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Stunning Second for YART Yamaha at Dramatic Le Mans

Stunning Second for YART Yamaha at Dramatic Le Mans

The Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team overcame everything that the 46th edition of the Le Mans 24 Heures Motos could throw at them to secure a sensational podium at the opening round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship in France.

The legendary endurance race at the 4.185 km Bugatti Circuit lived up to its reputation for drama as over 77,000 fans witnessed the action unfold over the weekend, with crashes, multiple safety cars, oil on the track, cold weather and even fog, all playing their part.

Saturday got off to a good start for the YART Yamaha team of Niccolò Canepa, Karel Hanika, and Marvin Fritz after the Austrian squad topped the Warm Up session. When the lights went out at 3 pm local time for the beginning of the race, it was German rider Fritz who took the first stint and, following the traditional running start, he got away well from second on the grid only to almost be caught up in a crash involving the two leading bikes on the very first lap. The 26-year-old recovered superbly to hit the front and open a four-second advantage before the first of several interruptions for safety cars would bring him back into the clutches of the other riders.

Fritz pitted from the lead to hand over to Hanika, and it looked like pit-stop strategy would be critical, with all three YART riders taking turns leading the race as they exchanged stops with their rivals. After six hours, Canepa had opened up a seven-second gap before he came into the pits due to an issue with the front brake calliper. Working quickly to resolve the problem, the team fixed the bike in just over three minutes to get the R1 back out on track in third, two laps behind the leaders.

Battling back strongly through the night as the air temperature dropped down to 3 degrees Celsius, Hanika retook second place just before the crucial eight-hour mark to claim nine of the ten available championship points available at that stage of the race. They continued to push as a heavy fog descended on the track making the challenge of riding in the dark even more demanding, consolidating second and consistently lapping quicker than the other teams on track.

Unfortunately, Hanika would find himself one of several riders caught out by oil on the circuit during the 13th hour of racing and crashed through no fault of his own, luckily walking away unhurt. To compound the team’s bad luck, another bike hit the #7 R1 as it lay in the gravel, causing more damage to the machine.

Once the bike was back in the garage, incredibly, the team managed to repair the damage in under nine minutes, meaning the battle for the podium was still on. Hanika immediately got back on the R1 and rejoined in fourth before mounting an excellent fightback that saw him move up to third by the 16-hour mark to secure eight more points for the team.

The Czech rider handed the hand the bike over to Canepa, who once again got his head down, setting the team’s fastest lap, a 1:35.984, during another impressive stint that ensured they were back in second when he pitted to swap with Fritz. The 29-year-old continued the good work, and the trio were faultless for the rest of the race, seeing out a tricky last few hours as they navigated slower riders and more safety car interruptions in style.

Canepa took the last stint to bring the YART R1 home in second after completing 825 laps, three laps behind the eventual winners, securing back-to-back podiums at Le Mans for the team in the process. With the unique way points are awarded in the Endurance World Championship, YART were awarded four in qualifying, nine at the eight-hour mark, eight at the 16-hour mark, and 33 for finishing the race in second, for a total of 54. This sees the Yamalube YART Yamaha Team second in the championship standings, just nine points behind the leaders.

The 3ART Best of Bike Yamaha team of Martin Renaudin, Ludovic Cauchi, and Mathieu Lagrive were also celebrating on the podium after they claimed second in the FIM Endurance World Cup and ninth overall in front of their home fans. The team scored 53 points in the SST class, leaving France second in the Cup Standings.

Wojcik Racing Team EWC 77’s Christoffer Bergman, Isaac Vinales and Mathieu Gines finished in 12th, while the Maco Racing Team of Anthony West, Enzo Boulom and Bálint Kovács were 32nd.  The KM Motos squad of Lucas Mahias, Florian Marino and Bastien Mackels showed good early pace before a crash saw their chances of success fall away, eventually retiring after 521 laps, while the Moto Ain Yamaha EWC Supported Team also recorded a DNF after a technical issue five hours into the race.

The next round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship is the 24H SPA EWC Motos at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium from the 16th to the 18th of June.

Full Le Mans 24 Heures Motos Race Results

Niccolò Canepa

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“It is great to start the season with a podium. Of course, our target was to win, but we lost that opportunity with the problems we encountered during the race. What counts is that the bike was incredible, and the Bridgestone tyres were amazing. We were able to be consistently the fastest bike on track, but we lost too much time to the winners due to the issues we had, but this is endurance racing. The team were brilliant and gave absolutely everything, as always. Thinking about the championship, we are in second, just nine points behind the leaders, which is a positive start. Now we will focus on Spa, aiming to go one better and claim victory.”

Karel Hanika

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“We are happy to start the season on the podium. After last year, we wanted to win, but in a race like this, you never know what will happen. The team that won had a mistake-free race, which doesn’t happen very often in endurance, so beating them would have been tough. Our whole team worked really well, and Niccolò had an incredible race. He was super fast, and Marvin also rode superbly; it was a great effort. The team never stopped working, and they should be very proud as the bike and Bridgestone tyres were amazing. Unfortunately, I had a crash on some oil which another bike had left on the track. I could not avoid it, as it happened in a millisecond, and you can't see anything at night. We lost some time, but the guys did an amazing job fixing the bike so quickly. Overall, I think it was one of the hardest races I have ever done, with the cold and fog, the crashes, the safety cars, the oil on the track, and the traffic. So, I think we can be super happy with the job we did.”

Marvin Fritz

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“We are delighted with the podium. While we would love to have won, finishing the race was the main focus, and we completed our goal. The bike worked fantastically, and the Bridgestone tyres were great. Every single person in the team did a fantastic job. My teammates rode brilliantly, and Karel was so unlucky with his crash. We came across some issues, but we never gave up. I don’t think I have ever known a race with so much drama; it was tough. Therefore, we should be very proud as a team and head to Spa feeling confident, as we know the hard work with the bike and the tyres during the winter has paid off. We still have a few things to improve, but we can’t wait to be back in action.”  

Mandy Kainz

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team – Team Manager

“To secure back-to-back podiums at Le Mans is a good feeling. Of course, we would have loved to have won the race, but our goal was to finish due to the number of points on offer, and we achieved that. The guys rode superbly. We had a slight issue with the front brake that lost us a couple of laps, and then more bad luck when Karel crashed on the oil, with another bike hitting ours in the gravel trap. I am incredibly proud of the team for how they responded to all the challenges, plus the amazing work they did during the offseason to prepare the bike. We have shown we have the pace, and the R1 and the Bridgestone tyres are working superbly, so even though we wanted to win, coming away with 54 points is a great result, and we will aim to build on this performance at Spa.”