Mid-Race Retirement Snatches YART’s Victory Hopes at Bol d’Or
YART Yamaha’s chance of victory was snatched away at the 84th edition of the Bol d’Or after a mechanical failure in the 11th hour ended their race while running in first position by over 20 seconds.
YART Yamaha were forced to retire from the 2021 Bol d’Or event after a technical issue during Marvin Fritz’s stint halted the team’s victory charge. The Yamaha Austrian Racing Team were leading the race when a mechanical failure on the mistral straight ended their 24-hour as the half-way stage approached.
Sporting the 60th Anniversary of Grand Prix racing livery, Fritz got the official Yamaha EWC team’s Bol d’Or underway from second position under glorious sunshine in the French Riviera. A tough start for the German saw him drop to 13th off the line but by the end of the opening few laps, he was already back inside the top four and began his charge towards the leading trio.
With three seconds of clear track ahead, Fritz pushed on and claimed a podium spot with a clean pass at turn nine. A lap later the former IDM Superbike champion was into second place. With four bikes fighting for the lead, the 28-year-old traded places before settling into fourth as the opening stint came to an end.
With Niccolò Canepa now aboard the R1 Yamaha, YART were quickly promoted back onto the podium after an issue for Honda gave Canepa third place. A calculated stint from the experienced Italian saw him consolidate third place before pitting at the one hour 37-minute mark. As the laps ticked away, YART jumped up to second place in the hands of Karel Hanika who, like Canepa, rode a sensible stint before Fritz got back aboard the bike.
As he settled back into his stint, the German slowly began to reduce the gap to the race leader as the sun began to drop in Le Castellet. Knowing their pace would be stronger throughout the night, the pace picked up once again as night fell. Still sat in second with eight hours on the clock, YART secured nine points in addition to the four points secured in Friday’s qualifying session.
With clouds gathering over the Paul Ricard circuit, the rain would eventually fall mid-way through Niccolò Canepa’s stint. Still sat in second, the former MotoGP rider had to call upon his vast experience as he bravely got his Yamaha around the wet circuit on slick tyres. Pitting at the end of his stint for wet tyres, Canepa chose to double stint as he knew the current conditions and continued the charge towards the Suzuki. However, the 33-year-old’s charge would soon be made easier when Xavier Simeon crashed, putting YART back into the lead with a minute and 31 second gap over second.
As Canepa returned to the pits with a comfortable gap of over a minute, the team then turned their attention on getting through the night, despite pressure being put back on by the recovering SERT squad.
But disaster struck as the race approached its halfway stage when a technical issue forced Marvin Fritz to pull over at the side of the mistral straight. Desperate to continue, the German brought the bike back to the garage, but with the damage done, YART were forced to retire from the race, cruelly missing out on the fight for victory.
The Wójcik Racing Team and Wójcik Racing Team 2 also retired from the race. The Wójcik Racing Team in the hands of Dan Linfoot, Gino Rea and Sheridan Morais was running inside the top ten when they were forced to retire.
Marvin Fritz – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“Unfortunately, we had a technical issue on the back straight while we were leading the race which is a pity because we knew we could have finished inside the top two. We were so strong throughout this race, and we were comfortable because although we were pushing, we were never over the limit, and we never made any stupid mistakes. We were leading the race and we were opening the gap up to SERT and then the issue came. It was a tough start because we had an issue which dropped me back at the beginning, but I fought hard and came back strong and felt really good with the R1. Everything was going perfect, my team-mates were fast, the team was great and the tyres were working really well. We had an opportunity today to take big points after our rivals retired but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We now look forward to the race in Most and try to end the year on a high.”
Niccolò Canepa – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“I was really happy up until the problem because we were really fast, even though we were behind Suzuki in the early part of the race. The pace in the dry was really good and when the rain came I had to do two stints in a row and after my second stint we were a minute in front. It was tricky with the slicks on the wet track so I pit to put the wet tyres on as soon as I could, without losing too much time, and I was super-fast with the wets. All three of us were fast today, we were all strong but unfortunately this was not enough. I want to thank the team for their hard work and we look forward to the next one.”
Karel Hanika – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“It’s frustrating to have this outcome again. It’s incredible that after nearly 12-hours we were so close to SERT and we knew it would have been a good fight. We kept pushing to manage the gap that we had but the conditions were so tricky! I went out on the slick tyre while the track was still drying but the pace I had was still really good and got faster as the track came back to me. The team was doing great, everyone was doing a good job and the R1 was perfect until the retirement. I feel really bad for the team and I’m sorry to everyone involved because we are all trying our best and I hope that our luck will change soon.”
Mandy Kainz – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team, Team Manager
“What can I say? We are very disappointed and it’s very hard to give up a win when you are leading like we were, but this is Endurance racing! The race was going to plan until we ran into an issue. The bike was running perfectly and there was no indication that something was wrong, so it was a shock to us all when we ran into a technical issue. It was a ‘full gas’ race from the start, everyone was pushing, and people were retiring everywhere. It’s unbelievable that after 11 hours were we so close to SERT and fighting for the win. We were looking forward to seeing how the race would unfold but unfortunately on the back straight the technical issue happened, and we were forced to retire.”
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