Lap Record Smash to Secure Sensational Spa Pole Position at FIM Endurance World Championship EWC

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YART Yamaha Smash Lap Record to Secure Sensational Spa Pole Position
The Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team of Marvin Fritz, Karel Hanika, and Niccolò Canepa, reigning FIM Endurance World Champions, were simply unstoppable on Friday at Spa-Francorchamps. All three riders topped their respective qualifying groups, and Fritz smashed the existing lap record to set a 2:18.552 and secure the Austrian squad back-to-back pole positions.
Glorious weather greeted the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) teams in Belgium for a busy day of action that included a two-hour Free Practice in the morning and two 20-minute qualifying sessions per rider in the afternoon. Laying down a marker immediately, YART, winners of last year’s 24-hour edition of the race in Belgium, followed up their impressive pace in Thursday’s Private Practice to top the first session of the day, with Fritz setting a 2:18.551.
The German’s time was the fastest ever by an EWC bike around the legendary 6.985km Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, beating his teammate Hanika’s existing mark of 2:18.845 set during qualifying in 2022. However, as it was Free Practice, it was not officially counted as a record.
He needn’t have worried, as Fritz showed incredible consistency to get within one-thousandth of a second of his time during his first qualifying session in the afternoon, setting a 2:18.552 to top the Yellow group and claim the official EWC lap record.
Not to be outdone, Hanika was less than a tenth of a second off the pace of his teammate, as the Czech rider managed a 2:18.622 to secure the top spot in the opening Blue rider qualifying session. Maintaining the Austrian squad’s supreme dominance, Canepa then became only the third rider during the entire day to drop under the 2:19 barrier as, even though he was still feeling the pain in his right shoulder from a crash at the Daytona 200, the Italian managed a 2:18.938 to complete a clean sweep for YART and put the team on provisional pole.
In the EWC, a team’s qualifying time is calculated by taking the average of the two fastest riders’ best lap times. So, after such a commanding performance in first qualifying, YART had effectively guaranteed they would start from pole. Therefore, the riders were able to spend the afternoon sessions working on their race pace and focusing on fine-tuning the setup with their Bridgestone-shod #1 R1.
This confidence was well-placed, as none of the other teams managed to threaten their supremacy in the second qualifying sessions, which meant, by combining the best times of Fritz and Hanika, YART secured back-to-back pole positions in the EWC and their third in a row at Spa, with an average time of 2:18.587, 0.691s faster than the next best team.
In the process, they also secured the maximum five points available during qualifying and reduced the gap in the championship standings to the leading team to just seven, with 30 up for grabs in Saturday’s race.
Backing up YART’s performance was another impressive display from the KM99 team of Jérémy Guarnoni, Florian Marino, and Randy de Puniet, with the Belgian-based squad securing seventh on the grid at their home race with an average time of 2:21.361.
The action on Saturday at Spa kicks off with a 45-minute Warm Up session at 9 am local time (UTC+2), with the eight-hour race beginning at 1 pm with the traditional “Le Mans” running start.
Qualifying Results for the 8 Hours of Spa Motos
Marvin Fritz – P1 2:18.552
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“Two years ago, Karel set the lap record; last year, Niccolò was fastest, and now I have broken the lap record, and we have secured our third pole position in a row here at Spa. It could not have been a better start to the race weekend, but this is just qualifying, and our main focus is tomorrow’s race. We know it will be very tough as the competition will be strong, and fuel consumption could play a major role because if you make one pit stop more than your rivals, you could miss out on victory. We will give it our best, as always, and see where we end up.”
Karel Hanika – P1 2:18.622
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I am really happy. The team has done an amazing job, starting from the Private Practice sessions on Thursday. We did a lot of laps and tried to find a good setting, and we didn’t try the qualifying tyre until this morning. As soon as we did, we felt the potential was there to do something special and that all three of us could set excellent lap times. I am happy for Marvin, as he did a great lap and broke my record, which was nice as it kept it within the YART family. I was also happy with my lap. Qualifying went well for me, I was focused and tried my best, and in the second session, I went out on the race bike with the race tyres, and my feeling was really good. I believe we are ready for the race, although it will be a lot harder than it looks on paper, as our rival’s race pace is very good. It will be tough to fight with them, but we will do everything possible to secure victory.”
Niccolò Canepa – P1 2:18.938
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“Qualifying today went really well. All three of us were fast and topped our respective groups, so I am thrilled. To be honest, I was struggling a bit with my shoulder injury, as the track is much more physical to ride than Le Mans, plus I was testing the WorldSBK R1 on Monday, which, when combined with Thursday’s Private Practice and today, meant I had done a lot of laps this week. So, I was feeling quite tired today and tried to save some energy for tomorrow, which is more important, so I am really looking forward to the race. We know we have an advantage in qualifying because we can use the maximum power of our R1, but for the race, we will have to consider fuel consumption, so it will be a lot tougher. But we have a very strong team, and my teammates are super fast, so I am confident we can repeat last year’s result and win the race.”
Mandy Kainz
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team – Team Manager
“What a day! Pole position, a new lap record, five points in the bag, and all of our riders broke the 2:19 barrier. They were the only riders to get into the 2:18s all day, which shows our potential, and I am extremely proud of the whole team, who have worked superbly, not just today but also during the eight hours of Private Practice on Thursday. The race will be a very different challenge, as so many factors can come into play. Still, we have put ourselves in the best possible position to fight for victory and secure as many vital championship points as we can.”
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