 FIM World Cup, will be defending its rank with a new trio of experienced riders, Guillaume Dietrich, Michael Savary and Frédéric Moreira, and a new technical crew, still managed by Hervé Moineau. At Magny-Cours, several teams revealed their hopes of wresting the FIM World Cup from them in 2012. DG Sport (Yamaha) is back with a hefty agenda, official support from Pirelli and a new, well honed crew made up of Didier Van Keymeulen, Alex Cudlin, Gianluca Vizziello and Raymond Schouten. AM Moto Racing Competition (Suzuki) has signed up Loic Napoleone to support Anthony Loiseau and Kevin Denis. At the Bol d’Or, we must also reckon with the Junior Team LMS Suzuki, who will be riding for victory with Baptiste Guittet, Julien Enjolras and Cédric Tangre. Junior Team LMS Suzuki will only be taking part in the Bol d’Or and Le Mans.
Not present at these tests ahead of the Bol d’Or were the two BMW teams managed by Rico Penzkofer. Kraftwerk Penz13.com RT and MotoRacingParts Endurance Penz13.com RT will also be serious contenders for the 2012 FIM World Cup.
We shall be seeing everyone out on the track in Magny-Cours from Thursday 12 April for the first free and qualifying practice sessions of the 76th Bol d’Or. There are 55 bikes entered for this prestigious 24-hour race that is the official curtain-raiser for the 2012 FIM Endurance World Championship.
2012 FIM Endurance World Championship calendar
14 and 15 April Bol d’Or (24 h) France (Magny-Cours)
9 June Doha 8 H Qatar (Losail)
29 July Suzuka 8 H Japan
11 August Oschersleben 8 H Germany
8 and 9 September 24 H du Mans France