World’s most challenging circuits: 24H SPA EWC Motos

2023 Yamaha YZF-R1M

Yamalube YART Yamaha Seeking Spa Redemption
The Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team head into Round 2 of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship, the second edition of the 24H SPA EWC Motos, aiming to build on their podium at the opening round of the season in Le Mans and bounce back from their heart-breaking late DNF while leading last year’s race.
The YART Yamaha Team of Karel Hanika, Niccolò Canepa, Marvin Fritz, and reserve-rider Robin Mulhauser are determined to get revenge at the 24H SPA EWC Motos after joy turned to despair during the 2022 edition of the race. Recovering from a tricky start, the team had mounted a sensational fightback to take the lead just before the 18-hour mark, only to see a technical issue force them to DNF and effectively end their championship aspirations.
Heading to Belgium in 2023 with 65 points up for grabs at each 24-hour race, the Australian squad are currently second in the EWC overall standings with 54 points after a stunning second place at the Le Mans 24 Heures Motos. The team is confident in following that result with another strong performance after topping Tuesday’s official test at Spa with a 2:19.657, 0.873s ahead of their nearest rival, as they look to lift their first title since 2009.
During the test, all three main riders showed excellent one-lap pace and managed to run extensive race simulations as they worked on finetuning the electronics setup and front-end feeling on the Bridgestone-shod #7 R1, while reserve-rider Mulhauser tested and prepared parts for the race. Their advantage at the top was even more impressive when you consider YART were one of the few leading EWC teams not to previously take part in a private test at the circuit in 2023.
The EWC returns to the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps for the second year in a row with the 24H SPA EWC Motos after a 21-year break, reviving the spirit of the famous 24 Heures de Liege that run until 2001.
The return of the historic Belgian track to the endurance calendar saw it undergo several changes to the layout to meet motorcycle racing safety requirements, including expanded run-off areas at several corners, repositioning of some safety barriers, and a minor realignment of Turn 9.
The new endurance-specific layout is 6.985km, making it the longest track on the calendar in 2023. It is also one of the fastest and features a combination of long straights, high-speed sections, and undulating elevation changes that make it one of the world’s most challenging circuits, with YART’s Hanika the current outright lap record holder with a 2:18.845 set in qualifying last year.
It was not just YART on the podium at Le Mans in April, as the 3ART Best of Bike Yamaha team of Martin Renaudin, Ludovic Cauchi, and Mathieu Lagrive were also celebrating after they claimed second in the FIM Endurance World Cup and ninth overall in front of their home fans, scoring 53 points in the SST class and leaving France second in the Cup Standings.
Wojcik Racing Team EWC 77’s Sheridan Morais, Isaac Vinales and Mathieu Gines will be looking for a top-ten finish after securing 12th at Le Mans, while the Maco Racing Team of Anthony West, Enzo Boulom and Bálint Kovács are hoping to improve on their 32nd place finish last time out in France.
The KM Motos squad of Lucas Mahias, Florian Marino and Bastien Mackels, and the Moto Ain Yamaha EWC Supported Team of Claudio Corti, Corentin Perolari, and Roberto Tamburini will be aiming to kickstart their seasons after they were both forced to retire from the race in Le Mans.
The action at the 2023 24H SPA EWC Motos kicks off on Friday with a one-hour Free Practice session at 10:00 am local time (UTC+2) before the 1st Qualifying Practice Session between 12:00-14:00 and the 2nd Qualifying Practice Session from 15:15-17:15. Then there is a 90-minute Night Practice session between 21:30-23:00 before Saturday’s 24-hour race kicks off at 14:00 with the iconic “Le Mans” running start.
Karel Hanika
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I am looking forward to the race now. Unlike most other teams, we only had the one-day official pre-test here on Tuesday. We were a bit worried beforehand that we might be a step behind the rest, but we were immediately up to speed, and the whole team was fast on long and short runs, which saw us end the day on top of the combined timesheets. I love racing here as it is a high-speed track. The YART R1 was awesome; we still need to improve a few little things on the settings for the traction control and engine braking, and a little with the front end, but honestly, we feel ready and fast. Our pace fills us with confidence, we need a little more luck than last year, and we can put ourselves in a solid championship position.”
Niccolò Canepa
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I am delighted with the test this week, as some of the other teams had some to Spa to test previously, and for us to be so much quicker was an excellent sign. We did a race simulation that was much faster than last year’s race pace, plus we also had very speed over one lap on the soft tyre. Therefore, we are confident heading into the rac3. The weather looks like it will be perfect too. Last year, we were leading the race when we had an issue that forced us to retire, so I believe we can fight for victory this year too.”
Marvin Fritz
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“We are as ready as we can be. We had fantastic weather here for the private practice at Spa, which meant we could ride all day with two bikes. This was important because we were one of the only teams which didn’t test beforehand. We worked on many things with the bike and showed our potential by ending the day in P1. I had been stuck in bed for one and a half weeks due to being sick, so I was happy I could get back on the bike and immediately be on the pace with my teammates. We aim to continue to work on Friday to be even stronger during the race.”
Robin Mulhauser
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I think we have prepared for this race superbly, even more so than last year, when it was a new track for most of us. The test went well, as we were not necessarily looking for fast lap times, yet we had a great pace. My three teammates were fast on their long stints while I helped prepare and test some parts of the race. Last year was heartbreaking for the whole team, so we are looking forward to getting the result we deserve this year here at Spa.”
Mandy Kainz
Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team – Team Manager
“It is great to be back at Spa. It is such an iconic circuit, with its elevation changes and high-speed nature, but this year we want to get our redemption after suffering from heartbreak in last year’s race. The team have prepared superbly. Unlike most teams, we did not test here before Tuesday, so finishing 0.8s ahead of the rest of the field was encouraging. The riders worked hard on the bike setup and completed race simulations, so we know we have good pace over a hot lap and longer stints. Now we must put it all together in the race and hope for better luck. Our aim, as always, is first to finish the race, as with so many points available, it is essential we reach the end of the 24 hours in the best position possible. I want to thank the whole team and Bridgestone for all of their hard work, and we are confident that if things go our way, we can be in the fight for victory.”
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