Fritz got the team’s race underway from pole position but made a slow getaway and was seventh by the end of the opening lap. Knowing that the conditions of the track weren’t ideal due to the high temperatures, the 2016 IDM Superbike Champion kept his composure and began his controlled push through the field. The German quickly cleared the Ducati before launching an attack on two Kawasaki teams, picking both off in one clean pass at turn one.
With five minutes on the clock the 28-year-old began to bridge the gap to third and, by the 14th minute, he had put the YART Yamaha YZF-R1 back into the podium positions. Locked in a battle with BMW and SERT, he wasted no time in clearing the leading two riders. Getting a good drive out of the tyre punishing final corner, the Yamaha rider powered past both Gregg Black and Xavi Fores to take the lead.
As the first round of pit stops concluded, YART relinquished the lead following a small technical issue, which saw Canepa struggle to restart his machine as he left the pit box. Slotting back into a comfortable third, the Italian used his experience to control the race as the temperature and attrition rate began to rise.
Crashes for both SERT and BMW promoted the official Yamaha EWC team back to the lead, with a comfortable gap to second. As the race headed into its sixth hour, Canepa was back aboard the R1 and maintained the lead throughout a safety car period. With pressure starting to mount from his rivals, the 33-year-old continued to push. Determined to secure strong points, a mistake midway through the sixth hour saw YART crash out of contention for the win.
Returning to the garage, the team were quick to repair the damaged R1 and Hanika rejoined in 19th place. With half the race remaining, the trio continued to fight through the field and remained focused on returning to the top spot, finding themselves on the cusp of the top 10 as the final hour approached. With an hour of the race left to run, Fritz moved the R1 into 10th, where they eventually finished, securing 11 points for the championship.
It was a good day for the VRD IGOL Experiences and Moto Ain squads. VRD secured a strong fourth, narrowly missing out on a podium finish after running off track in the closing stages. Moto Ain followed their Yamaha counterparts home in a solid fifth place, with Wojcik Racing Team finishing 11th.
The FIM Endurance World Championship will take a break before returning to action at the 3.52-mile Paul Ricard circuit for the Bol d’Or 24-hour on September 18/19th.