YART Yamaha’s Le Mans 24 hours came to an early end after a mechanical failure in the tenth hour finished their race while running in second place. However, despite a strong showing in the first half of the race, the team have secured 14 FIM Endurance World championship points.
With temperatures rising, Karel Hanika got YART’s 2021 season underway, but after an issue off the line he found himself down the order in 15th. The race was quickly disrupted following a first corner incident for the Wojcik Racing Team and this allowed the Czech rider to recompose himself before charging back through the field. The former Red Bull Rookies Cup Champion carved his way through the pack and quickly found himself back inside the top ten by the end of the opening ten minutes. Five minutes later and Hanika was inside the top five and continued his push for the podium places.
Setting the fastest lap of the race, the 25-year-old continued to push and moved up to third place before picking off the Tati Team Beringer Racing Kawasaki at Garage Vert to take second place. With a 2.7 second gap ahead of him, Hanika pushed on and caught the leading bike by the end of his opening stint.
With the number seven R1 now in the hands of Marvin Fritz, the German rider emerged back on track right behind the SERT bike, where he stayed for the duration of his stint. Keeping the team well within contention, Fritz pulled into the pits, and it was the turn of the experienced Niccoló Canepa. A vital pit stop for the YART squad saw the Italian take the lead of the race but couldn’t hang on as his stint went on. Struggling with rear grip due to the hotter temperatures, the official Yamaha team kept calm and ticked off the laps while keeping themselves within reach of the race lead.
Approaching the four-hour mark, Hanika was back onboard the R1 and closed the time lost during the pit stop. Following the SERT bike, the Czech rider pounced to take the lead, and a titanic battle with Gregg Black began. Hanika grabbed the lead but gave it up by pitting a lap earlier than his rival. In a comfortable second place, the YART team continued to push on and secured themselves nine extra points at the eight-hour mark.
However, YART’s hunt for a victory came to a dramatic end at the tenth hour as Marvin Fritz pulled the R1 into the pit. A heroic effort by the team saw the engine stripped and rebuilt within an hour, but with too much damage, the team was forced to retire from the race.
Despite the retirement, YART were able to secure 14 championship points in Le Mans and are determined to carry their race-winning pace into the second round of the season in Estoril, Portugal, on July 17th.
Moto Ain also retired from the season-opening event. The Yamaha squad had been running inside the top five, but a crash for Randy de Puniet saw their podium charge come to an end. With damage to the bike, the team was forced to retire.