Round one of the 2018-2019 FIM Endurance World Championship got underway at 3pm yesterday at Circuit Paul Ricard and Honda’s endurance specialists Sébastien Gimbert, Gregory LeBlanc and Erwan Nigon dug deep in the early stages of the 24-hour race, making up places from their starting position in sixth.
With consistent lap times aboard the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 and slick pit stops from the Honda crew, the team had moved into second place at the eight-hour stage, collecting nine championship points. It was just after midnight when they took the lead and, pushing on, built a 43 second advantage over second place.
At 1.08am Gimbert returned to the pit reporting an issue with the machine and it was all hands on deck as the team worked hard to discover that a cylinder head bolt had broken. They were then left with two choices; retire or try to repair and get back to racing.
Over the next six hours and 20 minutes the Honda team made a valiant effort, stripping the engine and working to repair the damage. As the sun started to rise across the circuit, the Fireblade roared into life and at 07.27am LeBlanc left the garage.
With all eyes on the Honda squad LeBlanc completed a stint and swapped with teammate Nigon. However Nigon returned to the pit after experiencing a loss of power and at just before 09.00am this morning, after 330 laps and 17 hours and 49 minutes of racing, the heart-breaking decision was made to retire from the race.
Despite the result the Honda Endurance Racing team leave the Bol d’Or with their heads held high after leading one of the most prestigious endurance racing events and showing superb teamwork throughout.
Taking home the 2018 Bol d’Or trophy are reigning World Champions F.C.C. TSR Honda France who took control of the lead with around three hours left on the clock. Digging deep throughout and having to make up places having dropped down the pack in the early hours, the teams’ riders Freddy Foray, Mike Di Meglio and Josh Hook pushed hard aboard the CBR1000RR, to eventually cross the line in first place having completed 698 laps.
Sébastien Gimbert 111
Today has been difficult, firstly it wasn’t so bad before midnight we were first and in a very good position; we had good strategy and good race pace. We continued to lead for some time but then we had a problem and I had to return to the pit. It turned into a big problem with the bolt, the mechanics worked so hard and we returned to the race this morning with Greg. He started well and then Erwan took over, but we started to have problems with the power and it was too much to continue, the Bol d’Or is very high speed and we cannot risk. My dream for sure is to win here and before the race I said it would be my last Bol, but now it is necessary to return next year!
Erwan Nigon 111
Every time it is bad when it is the end of the race and especially when you have been in first position, but you know this is racing and endurance isn’t easy! But we have good news as we performed well, we had good race pace and we were at the top for some time. We have a lot of information and have learnt a lot, the team were amazing and worked so hard to get us back out this morning, so I would like to thank them. Although we end early we do have a lot to be happy about and now we move on stronger.
Gregory LeBlanc 111
We have had a good and bad race, the good was that we were first after 11 hours and honestly I think and hope we could win! We had the level and speed on track, and we had a good advantage over second place with 40 seconds plus they had to stop, so we would have moved ahead further. Séb discovered the problem and the team worked for over six hours to get fixed, I restart and I rode for an hour and I felt some loss of power and Erwan also felt the same. We were down in 44th place after the time in the garage and it would have been very difficult to make many places up across the remainder of the race. But you know this is racing and it does happen, we were not the first team to experience a problem and we won’t be the last.
We had a really good build up in the week consistent improvement with the set-up, the riders’ feeling and the economy of the bike, and everyone was feeling positive coming into race day. We set out as we always do with solid pace and gradually building our way into it. We made our way into the top three and then into the lead, where we thought we could execute our strategy and make a play for the win. But unfortunately one of the things that go hand-in-hand in endurance are mechanical problems, and this is what we had today with the cylinder head bolt. Once back in the garage it turned out very difficult to remove and we had to strip the engine, we thought about retiring but decided we should do everything we can to stay in the race, whilst we had the chance, so we repaired and got back on track. Unfortunately the bike started showing issues with Erwan and with the amount of work we had already done it was very difficult to diagnose and we felt it was right to retire. It wasn’t an easy decision as the mechanics worked so hard throughout. All the riders were superb and also the mechanics, we have proved that we do have what it takes to win, maybe next time with a little bit more luck. Also huge congratulations to F.C.C. TSR Honda France on winning the race today; it was a great result for them and it was a fantastic race to watch at the end, well done to everyone involved.
Circuit Paul Ricard, France
FIM EWC 2018-2019, Round 1
|1||F.C.C. TSR Honda France||Honda||698|
|4||Bolliger Team Switzerland||Kawasaki||695|
|5||Suzuki Endurance Racing Team||Suzuki||691|
|6||Gert56 German Endurance Racing Team||BMW||688|
|7||Team SRC Kawasaki France||Kawasaki||687|
|8||Webike Tati Team Trickstar||Kawasaki||686|
|9||Motobox Kremer Racing #65||Yamaha||679|
|11||Wójcik Racing Team||Yamaha||675|
|12||No Limits Motor Team||Suzuki||675|
|13||Wójcik Racing Team||Yamaha||674|
|14||BMRT 3D MACCIO RACING||Kawasaki||673|
|15||Yamaha Viltaïs Pierret Experiences||Yamaha||672|
|16||Zuff Racing Team||Honda||670|
|17||MOTOTECH EWC TEAM||Yamaha||662|