Round 02 France
F.C.C. TSR Honda France Wins Le Mans, Honda Endurance Racing Finishes Second
F.C.C. TSR Honda France was victorious at the 24 Heures Motos, Round 2 of the 2017-2018 FIM Endurance World Championship, held at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans, France, while Honda Endurance Racing took its Honda CBR1000RR to second place.
#5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France (Freddy Foray / Joshua Hook / Alan Techer) was victorious at the 24 Heures Motos, Round 2 of the 2017-2018 FIM Endurance World Championship, held at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans, France, while #111 Honda Endurance Racing (Sébastien Gimbert / Grégory Leblanc / Erwan Nigon) took its Honda CBR1000RR to second place.
#5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s win gives it the lead in the championship, while #111 Honda Endurance Racing is now third overall, and their performance in France gives Honda its first 1-2 finish at Le Mans since 1986.
As the race started at 3:00pm on Saturday, April 21, #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s lead rider, Foray, secured his place in the lead group, maintaining 3rd or 4th position. #111 Honda Endurance Racing, starting 7th on the grid, pitted early due to electrical issues, which set them back to 38th despite rapid work by the pit crew. This year’s Le Mans was hectic: established competitors that would normally be able to overcome issues and regain places, gradually faded from the leaders board.
Despite a shattered screen forcing a cowl replacement and Techer’s stamina not holding up since his rehabilitation, #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France overcame their problems by adjusting stint length and rider rotation, maintaining a lonely 2nd position. #111 Honda Endurance Racing staged a determined comeback from 38th, gaining places consistently.
GMT94 YAMAHA had led much of the race, but irreparable damage before the 18 hour mark forced them to relinquish the lead. #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France, holding 2nd place a few laps behind, was given the lead, which they defended right up to the checkered flag, for their first Le Mans win. Their accomplishment was truly a team effort, with Foray’s experience, winning multiple Le Mans 24 hour races, Hook’s vitality, Techer’s concentration in the late stages to maintain their position despite fatigue, the mechanics, and the team crews from F.C.C. and Honda France.
Early morning on April 22, Leblanc powered his #111 Honda Endurance Racing bike into the top 5, before handing the reins to Nigon, who rode a solid stint, aiming for the podium. Gimbert was in the saddle for the team at the end, crossing the finish line in an impressive 2nd place after an impressive late stage charge.
In the 24 hour race, bonus points are earned at the 8 and 16 hour marks, with 10 bonus points from first, through 1 point for 10th. #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France had passed the 8 and 16 hour marks in 2nd place, and were ranked 2nd at the 8 hour mark, but their win gives them the lead in the overall championship. #111 Honda Endurance Racing also improved their points standing to 3rd overall.
Two 8 hour endurance races await, at Slovakia in May and Oschersleben in June, before the season finale at Suzuka in July. In contrast to 24 hour races, any mistake can lead to insurmountable delays in an 8 hour race, needing perfect preparation.
The next round, the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, starts on Saturday, May 12.
Masakazu Fujii | #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France Team Manager (1st)
“I was deeply moved, nearly in tears when the Japanese national anthem was played as the Japanese flag rose above the center of the podium. This was our third attempt at winning the Le Mans 24 hour race. I started by changing myself, seriously considering moving to France, as to beat the French at Bol d’Or and Le Mans, I had to know the French. That’s what led us to victory, on our first race after F.C.C. and Honda France joined forces. Our aim this season is to become the EWC champions, so although I’m overjoyed at this win a Le Mans, it is only one of many races. If we can become champions at the Suzuka 8hours when we return to Japan, that’s what really matters.”
Josh Hook | #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France (1st)
“This victory is definitively a very good start of the year in Endurance Championship. All the race was amazing, and I loved racing with my teammates. I thank them for this beautiful adventure. This prize is fantastic, and all the weekend was crazy for me.”
Alan Techer | #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France (1st)
“This race was an incredible experience. For my second time with a 24 Hours race, we already are victorious. I’ve still not realize, it’s just incredible. Our Bridgestone tires were perfect under all weather conditions. I’ve just lived the perfect weekend”
Freddy Foray | #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France (1st)
“At Bol d’Or we’ve already fought for victory, but no matter the end of the race, I kept a good feeling and was sure that we could win a 24 Hours race. I just did not think that could happen so fast. I’ve got more experience in Endurance than my two mates, but I want to underline that these two ‘young’ guys did not make any mistake. I also want to say that I appreciate a lot M. Fujii’s way of working and I’m very happy in this Team.”
Sébastien Gimbert | #111 Honda Endurance Racing (2nd)
“I am very happy with the result today and for all my team! Honestly, yesterday we were in a very bad position in 38th, so to be stood here in second is just incredible! I push with my teammates Greg and Erwan throughout the night and every time our laps were fast and we were consistent throughout. For me finishing second today is the best present of the year! I am very happy for Honda, for the team, for the mechanics and for everyone who is involved, it is good for today, but also for the championship. The Fireblade is perfect for me, it was so fast and I was able to push to the maximum with no issues, while passing lots of riders on track – so I am very happy. We finished the Bol d’Or third, Le Mans second, so the next time we go for the win!”
Gregory LeBlanc | #111 Honda Endurance Racing (2nd)
“Well that was crazy! We started and it wasn’t so bad, then we had the issues and back into 38th place, which was not so good! I spoke with Seb and Erwan during the night and we said we have to push, we had no other option and that’s what we did! Honestly if you had told me we’d be on the podium after 38th, I would not have believed you! The Fireblade worked so well and we were so fast, I was passing people all the time and it was amazing. This is my second race with Honda and my second podium with them, so maybe I am a good luck charm?! The first time we finish third, this time second and maybe Slovakia we win! This is also the first time this team finish on the podium at Le Mans, so it’s very special. For me this is my eighth podium from ten race starts at Le Mans, so it’s not so bad and is a very special place to me.”
Erwan Nigon | #111 Honda Endurance Racing (2nd)
“I am very happy today to be on the Le Mans podium with my team, I didn’t think it was possible with us in 38th at one stage, but to be on the podium was amazing! Of course it was hard work, but the Fireblade was the perfect tool in getting us back to where we were meant to be. We did have some small issues at the start, but sometimes this happens. The CBR is a very good bike to ride and I enjoyed racing today so much, I passed lots of riders as I was so strong and I just felt amazing. This is a very good result for the team and also for the whole championship with the standings. It’s also a great result for Honda with the 1-2 today!”
Jonny Twelvetrees | #111 Honda Endurance Racing Team Manager (2nd)
“Yet again I am amazed! The Bol d’Or I thought was a one-off with how it finished and the amount of drama after the 24 hours. Then it happens to us again here but in the opening stages! It just shows how amazing endurance racing is, we came from 38th to finish 2nd! Once we ironed out the small issues, the CBR worked faultlessly throughout the rest of the race and the guys were able to put in fast lap, after fast lap, after fast lap. Erwan, Greg and Sébastien are great guys and so much fun to work with, they have a great work ethic and it’s a pleasure to have them with us. A huge thanks also to the team for all their hard work and faultless pit stops – with the combination of the riders, the Fireblade and the crew it all got us to the podium, our first at Le Mans and just shy off the top-spot where we aim to get next time.”
|1||F.C.C. TSR Honda France / Honda
(HOOK Josh/FORAY Freddy/TECHER Alan)
|2||Honda Endurance Racing Honda / Honda
(PHILIPPE Vincent/MASSON Etienne/BLACK Gregg)
|3||Wepol Racing by penz13.com / BMW
(LAVERTY Michael/IDDON Christian/WEBB Daniel)
|4||Bolliger Team Switzerland / Kawasaki
(STAMM Roman/MULHAUSER Robin/SUCHET Sébastien)
|5||Team SRC Kawasaki / Kawasaki
(GINES Mathieu/DE PUNIET Randy/GUARNONI Jérémy)
|6||3ART- Moto Team 95 / Yamaha
(PLANCASSAGNE Alex/LUSSIANA Matthieu/BIJSTERBOSCH Pepijn)
|21||Zuff Racing Team / Honda
(ZUFFEREY Kévin/PITTET Adrien/TRUEB Kevin)
|40||Rac 41 Honda / Honda
(AYNIE Axel/AYER Alexandre/CORNUT Billy)
|55||National Motos / Honda
(JONCHIERE Emeric/EGEA Stéphane/GOUGET Gaetan)