Team Kawasaki SRC scored the top-spot in the 78th Bol d’Or World Endurance Championship race, marking the team’s third-consecutive win in the prestigious 24-hour event. Yamaha Racing GMT 94 finished in the runner-up spot followed by Team Bollinger Switzerland in third.
The already challenging race was made more difficult with sporadic rain showers throughout. Kawasaki SRC was at a disadvantage before the race even started after team rider Mattheiu Lagrive suffered a crash in practice which left him with an injured dorsal vertebra. Lagrive soldiered on however, and decided to compete in the race despite his injury.
Gregory Leblanc was first to ride for Kawasaki SRC and faced a wet track during the initial rotations, a contributing cause to his crash six laps into competition. Leblanc recovered in 32nd-place and he and his team were forced to battle back up the ranks for the remainder of the race. Lagrive managed to complete two stints on the motorcycle before having to retire, so it was up to Leblanc and Nicholas Slachaud to complete the race.
“To be honest it was quite difficult for me to imagine that we could win this race,” said Kawasaki SRC Team Manager Giles Stafler. “I’m used to endurance racing but I can say that it is the most difficult one I have had to deal with. I would like to thank all the team members and for sure my three riders. Matthieu did his best with his injury and Nicolas and Grégory did a fantastic job on the bike. I can’t forget Pirelli’s support which greatly helped us to claim this third victory in a row at the Bol d’Or.”
Yamaha’s team faced a fair amount of difficulty as well, losing time when a crash ahead of them slowed the pace. Later, rider Kenny Foray had an off as well which left the R1 in need of repair. Luckily Foray was able to get the bike to the garage and after 12 minutes of repair work the team was back in action.
Some of the most dominant teams in this year’s WEC weren’t as fortunate as the Yamaha squad. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, the defending World Endurance champions, crashed out during the night-time hours and were unable to continue. Monster Energy YART also retired from competition after a number of crashes. Honda Racing made it to the final hours of the race, but then the gearbox sprocket broke and caused engine damage too extensive to repair, forcing the squad to pull out as well. All three teams were in contention for podium position while still in competition.
“We’re terribly disappointed,” said Honda Racing’s Team Manager, Neil Tuxworth. “I feel so sad for the riders and the team for all the effort they’ve made. It was such a small part that broke, just a gearbox sprocket that damaged the engine and we couldn’t continue. If we’re to take any positives from it it’s that we were the strongest team in the race, we were leading by five laps and I’m certain that the team will go on to win some races this year. It’s just very unfortunate that we couldn’t finish the Bol d’Or. We’ve still gained 19-points in the championship so we’re not going away empty handed. We’ll come back fighting next time.”
Team Motors Events April Moto finished in fourth-place followed by National Motos in fifth. Team R2CL took sixth ahead of TMC City Bike TRT 27 in seventh and Maco Racing Team in eighth.
WEC Bol d’Or 24-Hours Results 2014
1. Kawasaki SRC, 743 laps
2. Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin, 738 laps
3. Bollinger Team Switzerland, 731 laps
4. Team Motors Events April Moto, 730 laps
5. National Motos, 725 laps
6. Team R2CL, 722 laps
7. TMC City Bike TRT 27, 698 laps
8. Maco Racing Team, 678 laps
9. Flembbo Leader Team, 666 laps
10. Team Space Moto 37, 665 laps
World Endurance Championship Points 2014
1. Kawasaki SRC, 55
2. Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin, 50
3. Bollinger Team Switzerland, 37
4. Team Motors Events April Moto, 35
5. National Motos, 32
6. Team R2CL, 24
7. Honda Racing, 19
8. TMC City Bike TRT 27, 19
9. Maco Racing Team, 15
10. Flembbo Leader Team, 13