Le Castellet. The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and the newly developed endurance version of the BMW S 1000 RR enjoyed a successful debut in the FIM Endurance World Championship (FIM EWC). At the Bol d’Or at Le Castellet (FRA), rider trio Kenny Foray (FRA), Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR) and Julian Puffe (GER) battled for the podium down to the wire. After 311 laps, they crossed the finish line in fourth place, just four seconds behind the top three. Team ERC Endurance, with riders Mathieu Gines, Julien Da Costa and Louis Rossi (all FRA), secured a BMW podium. The BMW customer team claimed third place overall with the previous version of the RR which is already known in the FIM EWC.
The 83rd edition of the Bol d’Or kicked off the 2019/20 FIM EWC season, which the newly formed BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team is contesting as a works team for the first time with the new RR. The development of the endurance version of the motorcycle for the FIM EWC started just a few months ago. This year’s Bol d’Or had to be stopped between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. due to extremely bad weather with rain and storms, meaning that the actual race duration was just around twelve hours instead of 24.
The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team caused a stir with the new RR early on. On Thursday, Mikhalchik set an interim new lap record for the FIM EWC at Le Castellet on Thursday, with a time of 1:53.669 minutes. The qualifying sessions, in which reserve rider Bastien Mackels (BEL) was also in action, ended on Friday with a terrific fourth place on the grid for the #37 RR.
When the race was interrupted on Saturday evening the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team was in seventh place. The #37 RR then restarted the race on Sunday morning from that position. In drying conditions, Foray, Mikhalchik and Puffe soon moved up into the top three, and the #37 was even in second place for a long time. However, a technical problem arose in the final phase which prevented closing rider Mikhalchik from defending the almost-certain podium. Just a few minutes before the chequered flag, Gines on the #6 RR, who also set a new race lap record at the Bol d’Or, overtook Mikhalchik to move into third place. The Ukrainian ended up crossing the finish line in fourth place, just four seconds behind Gines.
The Tecmas BMW GMC team also finished the Bol d’Or in the top ten. Camille Hedelin, Alexis Masbou and David Perret (all FRA) finished in ninth place with the #9 RR. 15th place overall and fifth place in the Superstock class went to the GERT56 by GS YUASA team with Stefan Kerschbaumer (AUT), Lucy Glöckner (GER) and Pepijn Bijsterbosch (NED).
Quotes after the Bol d’Or at Le Castellet.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “It was a turbulent opening race with a very good result. There has never been a Bol d‘Or like it. On one hand, the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team faced an additional challenge since we did not to find a good rain set-up for the chassis and electronics in the run-up. Ilya also had his first ever experience of Dunlop rain tyres in the race. In this respect, the interruption suited us. On the other hand, as a totally new project it might have benefitted us that the team and bike weren’t subjected to the usual pressures of a full 24-hour distance. But overall, it has to be said that with our speed, the pit stops, the team performance and also in terms of fuel consumption, we were on track. That shows that we have developed a super basis in the short time available. Yes, we were gifted a few places by the problems the top teams experienced, but that’s all part of 24-hour races. Toward the end of the race, we struggled with a minor technical problem which cost us the podium by four seconds. It would have been amazing, but to come away with a fourth place is still remarkable. Congratulations to our customer team ERC, who overtook us eight minutes before the end of the race, thereby securing the spot on the podium.”
Werner Daemen, Team Manager BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team: “The conditions really were difficult. It was the first time that we competed here, and I honestly never dared believe that we would be up there at the front. It was clear that we only had problems with the rain. Second place would have been possible, but we had a minor technical problem in the final hour of the race, which is why, unfortunately, we only finished in fourth place, with a deficit of four seconds on the podium. I’m happy about what we achieved, but I’m also slightly disappointed that more wasn’t possible. But, we are a new team and this race makes us optimistic looking to the future.”
Kenny Foray: “It’s a new team, a new bike, and given these circumstances our result is really good. We only just missed out on the podium because we had a technical problem in the closing stage. That’s why I’m a little bit disappointed. Everyone in the team did a fantastic job and they deserved the podium. But that’s all part of endurance racing and we will continue to grow.”
Julian Puffe : “The team worked night and day over the past few weeks to be competitive here, and with fourth place we achieved a great result. My two team-mates did an amazing job, and it’s a fantastic result for our debut in the FIM EWC. Obviously, we would have liked to finish on the podium, especially when it was so close. But on the whole, we can be very pleased.”
Ilya Mikhalchik: “I’m really happy that we finished the race. I didn’t expect that we would even have been fighting for the podium! It’s a brand-new bike, so we were aware that we might experience a technical problem over such a long race distance. We saw here how strong the bike is and how well the team works. It was really unfortunate that there was a problem in the end. That’s why my pace slowed down. But overall I am happy that we were able to get so close to the podium.”
Bastien Mackels: “It was a real pleasure to join the team because the atmosphere is really unbelievable. It is one of the best teams I’ve ridden with so far. The BMW S 1000 RR is easy to ride and competitive. It’s a great project and I am convinced that the time will come and the team will fight for the win.”
Mathieu Gines (Team ERC Endurance): “I’m over the moon. The bike was really good and the team did a perfect job. My team-mates were brilliant, and I also gave it my all. It was so much fun. Thanks to Team ERC Endurance and to BMW – I hope that I can compete in many more races with them.”