SRC Kawasaki got a great jump on the field at Le Mans and surfaced with the win during the 24-hour contest.
SRC Kawasaki has won the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours World Endurance competition in France. After a race-long battle with S.E.R.T. Suzuki, riders Julien Da Costa, Gregory Leblanc and Olivier Four completed 834 laps to edge ahead of Anthony Delhalle, Daisaku Sakai and Baptiste Guittet by a single lap. As a result of their runner-up finish, S.E.R.T. has retaken the lead in the overall 2011 FIM World Endurance Championship by nine points ahead of BMW Motorrad France 99.
The contest began on Saturday with SRC Kawasaki, SERT Suzuki and YART Yamaha breaking away from the field during the first hour. Meanwhile BMW Motorrad France was running fourth with Honda TT Legends rounding out the top-five. A number of crashes took place during the first 30 minutes, including a high-speed incident in which a rider had to be taken away by stretcher. SERT was the first of the lead teams to pit for fuel and tires, followed by YART’s compulsory stop-go and Honda TT Legends.
During the second hour SRC Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad Sport swapped the lead multiple times as YART remained outside the top-15 after its penalty. By the fourth hour BMW Motorrad France, SRC Kawasaki and SERT Suzuki were all on the same lap as Bolliger Kawasaki, TT Legends Honda and National Motos Honda remained two laps behind. Only 10 seconds separated the first three riders. Soon after the fifth hour, BMW had created a lead of more than 42 seconds ahead of Kawasaki and Suzuki, but it wouldn’t last in the many hours that followed.
Nine hours into the contest the GMT94 squad was out of the race following a crash which summoned the pace car. A few hours later BMW drifted out of the lead after a slow pit stop, putting Suzuki in the lead ahead of SRC Kawasaki. With eight hours to go Kawasaki began to attack Suzuki for the lead as just 20 seconds separated to two teams. Meanwhile YART made major progress following its early penalty to move back into a podium position close to eight laps behind the leaders. BMW Motorrad France continued to slip down the rankings during the early morning hours on Sunday following a fueling problem that kept them in the pits.
With six hours to go Honda TT Legends was up to fifth place and attempting to reel in Team Bolliger as YMES Folch shadowed their every move. As the sun came up Suzuki pitted in order to replace a tail fairing, costing the team a full lap on SRC Kawasaki. YART Yamaha was more than seven laps behind with just four hours to go.
In the end SRC Kawasaki held on for the win ahead of Suzuki. YART Yamaha droped one more lap behind the leader but still managed to grab the final podium spot ahead of Bolliger, who remained three laps behind Yamaha. John McGuinness, Cameron Donald and Keith Amor claimed fifth 15 laps behind the leaders, followed by Folch Endurance and BMW.
2011 24-Hours Le Mans World Endurance Results:
1. SRC Kawasaki: Julien Da Costa, Gregory Leblanc, Olivier Four (Kawasaki) 834 Laps
2. S.E.R.T.: Anthony Delhalle, Daisaku Sakai, Baptiste Guittet (Suzuki) 833 Laps
3. Monster Yamaha YART: Igor Jerman, Steve Martin, Loris Baz (Yamaha) 826 Laps
4. Bolliger Team Switzerland: Horst Saiger, Roman Stamm, Jerome Tangre (Kawasaki) Laps 823
5. Honda TT Legends: John McGuinness, Keith Amor, Cameron Donald (Honda) 819 Laps
6. YMES Folch Enduance: Daniel Ribalta, Luis Vallcaneras (Yamaha) 817 Laps
7. BMW Motorrad France 99: Sebastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon, Damian Cudlin (BMW) 817 Laps
8. TRT 27 City Bike: Camille Hedelin, Mickael Varesco, Vincent Houssin (Suzuki) 810 Laps
9. Maccio Racing: Axel Maurin, Lionel Richier, Frederic Moreira (Kawasaki) 795 Laps
10. Team Dunlop Motors: Mickael Wolf, Franck Deneque, Mathieu Charpin (Suzuki) 791 Laps
Despite not winning, S.E.R.T. has retaken the lead in the championship with only two rounds remaining.
2011 FIM World Endurance Championship Points:
1. S.E.R.T., 90
2. BMW Motorrad France 99, 81
3. SRC Kawasaki, 63
4. Yamaha Racing France GMT 94 Ipone, 46
5. YMES Folch Endurance, 39
6. Monster Yamaha YART, 38
7. Bolliger Team Switzerland, 36
8. FCC TSR Honda, 30
9. Honda TT Legends, 30
10. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team, 24