Sepang. The next challenge in the FIM Endurance World Championship awaits the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and the new #37 BMW S 1000 RR in the form of the 8 Hours of Sepang (MAS) this Saturday (14th December). The team will start the race from fifth place on the grid. Sepang hosts round two of the 2019/20 season, which is the team’s first in the FIM EWC. In the Malaysia race, the #37 RR will be ridden by Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR) and Markus Reiterberger (GER). The team’s third rider, Kenny Foray (FRA), unfortunately got injured in a crash in Wednesday’s practice and is forced to sit out the rest of the weekend.
After test and practice sessions on Wednesday, two qualifying sessions and the Top 10 Trial were held on Thursday. The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team was fourth after the qualifying sessions. Reiterberger then set the fifth fastest time in the Top 10 Trial on Thursday evening.
The eight-hour race at Sepang is a first in two regards. Firstly, the 5.5-kilometre ‘Sepang International Circuit’ in Malaysia is hosting the FIM EWC for the first time. Secondly, the race weekend will be held as a joint event with the FIA World Touring Car Cup. The ‘Races of Malaysia’ is a unique double event, run by the two world federations for motorcycles (FIM) and automobiles (FIA).
The 8 Hours of Sepang starts at 13:00 local time on Saturday. The race also serves as a qualification race for the season finale, the Suzuka 8 Hours (JPN) in July 2020. The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team #37 BMW S 1000 RR will be joined on the Sepang grid by a further eight RRs, run by BMW customer teams.
In the summer, BMW Motorrad Motorsport expanded its factory involvement with the new BMW S 1000 RR to the FIM EWC. The newly-formed BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team made its debut at the Bol d’Or held at Le Castellet (FRA) in September. Team Manager Werner Daemen’s (BEL) outfit promptly finished third at the first attempt with the #37 RR. Despite that success, the goal for the remaining races remains unchanged and the 2019/20 season will serve as a learning year, to further develop the endurance version of the RR.
Quotes ahead of the 8 Hours of Sepang.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “The Sepang race is a new challenge for us for several reasons. It is only the second race for our new project in the FIM EWC. We know the track from 2016 from WorldSBK but it is new for the new BMW S 1000 RR and the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team so the team first had to learn it in the sessions completed so far. This is compounded by the fact that Kenny unfortunately got injured and can’t continue to race at Sepang, so Ilya and Markus have the difficult task of sharing duties between them over the eight hours of racing in tropical conditions. But we are confident that Ilya and Markus are fit enough to master the physically demanding conditions – and also that the team is well prepared. Over the past days, the squad has intensively worked on setting the BMW S 1000 RR up for Sepang’s special requirements and made good progress. P5 on the grid is a very satisfying result, especially when you know that Markus got a wrong gear in the first sector and lost a lot of time. We are optimistic and looking forward to the race. And we wish Kenny a speedy recovery – get well soon, Kenny! “
Werner Daemen, Team Manager BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team: “After the difficult Wednesday with Kenny’s injury we went to bed with mixed feelings, but then Thursday has been a very good day for us. Ilya and Markus rode very well and in general, qualifying has been pretty successful for us. Unfortunately, Kenny has to sit out the rest of the weekend but we hope that he will be fully fit again soon. Now we are looking forward to the race. We will try to have a race without any issues and mistakes and then we will see what we can achieve.”
Ilya Mikhalchik: “Qualifying was not so bad but also not perfect. Unfortunately I could not use our full potential on the fast lap as we had a small grip issue. But I am confident for the race as we have a good race pace and this is more important than a fast lap in qualifying. We are ready, even it will be difficult as Markus and me have to share duties between us as two riders. I want to say get well soon to our team-mate Kenny and hopefully we will soon be back all together on the track.”
Markus Reiterberger: “Thursday was a good day. We’ve made more progress with the bike, especially regarding the chassis and the electronics. This for sure will help us on the race distance of eight hours. Unfortunately, Kenny got injured on Wednesday, and Ilya and me now have to ride as a two-rider line-up. I want to wish Kenny a speedy recovery! Ilya and me shared duties and I think that we did a good job. It was exciting to compete in the Top 10 Trial. I’ve participated in many Superpoles but never in a format like this. It’s great and I really like it. Unfortunately I made a small mistake which cost some time, but fifth on the grid is not bad and now we will see what we can achieve in the race. I think that we are a strong team and well prepared.”
Kenny Foray: “The feeling with the bike here on this track was really incredible and I enjoyed riding here. But then heavy rain came on Wednesday afternoon and we did not ride a lot. When I then went out for my first lap of the night practice I had a heavy high-side. I am of course disappointed as it is the first time in my career that I will miss a race. It’s a pity but know that my team-mates are working really well and I am sure that they can do a really good job. I cross my fingers for them and give them all my support to get a good result on Saturday.”