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YART Yamaha Aiming to Start Season in Style at Le Mans

YART Yamaha Aiming to Start Season in Style at Le Mans

The Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team head into the opening round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship, the 46th edition of the legendary Le Mans 24 Heures Motos in France, full of confidence after a superb preseason that saw them top the official Pre-Test and Private Practice.

The YART Yamaha team are raring to go at Le Mans after a 2022 season that promised so much but eventually saw them finish sixth overall in the championship, despite routinely being the fastest bike on the grid. Once again, consistency is key for the Austrian squad in 2023, retaining the same lineup of Karel Hanika, Niccolò Canepa, Marvin Fritz, and reserve rider Robin Mulhauser as they look to lift the EWC trophy for the first time since 2009.

The team enjoyed a superb preseason, working hard to solve the issues that affected them last year, focusing on finetuning the electronics package on the R1 and working with Bridgestone on some new tyre options. During their first test of the year, they smashed the outright lap record at the Automotodrom Grobnik in Rijeka, Croatia, before setting a new all-time EWC fastest lap at the Bugatti Circuit during the official Le Mans Pre-Test.

It was Czech rider Hanika who beat his own lap record on the Bridgestone-shod Yamaha R1, with a 1:34.759 around the 4.185 km track, over a tenth quicker than the 1:34.878 he set in last year’s qualifying, a feat made even more impressive by the fact the 26-year-old is still recovering from surgery he had on his right shoulder in December.

Building on this, they also made the most of the two Private Practice sessions held at the track on Tuesday ahead of the race weekend, focusing on longer runs before Italian Canepa set a 1:35.833 in the dry morning session to top the combined timesheets. Then, when the rain came in the afternoon, the team found a good setup for the #7 R1 in the wet to back up their dry pace.

YART have an excellent record at the Le Mans 24 Heures Motos and will be looking to make it four consecutive pole positions when qualifying takes place on Thursday and Friday. Their aim for the race is to try and go one better than last year when they finished in second, although with 65 points up for grabs - 5 for qualifying, 40 for finishing first, plus another 10 points for the leading team at the eight and 16-hour marks - they are conscious that the most important goal is to reach the finish to ensure the best possible start to the season.

In 2022, Yamaha lifted both the FIM Endurance World Championship Manufacturer’s and the FIM Endurance World Cup Manufacturer's trophies, and the R1 is the most popular bike on the Le Mans entry list this year, with 24 teams out of 54 picking it as their weapon of choice. After equalling their best-ever finish with second at the Bol d’Or to finish as the leading Yamaha team in the overall standings in fifth, Sheridan Morais and Mathieu Gines return for the Wojcik Racing Team EWC 77 in 2023, alongside new teammate Isaac Vinales.

The experienced Australian Anthony West will once again ride for the Maco Racing Team, accompanied once again by Enzo Boulom, with Bálint Kovács joining the team for 2023. The Moto Ain Yamaha EWC Supported Team will be spearheaded once more by former MotoGP rider Claudio Corti and the returning Frenchman Corentin Perolari, as they are joined by EWC debutant and WorldSBK rider Roberto Tamburini.

There is also a brand-new Yamaha team for 2023 in the shape of the Belgian-based KM Motos, who will make their debut in the EWC with a lineup consisting of 2016/17 EWC Champion and 2017 WorldSSP Champion Lucas Mahias from France, his compatriot Florian Marino, and experienced Belgian Bastien Mackels. Plus, the reigning FIM Endurance World Cup Champions, Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motostore, will look to defend their title with the returning Philipp Steinmayr joined by Enzo De La Vega and Axel Maurin.

The action at Le Mans gets underway on Thursday with a two-hour Free Practice session at 10 am local time (UTC+2) before the first qualifying sessions from 4 pm until 5:50 pm. The second qualifying sessions occur between 10:20 am and 12:10 pm on Friday, before the 46th edition of the Le Mans 24 Heures Motos starts at 3 pm on Saturday.

Karel Hanika

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“I am excited to finally start the season. It has been an excellent pre-season. We had a couple of very positive tests and made a step forward with the electronics, plus we worked with the Bridgestone guys to improve our feeling with the tyres. Overall, we feel really good. We did a lot of mileage, focusing on long runs, to understand the potential of the R1. I am still not 100% physically after the surgery on my right shoulder in December, but I am already feeling much better and ready for the race. I have a great team around me and the best teammates, so we feel we have a very good chance to be competitive this year. We will do everything we can to get the season off to the best possible start here at Le Mans. The private test on Tuesday went well, especially as we got time on the bike in both dry and wet conditions, so we are happy and looking forward to the race.”

Niccolò Canepa

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“We had a great preseason. We set a new lap record at our test at Rijeka and then set the fastest-ever EWC lap at Le Mans in the official Pre-Test, so we are excited as we have been very fast. As always, we come to Le Mans ready to start the season in the best way possible and ready to fight. The team worked extremely hard during the winter to try and solve some of the issues we suffered last year. I believe we have the best team, and we can fight for the title this year. We just need to avoid mistakes. We have had a great start to the race week, and I managed to set the fastest time during the Private Practice sessions on Tuesday. I also had the opportunity to do one full stint in the morning session, plus get some time on the R1 in the wet in the afternoon, and in both conditions, we felt super strong, and we know we can fight at the front during the race.”

Marvin Fritz

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“It was an excellent preseason. We had a great test a Rijeka and at the official Pre-Test at Le Mans. Tuesday’s Private Practice went well, too, especially as we had dry conditions in the morning, and rain in the afternoon, which was perfect. We feel we have a good setup with the R1 no matter the conditions, and the bike feels easy to ride, which is very important for 24-hour races. With all the experience we have, we know not to over-focus on trying to win. The important thing in a 24-hour race, with so many points up for grabs, is to finish. So, we must stay calm and ensure we reach the end of the race to maximise our point haul for the championship. We have the best team, and I have the best teammates I could wish for. Bridgestone did an amazing job too, and the tyres are working really well. We are confident for the race, and I cannot wait to start Free Practice on Thursday.”

Robin Mulhauser

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

“When it came to preseason, we focused on quality over quantity, ensuring that we achieved something each time we tested. We set a lap record at each track we went to, so we feel confident. All four riders have been quick, and I think we can achieve great things this season. We know we have the fastest one-lap pace heading into the race, and the bike feels great on longer runs, so now we need to keep our focus, and for sure, we can win races this year. We have the best team, and everyone has been working so hard; I think we can achieve great things this season.”

Mandy Kainz

Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team – Team Manager

“It has been a long winter, but we enjoyed a superb preseason. The whole YART team has been working hard to solve the issues we had last year, and I am happy with the work done at the Rijeka test and the official Le Mans Pre-Test, setting lap records at both. All the riders have shown great pace, not just over one lap but over long runs too. Our preparations continued at the Private Practice, where we found a good setup for the R1 in wet and dry conditions. We are ready for the start of the season. We know our potential, but with so many points available in a 24-hour race, first, we must finish. Our aim is simple, to get the season off to the best possible start here at Le Mans.”