The YART Yamaha EWC Team are set to start their 2021 campaign this weekend as the new season of the FIM Endurance World Championship gets underway with the Le Mans 24 Heures Motos.
Eight months after victory in the final round of the 2019/2020 season in Estoril, Niccolò Canepa, Karel Hanika, and Marvin Fritz are raring to get their 2021 season underway as the series returns to the iconic Bugatti Circuit in north-western France this weekend.
Coming off the back of a promising pre-season in which the Austrian-based squad further improved the set-up of their R1, the official Yamaha EWC team will be aiming for nothing less than a podium finish when the flag falls at the end of the weekend’s gruelling 24-hour event. The trio enjoyed a positive Le Mans last year, topping the practice sessions and claiming pole position but a challenging race, hampered with changeable conditions, saw the team fight back to fourth after a difficult start.
The team has completed a series of positive pre-season tests in Le Mans, Estoril, Valencia and Brno and are quietly confident ahead of the new season after making gains with the electronics of the number seven R1.
The Bugatti Circuit, located in Le Mans, France, was constructed in 1965 and featured on the World Endurance calendar for the first time in 1978. At 4.185km in length, Le Mans is the third-longest circuit on the 2021 calendar but by far one of the toughest. Unpredictable weather conditions, as well as a mixture of low, medium and high speed corners, heavy braking zones, elevation changes and fast changes of direction, makes the 24-hour race one of the most demanding races on the calendar.
The Wójcik Racing Team are also in high spirits ahead of the upcoming season. Two podiums in 2020 rewarded them with a fourth-place finish in the overall standings. Adam Stepien’s team will field the experienced Gino Rea, 36-year-old Sheridan Morais and the 2019 World Supersport Champion, Randy Krummenacher, giving the team an ultra-strong and crucially an experienced rider line-up for 2021.
The Moto Ain team will compete in the Formula EWC class after taking back-to-back championships in the FIM Endurance World Cup. Team principal Pierre Chapuis has chosen former 250cc and Moto2 Grand Prix race winner Roberto Rolfo, Swiss rider Robin Mulhauser and French veteran and MotoGP podium finisher Randy de Puniet.
Wójcik Racing Team 2 finished as the second-highest Yamaha in 2020’s FIM Endurance World Cup with a fourth-place finish overall. The Polish junior team will field Marek Szkopek, Christoffer Bergman, Michal Filla and Arture Wielebski in a bid to fight for the World Cup crown.
The event gets underway with private practice sessions on Tuesday ahead of Qualifying commencing on Thursday at 16:00 local time, before a night practice session. The second and final Qualifying session concludes on Friday before the lights go out for another edition of the prestigious Le Mans 24 Heures Motos at noon on Saturday.
Niccolò Canepa – YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I’m really happy to start the season and get back racing! Although I’m not 100% physically, I’m really looking forward for the Le Mans 24-hour this weekend. I recovered quite well from the injury, but I’m missing some muscle in my left leg and there is still some pain when riding the bike. We did three days of testing in Brno and the feeling was pretty good and the lap times we were doing was fast also. We have some upgrades to the bike, and I feel good on it so I’m confident. I have great team-mates alongside me and a great team so I know if I’m in trouble, we will still be ready to do a good performance. I can’t wait to start the week!”
Marvin Fritz – YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“Finally we race this week! We’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time, we’ve had some good pre-season tests and after last year’s win at Estoril and finishing second overall, we have one clear target. We have the strongest rider line up and a fantastic team. We improved our R1 from last year to this year a lot, and we can’t wait to start riding on Tuesday at Le Mans.”
Karel Hanika – YART Yamaha EWC Official Team
“I’m happy we will finally race in 2021. We’ve had a very positive pre-season and found a couple of new things for our Yamaha R1. I’ve worked hard over the off-season to make sure I am 100% ready for the season ahead. 24-hours is a challenging race, but I feel good and ready.”
Mandy Kainz – YART Yamaha EWC Official Team, Team Manager
“Our last test was positive and the boys were quicker than we expected. We feel ready for the first round but 24-hour races almost make their own rules! To win you need to be clever but also lucky, so we will try to be clever and we know both our bike and riders are very good. But a 24-hour race is a 24-hour race and anything can happen so we need to hope for that bit of luck too! If we are clever and the luck is on our side, we are confident we can fight for the victory.”