The team got their 24 Heures Motos underway under dark and gloomy skies in the hands of Niccoló Canepa who, after a steady start from pole position, found his rhythm and charged back from seventh to second at the end of the first ten minutes. The Italian used all his experience to get to the end of his rain-hit first stint before passing the number seven YZF-R1 over to German rider Marvin Fritz.
YART took full advantage of making their first change at the 50-minute mark, Fritz was released into a relatively clear track, and once race leaders F.C.C. TSR Honda France had made their first pit-stop, he was within striking distance of taking the lead. The 2016 IDM Superbike champion made the pass on Josh Hook into the Le Musée corner of turn five and immediately opened a gap.
With the hard work done, Fritz controlled the pace at the front before handing over to Karel Hanika, who had a problematic stint ahead. Hanika’s first obstacle came when the safety car was deployed due to a technical issue for another competitor. As the race got back underway, the 24-year-old wasted no time in clearing the traffic as he looked to extend the lead. But, as the rain got heavier Hanika made a small error mid-way through the second hour, crashing out at Garage Vert. Uninjured, he was able to bring the damaged R1 back to the pits.
The team were able to repair the machine but the crash was costly. As Niccoló Canepa returned the team to the track, they were in 28th position. The former MotoGP rider kept a calm head while others crashed around him and quickly brought the team back into contention, knocking on the door of the top ten by the end of his second stint.
Up to ninth after five and a half hours, the team would suffer from a small issue with the R1’s lights during a pit stop. They were able to fix the issue quickly, but dropped back to 14th before they were able to return to the track.
A strong effort from all three riders saw YART return to the top ten fight as the track started to dry out. An impressive stint from Fritz would then see them move into eighth position as the night drew in - scoring them an extra three world championship points.
As darkness fell, the team found themselves in a battle for fifth, which they’d take and solidify by the 16-hour mark to take a further six championship points. Throughout the night, YART were the quickest team on track, taking advantage of the grip provided by the Bridgestone slicks in the cooler, dry conditions.
Chasing down fourth position, Hanika powered through a wet Sunday morning before Canpea took over as the track dried out, closing the gap to BMW in fourth, catching and passing them with just over three hours to go.
YART’s podium chances were reignited with two hours remaining after a crash for the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, who were running second at the time. Fritz started to dig deep, piling the pressure on their rivals before making his final pit stop and handing over to Hanika.
Despite the best efforts of the Czech rider, he couldn’t match the pace of the repaired Suzuki, who strapped on the dry tyres while Hanika was still on wets. YART Yamaha turned their attention to bringing the bike home in fourth, which they were able to successfully do, taking 24 valuable points plus the points secured for their pole position and earlier in the race.
The Wojcik Racing Team of Gino Rea, Broc Parkes and Axel Maurin also suffered their fair share of issues. However, the team powered on to finish the race in an impressive seventh overall, while their independent championship rivals, MOTO AIN finished tenth and represented Yamaha on the podium with a third in the Superstock class with pilots Roberto Rolfo, Robin Mulhauser and Hugo Clere.
Attention now turns to the 12-hour season finale in Estoril on Saturday 26th September with YART Yamaha lying third in the overall standings, 45 points adrift of the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. Yamaha head into the final round having extended their lead in the manufacturer’s championship, now holding an advantage of 33 points over Suzuki.