The 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) season kicks off this weekend in France when the 24 Heures Motos race gets underway at Le Mans. Yoshimura SERT Motul will start this famous event from pole position after setting the fastest qualifying lap.
The 24 Heures Motos marks the opening round of the 2023 FIM EWC. The 46th edition of the event will see 54 teams compete on the 4.185-kilometre Bugatti Circuit.
Following private testing on Tuesday, the first qualifying session, which took place on Thursday, was complicated by unpredictable weather conditions which alternated between showers and sunny spells. The teams had to adapt and react quickly with their tyre choice and strategy. Yoshimura SERT Motul brought its wealth of experience into play to overcome any difficulties.
Gregg Black was first out with the blue-banded riders. After a good start, the session was interrupted around the halfway mark to clean up oil that had spilled on the track after a competitor’s fall. Once qualifying resumed, Black took his time and saved the best ‘til last, smashing out the fastest time of the group, a 1.37.506, on the final lap.
When Sylvain Guintoli took his turn on the Bugatti circuit the track was drying and the top teams, including Guintoli, slipped early in the session. Fortunately, the damage was minimal, and the improved conditions resulted in faster times with a 1.36.800 lap placing him fourth fastest in the yellow group.
The red riders had to deal with another shower of rain when they went out for their qualifying session. New to the team for 2023, but a former EWC SERT champ, Etienne Masson made the most of his extensive knowledge of the discipline and circuit to go second fastest with a time of 1.48.594.
A deluge of rain for the second and final qualifying session scheduled for Friday morning, completely soaked the track which meant the teams were unable to improve their times. As a result, most of the top teams did not start the session, instead the times from Q1 determined the line-up for the running start of the 2023 24 Heures Motos.
Yoshimura SERT Motul is on pole with the best overall time of 1.37.153 and collected five bonus points in the process.
Yohei Kato – Team Director
“It’s our second pole position after the Bol d’Or in 2021 and it feels really good. We did a great job despite the difficult conditions. The team and the riders worked very well. We couldn’t show our potential in all the sessions, but our focus was to work hard for the race and we are confident.”
Damien Saulnier – Team Manager
“Of course, we are very happy with this pole position. We will start right in front of the Suzuki and Yoshimura SERT Motul fans’ grandstand, which adds to our pleasure. I would like to congratulate the riders and the technical team. Everybody did a great job despite the weather conditions which were not easy to manage. We are confident for the race because the GSX-R1000R, the riders and the Bridgestone tyres all work well in both wet and dry conditions.”
“These were very special conditions. I had the opportunity during my session to put on slick tyres and I waited for the right moment. My team-mates also did a great job after me and the end result is perfect. This pole position is great, but as always, it’s the result at the end of the race that matters. Our main rivals are there and we already know that the race will be long and difficult, especially during the night with very cold temperatures. But we will be there!”
“We worked very well and the tests were constructive. We are ready for all conditions. Qualifying was a little unsettled thanks to the weather changes, but we were able to adapt quickly to get this pole position. It’s been a long time since Suzuki started from first place at Le Mans! Of course, in endurance racing, this is not a major achievement but it proves that we have the speed. There is still a lot of work to be done and a long race tomorrow.”
“First of all, it is a great pleasure for me to be back in the Suzuki family which has evolved a lot. The bike has changed quite a lot and so has the technical team with a lot more support from Yoshimura. The change of tyre brand and riding with Sylvain are also new for me, but everything is going very well. The set-up is perfect and the result of these tests proves it. We can’t wait for the start. As for me, I spent a busy winter with intense physical preparation. It has paid off because I feel very fit!