Sensational Second at Le Mans 24 Heures Motos France


YART Yamaha Score Sensational Second at Le Mans

The Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team of Karel Hanika, Niccolo Canepa, and Marvin Fritz started their 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship season stunningly by securing a podium at the opening round, the 45th edition of the Le Mans 24 Heures Motos in France.


The YART Yamaha team started the weekend by ending Thursday’s Free Practice in second before securing a third consecutive pole position at the iconic Bugatti Circuit in North-West France on Friday. Glorious weather greeted the riders for the entirety of the 24-hour race, as the passionate French fans returned to Le Mans for the first time since 2019 due to the global issues.

Czech rider Karel Hanika, who celebrated his 26th Birthday on Thursday, lined up for the traditional endurance starting procedure, but an unfortunate technical issue meant he could not get his bike started on the grid and dropped down to last place.

Confounding this issue was a nasty crash at the start that saw the safety car deployed immediately, meaning that Hanika could not begin a charge through the pack until the safety car pulled in after eight laps. Undeterred, the former Moto3 rider started to battle his way through the crowded field, and by the end of the first hour, he handed the YART Yamaha R1 over to his teammate Marin Fritz in fifth. The German rider kept this momentum going with some superb riding, and by the end of his first stint, the team were up to third.

Italian Niccolo Canepa took the third stint, and by the time he came in to swap the bike, the team had clawed an impressive amount of time and were now in second and involved in the battle for victory just 15 seconds behind the leaders. Sadly, more drama was to follow, as, in the EWC, two safety cars feature for each incident. On Hanika’s second stint, he was stuck behind a different safety car than the leaders, losing 45 precious seconds.

Once again, adversity brought out the true character of the YART Yamaha team, as all three riders got their heads down and applied themselves in their efforts to hunt down the race leaders. What followed was an intriguing endurance battle, with two teams using different tactics in an attempt to win the race. The YART Yamaha team had the pace, but their rivals appeared to be able to make the Bridgestone tyres last longer.

For the rest of the race, a fascinating pit-stop cat and mouse game ensued, with all three of the YART Yamaha riders performing faultlessly throughout the night and on Sunday morning to give the team a chance of victory. They continued to reduce the deficit to the leaders during every stint, only to see them open a one-lap gap again after each round of pit stops. They responded by riding flawlessly, not placing a wheel off track during the entire 24 hours and maintaining an impressive pace throughout, with all three riders pushing to the limit.

As the hours passed, the race looked like it would go down to the wire. YART continued to pressure their rivals to force them into a mistake. With just 25 minutes remaining on the clock, Canepa returned to the pits for a “splash and dash” strategy and handed the reigns of the R1 to Hanika to set up a dramatic finish.

Unfortunately, a crash during the start saw the safety car deployed. That was how the race would finish, with the team finishing on 840 laps in second place, 1:45.582s behind the winner and securing their first podium at Le Mans since the 2016-2017 season. It was an excellent start to the championship, and the team managed to secure 55 points from the race and qualifying, leaving them only eight points behind the leaders with three more races left on the calendar, two of which are 24-hour races.

There was more joy for Yamaha as the Team 18 Sapeus Pompiers CMS Motostore of Hugo Clare, Baptiste Guittet, and Phillip Steinmayr claimed the Dunlop Superstock Trophy victory after finishing fourth overall. The Maco Racing Team of Anthony West, Enzo Boulom, and Richard Bodis fought valiantly despite several issues to finish the race in 32nd. At the same time, the Viltais Racing Igol team, made up of Florian Alt, Erwan Nigon, and Steven Odendaal was looking on course for a podium until disaster struck. A technical fault saw them forced to retire from the race in hour 19. Team Moto Ain’s British rider Bradley Smith got hit from behind during the start incident and was taken to hospital for further check and the team withdrew from the race during the third hour. There were also retirements for the Wojcik Racing Team after 14 hours due to a crash, and the 3ART Best of Bike team as the demanding Bugatti Circuit took no prisoners over the 24 hours.

Up next on the 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship calendar is the Spa EWC Motos at the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on the 2nd-5th of June.

Karel Hanika
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I am happy as this is my first podium in a 24-hour race! It is a great feeling to achieve this. I am very proud of the team because we did not make a single mistake apart from our issue at the start. We were the fastest riders on track in pretty much every session, the mechanics did an amazing job with the pit stops, and we did not have to visit the box once. After the last couple of years, many people have doubted our ability in the 24-hour races, so it was great to show them our potential. I think we can build on this result and be even stronger in the next races.”

Marvin Frits
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“Of course, we always want to win, but honestly, this second place feels like a dream because we have not managed to finish a 24-hour race for two years, so it was an amazing feeling to finish this race, secure a podium, and score as many points as we have at the first race of the season. We know what we have to work on, but it was an almost perfect race as a team. Each rider did an amazing job, and honestly, I couldn’t be prouder of the team, and now we are ready and can’t wait for Spa!”

Niccolo Canepa
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“We are delighted; due to some issues and lots of bad luck, we haven’t been able to finish a 24-hour race for a couple of years. So, to taste the champagne on the podium with my teammates is amazing. We know that we have the total package we need to fight for the championship. We are only eight points behind the leader, so the title race is still open, and we know that we can push hard at Spa to bring the victory home!”

Mandy Kainz
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team – Team Manager
“Our target was to get off to a good start for the season. We did not enjoy a great start during the race, but we fought back superbly to ensure we scored as many points as possible, which is the most important thing. It has been a while since we finished a 24-hour race. So, this result gives us confidence with the bike and the team for the rest of the season, especially in the two 24-hour races. The next race is at Spa, and we are ready to take the top step of the podium. I am thrilled because our riders, team, and bike performed perfectly apart from the issue at the start. In 24 hours, not one rider ran off track, we did not have one bad pit stop, and apart from the start, the bike was perfect. We have to be happy, as we are just 8 points behind the leaders and already have more points than the winner of Suzuka will get, so we are happy!”

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