24H Motos: Kawasaki wins the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans Bugatti circuit
Le Mans, Sunday Apr 11th 2016 – After leading the race for 680 laps, Team Kawasaki completed a clean sweep. Gilles Stafler’s squad picked up the winner’s 40 points plus the 20 bonus points awarded to the leader in the standings at the 8-hour and 16-hour mark. The win spotlights the qualities of the new Ninja ZX-10R, and has got the team off to a flying start in the FIM EWC world endurance championship.
After some tricky test sessions in the rain, the ZX-10R#11 started the race with a minor crash involving Gregory Leblanc on a still-damp and treacherous track, but that was Kawasaki SRC’s only scare. During the first two hours, Gregory Leblanc beat the lap record 12 times.
Throughout the night, despite the freezing cold weather, the Kawasaki SRC was the quickest bike on the track, and the handovers went like clockwork. As the hours slipped by, Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive and Fabien Foret established a comfortable lead, and were 9 laps ahead by the early hours. “Our Pirelli tyres work particularly well on a cold track,” says Gilles Stafler by way of explanation.
High sporting stakes, entertainment, innovations and a festive ambience meant that all the right ingredients were in place to make the 2016 24 Heures Motos THE major motorbike festival. The 72 300 spectators who came to see the first round of the FIM WEC made the right choice, and the ACO recorded an attendance figure that was 1 800 people higher compared to 2015. This is proof of the growing interest generated by endurance motorbike racing whether for the enthusiasts or the ordinary spectators, whose numbers continue to increase, in particular among female fans who were honoured this year.
Gilles Stafler, team manager of Kawasaki SRC
“We couldn’t have hoped for a better start with the new ZX-10R. Now we’ll have to get back to work. We still need to fine-tune the electronics; we’re only using 75 to 80%.”
Gregory Leblanc, Kawasaki SRC rider
“I really want to thank Pirelli, because they gave us the tyres we needed to tackle very cold track conditions. We had grip even at night.”
Matthieu Lagrive, Kawasaki SRC rider
“I’m obviously feeling emotional because after racing a few seasons, it’s my first win at the 24 Heures.”
Fabien Foret, Kawasaki SRC rider
“Two great teammates, a good bike and the right tyres: that was the recipe for victory.”
The no. 39 Kawasaki line-up consisting of Leblanc, Lagrive and Foret won the 39th running of the 24 Heures Motos in style. Helped by this performance the Japanese make clinched the record for the number of victories in the Sarthe event with 13 titles! Leblanc became the second rider to win the most important motorbike endurance race in the world on five occasions (2010-11-12-13-16), after Alex Vieira (1986-88-89-90-95), the record for the number of victories.
Completing the top 3 were the no. 50 Suzuki and the Japanese team’s no. 5 Honda in second and third places respectively after great performances as they were not expected to achieve such a result. The no 50 Suzuki entered by the Team April Moto Motors Events had to battle throughout the race to finish ahead of its rivals and clinch second spot in the event. The Japanese in the F.C.C TSR Honda team were making their maiden appearance in the 24 Heures Motos and they rode a masterly race, learned the Bugatti circuit and overcame all the traps to seal the final place on the podium.
After 24-hours indecisive racing Louis Bulle, Gabriel Pons and Lukas Trautmann riding for the Team 3Art Yam’Avenue made the best of the conditions and won the Superstock category on their no. 36 Yamaha. Completing the podium was the no. 48 bike entered by the NRT 48Race Event UG team and the no. 3 AM Moto Racing Competition Kawasaki.
The only machine in the experimental category, the no. 45 Metiss entered by JCL Moto for Christophe Michel, Cyril Huvier and Emmanuel Cheron, finished 20th overall.
The second round of the FIM World Endurance Championship will take place on 10-11 June in the Portimao 12 Hours in Portugal.
The next event for motorbikes on the Bugatti circuit will be the French Grand Prix on 6-8 May, the fifth round on the 2016 MotoGP calendar.