BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent took first at the 8 Hours of Doha, Bollinger Team Switzerland (left) took second and Honda TT Legends (right) placed third.
BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent earned its first win of the FIM Endurance World Championship at the 8 Hours of Doha in Qatar. The BMW squad was followed by Bollinger Team Switzerland in second place and Honda TT Legends in third. The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), second-place finishers at the Bol d’Or Endurance World Championship, missed the podium in Round 2 finishing fourth.
Sébastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon and Damian Cudlin comprised the winning team and were dominant at the Losail International Circuit in practice and qualifying sessions. The team earned pole position and Nigon was the first to ride. During his stint, the French rider posted the fastest lap of the race and worked to create a gap out front. An oil spill allowed the team to pit and Nigon handed the reigns over to Gimbert who regained the lead on Lap 39, from which point on the BMW team remained in first to the end. Nigon piloted the BMW S1000RR at the finish and enjoyed a three-lap lead over Bollinger Team Switzerland.
“The start of the race wasn’t easy, because it was so hot, but I pushed really hard to try and pull a gap straight way, and it worked perfectly until the pace car came out and everyone closed back up again”, Nigon explained. “Sébastien managed to re-establish the gap during his first stint then, together with Damian, we were able to control the race from the front.”
Honda TT Legends marked their first podium of the season. Since the Isle of Man TT was taking place during the 8 Hours of Doha, the Legends team was comprised of stand-in riders Michael Laverty, Jason O’Halloran and Ryuichi Kiyonari, as regulars John McGuinness, Cameron Donald and Simon Andrews were away contesting the TT. The Honda riders remained consistent during the eight hour contest, remaining in the top-five from early on and reaching as high as second-place.
“This was my first endurance race and it has given me such an appreciation for what a tough discipline of motorcycle racing it really is,” Laverty confided after the event. “I have enjoyed every minute of it and it is such a good feeling to bring it home on the podium.”
Jason O’Halloran added, “I just want to say thanks for asking me to come and ride this bike for such a great team. Kiyo and Michael both did a fantastic job and I think we really worked well as a team to achieve this result. The race went exactly as planned and with no real drama.”
The SERT riders weren’t so lucky. A faulty oil line on the GSX-R1000 caused the defending World Champions to make two unscheduled pit stops after just two-hours. Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Yukio Kagayama rallied back though and were just one position off the podium in spite of the long delay.
“Obviously we are very disappointed,” said SERT Team Manager Dominique Meliand. “We have been using these oil lines – which are used in F1 – for many years. All we can think is that we have obtained some faulty units, but these two 10cm-long parts cost us 10 valuable Championship points.”
Monster Energy YART, third-place finishers at the Bol d’Or, were forced to exit the race half-way through due to engine problems as did fourth-place Bol d’Or finishers Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube.
FIM World Endurance Championship 8 Hours of Doha Results:
1. BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent (BMW) 226 laps
2. Bollinger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki) + 3 laps
3. Honda TT Legends (Honda) + 4 laps
4. SERT (Suzuki) + 59.351
5. QERT (Suzuki) + 6 laps
6. Motors Events AMT (Suzuki) +7 laps
7. Penz 13 (BMW) +25.455
8. DG Sport (Yamaha) +8 laps
9. Maco Racing Team (Yamaha) + 10 laps
10. Atomic Motorsport (Suzuki) + 11 laps