The YART Yamaha trio of Karel Hanika, Marvin Fritz and Niccoló Canepa will start from pole position for the 43rd edition of the 24 Heures Motos at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans.
Looking to build on their session topping performance in Thursday morning’s official free practice session, YART Yamaha mastered the mixed conditions to finish the first day of qualifying action at the top of the timesheets, +1.317s clear of the chasing pack.
With rain disrupting Thursday’s running, the team knew that the second qualifying sessions held on Friday would be crucial to maintain their top spot. Hanika was first on track and improved his time by +1.590s compared to his best effort on Thursday, setting a 1:36.895 which matched their best time of the weekend. Attention then turned to German rider Marvin Fritz who stormed to the top of the timesheets by +0.843s. The 1:36.517s set by the 2016 IDM Superbike champion meant that YART Yamaha was in prime position to hold the lead and claim pole position.
Canepa was the third rider to take to the track; the Italian’s session was interrupted due to a red flag incident when the 2017 World Endurance champion sat at the top of the timesheets. However, he then slipped to second and failed to improve his time on his final run, but it was enough to secure pole for the team.
With Canepa’s times and those of his team-mates, YART secured pole by 0.193s and will start ahead of the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.
The team head into Saturday’s race full of confidence, with all three riders showing fast and consistent pace, all lapping similar lap times during their long runs. They also showed consistently quick pace throughout Thursday’s night practice, finishing the session on top.
The Wojcik Racing Team also had a strong qualifying session. Gino Rea, Axel Maurin and Broc Parkes set the ninth fastest time with an average of 1:38.170, +1.464s off their fellow Yamaha squad. Meanwhile, TEAM MOTO AIN will start 12th as they look to extend their advantage over the Wojcik team at the top of the independent championship standings and their lead in the FIM World Cup-Teams classification.
YART’s pole position sees them gain an extra five championship points, moving them closer to the top three in the championship on 48 points.
The 43rd edition of the 24 Heures Motos will get underway tomorrow at 12:00 local time with YART Yamaha looking to turn pole into their first win at the French event since 2009.
Time – 1:36.895
“We have had a good start to the weekend. The setup of the bike is still not at 100%, but we will work on that tonight and during the warm up tomorrow. I did a good lap in qualifying and Marvin also did a great job. Niccoló did enough to secure pole in his session, so we then focused on the race setup. Michael Laverty is helping us a lot with his experience and comments which has helped us take pole position, but the work comes tomorrow at 12 o’clock, but we’ll make sure we do everything we can to bring the bike to the finish and secure points.”
Time – 1:36.517
“We’re very happy to take pole position because we have struggled a bit with the set-up of the bike. Even with the issues, we have faced we’ve been able to finish on top in most sessions. The team is working at 110%, and my team-mates are very fast. We had a really good qualifying session; we all topped our groups, but we still need to figure out the problem with our bike. We are satisfied with the pace, and I think our strongest point will be during the night and open the gap to the other teams. After picking up five points today, our main target is to score as many points in the race.”
Time – 1:36.708
“We are pleased about taking pole position because all three of us are fast and at a similar pace. We still need to work on the bike to improve our race pace, but it gives us confidence to top almost every session so far and to take pole position. We are all very happy and very satisfied with the work done by the team, and I’m confident we can make another step with the bike tomorrow and fight for the victory at the end of the 24 hours.”
Team Manager, YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I’m very pleased to take another pole position in Le Mans and take five extra points in the championship and to close the gap to the leader. We suffered a little bit in qualifying and couldn’t show our full potential, but the performance we put in was good enough for pole and puts us in a good position for the race. This will be the first 24-hour event for the new R1 as we haven’t been able to put in a long-distance test session, so the race for us will be the test, but we’re happy with the pace and think we can fight for the top step.”