Yamaha Motor Europe is pleased to confirm the rider lineup for the GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team ahead of the opening round of the 2017/2018 FIM Endurance World Championship at the Bol D’or on the 16th-17th September. GMT94 dominated the 2016/2017 season as the Yamaha R1 proved to be the machine to beat, winning three races in a row on their way to lifting the title at Suzuka. The reigning Endurance World Champions will remain unchanged for the new season, with David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio returning to defend their crown.
Endurance racing is the ultimate test of man and machine and GMT94 were the dominant force during the 2016-2017 season on the Yamaha R1. After finishing ninth at the Bol d’Or and missing out on some valuable stage points, the team trailed the championship leaders by 47 points but bounced back incredibly by winning the next three races in a row at Le Mans, Oschersleben, and Slovakia to reduce the deficit to the leaders SERT to just one point. This gave them the chance to be crowned Endurance World Champions at the Suzuka 8 Hours, all they had to do was finish ahead of SERT and in the points. Despite the immense pressure at the season finale, they rode a faultless race to finish in 11th, crucially ahead of SERT, to secure their third Endurance World Championship, adding to the titles they won in 2004 and 2014. Unsurprisingly, the team remains unchanged for the 2017-2018 season as they look to defend their title and be crowned Endurance World Champions for the fourth time.
The endurance legend David Checa returns to ride for GMT94 for his 16th consecutive season with the team. He has been ever-present in the team since 2003, lifting the title with them in 2004, 2014 and in 2017, in the process making history by becoming the first Spanish and Yamaha rider to be crowned Endurance World Champion three times in his career. Niccolò Canepa also made history last year as he became the first Italian to be crowned an Endurance World Champion. The 29-year-old former MotoGP rider joined the team in 2016 and helped them to finish as runners-up in the championship during his debut season, before going one better in his second year. Mike Di Meglio joined GMT94 for the second race of the 2016/2017 season at Le Mans as a replacement for Lucas Mahias, who left the team to ride for Yamaha in WorldSSP. The 29-year-old French rider immediately made an impact in the EWC by becoming the first rider in the championship to emerge victorious in his first three races. Denied the chance to be crowned Rider’s champion along with his teammates at Suzuka – due to the fact he missed out on the points at the Bol d’Or – Di Meglio’s aim for the 2017/2018 season is to become the first Grand Prix World Champion (2008 125cc World Championship) to also go on to lift the Endurance title.
The 2017/2018 FIM EWC season consists of five rounds:
Bol d’Or (24h) – 16th/17th September 2017
24 Heures Motos (Le Mans) – 21st/22nd April 2018
8 Hours of Slovakia Ring – 10th/12th May 2018
8 Hours of Oschersleben – 7th/9th June 2018
Suzuka 8 Hours – 27th-29th July 2018
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team begin their title defence at the first round of the season, the 24-hour Bol d’Or, at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France on the 16-17th of September.
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
“We enter the new season with the same riders, the same team and the same bike! Consistency is key! For the Bol d’Or we will have updated the suspension and made a few tweaks on the bike and the goal is to win the race. Last year, we finished the Bol d’Or in ninth after two crashes, which meant we were playing catch up for the rest of the season. Therefore, the goal is to win and get our title defence off to the best possible start. We will build a good strategy and implement it as you have to do at all endurance races. The target was always to keep the same riders for the new season. After Mike’s first race at Le Mans, we knew he would be a good fit alongside David and Niccolò. The guys are like three brothers, each one brings different things to the team and their skills complement each other. I know they will enjoy staying together and fighting to defend their title!”
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
“I am excited about the new season. It will not be easy, especially as it feels as though we have only just finished and we are starting again all already, we didn’t even have time to celebrate. It is easy when you are champions to rest on your laurels and it is hard to stay mentally and physically strong and remain focused, so this has been our target. It is great to have the team confirmed for the Bol d’Or. I enjoy riding with the guys and I feel we have a very strong team to try and defend the title. I am so happy to have won the title and we know that for the Bol d’Or, the Dunlop tyres work really well. The target is to go out and win again as we are used to winning now. The package for Bol d’Or is perfect. I think we are in a very good position to win the race and I hope we can have a nice fight with YART once more, as that is what the spectators want, just like at Le Mans! The competition is even stronger this season so we must raise our level even more and it will be difficult, as always, because you can never predict what will happen in endurance racing.”
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
“I will never forget the podium at Suzuka, to be crowned Endurance World Champions in front of 100,000 fans, it was a very special season! The calendar is really strange because we are racing again after just one month but after an amazing season for the team, it is much better for us to be getting back into action, instead of having a long break, because we are in a groove and the bike will be even better this year! Last year at the Bol d’Or we qualified on pole, but we had bad luck and finished ninth. This year, we are determined to enter the new season with a good result, as in the last two years, we have started the championship with a bad race. If we can get off to a good start, it will make it a lot easier, knowing how strong we can be at the other tracks. Last year our pace was very consistent at the Bol d’Or, if it wasn’t for the two crashes, we would have been fighting for the win. It will be the first time for Mike at the track, so we will conduct a test beforehand so that he is ready to hit the ground running. David and Mike are the best teammates ever, the atmosphere in the team is fantastic, as first of all we are friends and then we are teammates. We know that we are all fast and we completely trust and respect each other, which is the most important thing in endurance, so I am very happy to start the season with the same team. Mike had an amazing debut season, winning his first three races, and David is a real legend in the sport. I love racing with them, I couldn’t ask for a better team and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Mike Di Meglio
GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
“It was amazing to be crowned champions at Suzuka but the preparations for the new season began straight away because we obviously want to continue in the same way! It was a fantastic season for me personally and, thanks to the team, I won my first three races! This season we need to push on even more, as YART and all of our rivals will be stronger. We have already made plans to improve the bike and we will test at Paul Ricard as it is my first-time racing at the Bol d’Or. It looks like a nice and fast track. I am very happy to have the same teammates this season because there is a fantastic atmosphere in the team. Sure, I was not actually a world champion because I missed Le Mans, but they treated me like one and made me feel an essential part of the team. I really enjoy riding with David and Niccolò and I believe we can win another title this year. It really is a fantastic team, we are good friends and the communication between everyone is excellent which is crucial in endurance racing. It would be great if we could defend the title this season, as I have the chance to become the first Grand Prix World Champion to also become an Endurance World Champion. Grand Prix racing is very different, you ride for yourself. I love endurance as you are racing as a team, plus when it is a 24-hour race like at the Bol d’Or it is the ultimate test of man and machine, and after we did so well at Le Mans, I cannot wait to get started!”