Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team is the winner of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship following a tense climax to the season at Circuit Paul Ricard at the 86th Bol d’Or.
The Austrian based YART squad was one of six teams in EWC title contention starting the legendary 24-hour event, but it endured a nervy conclusion to the race due to a temperature issue that forced the team to make multiple pit stops for running repairs.
With defending champions F.C.C. TSR Honda France retiring following a technical failure, while running in a championship winning position 12 hours into the race. And the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team dropping out of the fight for the lead due to two unscheduled pit visits, YART essentially needed a top-nine Formula EWC finish to secure the EWC’s biggest prize.
FCC TSR Honda France had won the opening race at the Le Mans 24 Hours, took second place on the podium at the Spa 24 Hours, and finished third at the Suzuka 8 Hours, and were in the box seat to lift the title once again before technical problems struck at the Bol d’Or season finale.
Josh Hook – F.C.C. TSR Honda rider
“It’s very hard to swallow this result right away. Unfortunately, something like this happened even though we were in a good position heading towards the championship. However, we have no choice but to accept it and move on to next year. The team did a great job and all three of us were very fast. Although I’m disappointed in missing out on the title, I think I was able to take something positive out of this weekend. So I can be very happy with the way this season went, even if it didn’t end as planned.”
Running with a special livery to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Yamaha R1, the Bridgestone-equipped YART trio of Niccolò Canepa, Marvin Fritz and Karel Hanika rode faultlessly, eventually finishing in fourth position to secure EWC gold, having led the race on numerous occasions before bringing the bike home safe for the title.
Mandy Kainz – Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“We worked a lot on the reliability of our bike and it was 14 years since the first time we finished every race. The bike was very conservative because we just built it to survive. But the boys are the heroes because they managed, they lost six to seven tenths on the straights, just to be sure our bike could do it because there is no test for a 24-hour race, the race is the test.
“I’m really happy for these boys because they were leading every single race in the championship. In Le Mans we just had a problem when we crashed on the oil. Spa was for us a perfect race even with some difficulties. In Suzuka we were so close and then for a very small part we were close to retire. But the race made me very proud because the boys did not give up and were fighting from last position and lapped close to 50 per cent of the field. Even to the winner, HRC, they made one and a half laps during the remaining six hours. So for me they are real endurance riders and fighters and they deserve it so much.”
Having experienced a season of more lows than highs, Yoshimura SERT Motul was determined to end the 2023 campaign on top of a race that would mark Sylvain Guintoli’s final EWC outing with Suzuki power.
Despite Gregg Black and Étienne Masson competing as a duo for the final nine hours after Guintoli fell ill with stomach pains, Yoshimura SERT Motul triumphed by a clear margin. That was despite Black being one of eight riders to fall on oil at the end of the Mistral Straight this morning, which triggered a lengthy safety car period.
Damien Saulnier – Yoshimura SERT Motul Team Manager
“Our season has been very complicated. At Le Mans, Spa and Suzuka, we had the means to be at the front, but we just couldn’t manage it in those three races. At the Bol d’Or, everything finally ended well. As far as the title was concerned, it was still mathematically possible to take it, but our hopes were still very slim. So this victory is good for our morale and it will help us prepare for the 2024 season. I’d like to thank the whole team, who did a great job throughout the week, and of course the riders who gave their all to offer us this victory. Finally, I have a very special thought for our mechanic Polo, who is now retiring after 43 years with the SERT.”
Honda Viltaïs Racing couldn’t quite repeat its Bol d’Or-winning heroics from 2022 but it did secure a season-best second as riders Florian Alt, Steven Odenaal and event rookie Leandro Mercado impressed on the Pirelli-shod #333 machine.
Marc Bongers – BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director
“We had prepared really well and our pace was great ahead of this race. We were very competitive in all the practice sessions and we also secured pole position, scoring our first five points in the process. We were 38 points behind and we still felt we had a good chance as there were 85 points up for grabs. We needed to win this race, and hope that the others endured some bad luck. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite manage it. During the night, we twice had a very similar problem with the power supply in the motorbike. That cost us about eight laps in total, which in turn definitely cost us second place and had an effect on the race for the world championship title. It is hard to take when there’s just one point in it. I would like to congratulate Yamaha on the world championship title and Suzuki on winning the race here. Nonetheless, we were able to show the pace we have and I am very pleased that we finished all four races this year, including three podiums in the 24-hour races. That was unthinkable last year and shows what potential we have. I would like to thank the entire BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, our great riders and everyone in Munich and Berlin who made this possible. We now have a long winter ahead of us. We need to continue to improve and I am sure that we when we return, we will be well equipped to challenge for the title.”
Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar moved into fifth behind Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team when TATI Team Beringer Racing dropped out of contention. The Kawasaki-powered TATI outfit had enjoyed a brief stint in the lead during the opening hour when it capitalised on its decision to use intermediate tyres for the rapidly drying conditions.
Having taken the coveted EWC crown at Circuit Paul Ricard 12 months ago, F.C.C. TSR Honda France hit trouble shortly before 3am when Mike Di Meglio was forced to push the #1 Honda after it stopped at the entrance to the pit-lane. Despite its best efforts, the team was forced to retire with a terminal technical halfway into the race. Josh Hook, Alan Techer and Mike DiMeglio knew hopes of another EWC title would be salvaged if its main rivals also stopped. In the event, it was a frustrating finish to an otherwise strong season.
Maco Racing Team beat Team LRP Poland to sixth place among the Formula EWC squads with Team Bolliger Switzerland, Moto-Ain and KM99 next up. Belgian outfit KM99, making its Bol d’Or debut, was in the top five when an electrical issue struck at 0125.
Wójcik Racing Team’s #77 dropped out shortly after eight hours having been delayed by an electronic issue early in the race. Motobox Kremer Racing spent six minutes repairing its Yamaha after Christian Napoli was caught up in the multi-bike accident at Signes Corner.
Chaz Davies stopped from the lead battle with 40 minutes of the race run to hand over to Xavi Forés. But his replacement was soon in trouble after a collision at the final corner left the Spaniard limping to the side of the track and his Ducati Pingale V4R suffering terminal damage. The incident led to an early safety car intervention.
Initially, there was Dunlop Superstock Trophy delight for Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda but despair for National Motos Honda, which lost the Bol d’Or category win and the FIM Endurance World Cup for Teams in the final hour after a technical fault struck. However, in the post race technical checks after the race the Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda was found to have a fuel tank larger than permitted, subsequently they were disqualified from the results, and with that the Superstock World Cup!
The removal of Chromeburner-RAC41-Honda from the results saw the Kawasaki powered Team 33 Louit April Moto take out the 2023 FIM Endurance World Superstock World Cup after claiming the Bol d’Or victory in the category.
Having started the Bol d’Or in contention for Dunlop Superstock Trophy honours, Honda No Limits and Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team dropped out in the opening stages. The former was eliminated in a collision, while Kenny Foray had covered a little more than 30 minutes when engine failure forced the #9 into retirement.