24 Heures Motos – A rich and full field

The world endurance season for motorbikes will restart on the Le Mans Bugatti circuit on 15-16 April with the 24 Heures Motos, the second round of the 2016/2017 FIM World Endurance Championship (FIM WEC). After examining the entries sent in the Automobile Club de l’Ouest is unveiling the names of the 60 crews who will take part in practice and will then be on the grid for the start on Saturday 15th April at 15:00. A quick roundup of the entries for the 40th staging of the 24 Heures Motos.

The closing date for entries was midnight on Wednesday 1st March. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest received no fewer than 72 requests, a record for the last 10 years.  Thus, a selection committee met for the first time since 2010 to draw up the list of entries for the 40th 24 Heures Motos. This is proof of the interest generated by the Sarthe classic, which has recaptured its aura since being moved back again to its spring date, and is a not-to-be-missed event for the players in endurance motorbike racing. The selection committee took the decision to pick 60 entrants and six reserves. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest will bring in a reserve in case one of the teams selected withdraws. The selection will be made according to the order on the reserve list up until Saturday 8th April. 

Thus, the field for the 2017 24 Heures Motos comprises 60 teams divided into four categories. 21 bikes have been entered for the Formula EWC (the blue-riband category in the 24 Heures Motos), and 34 in Superstock. The Supertwin category created last year is open to twin-cylinder motorbikes homologated according to the FIM technical regulations: it has attracted three entries. And last but not least, there will be two prototypes in the Experimental category! 

Among the entries in the Formula EWC category, are five bikes from the five major manufacturers: Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Honda and BMW. Kawasaki represented by the Team SRC Kawasaki will be determined to retain the trophy it won last year and add a 14th victory in the 24 Heures Motos to its laurels. But they are going to be up against tough opposition from Suzuki and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. Dominique Meliand, the emblematic team manager of this outfit, and his riders are out to make the new Suzuki GSX-R 1000 shine on its first outing and dedicate the victory to their rider Anthony Delhalle who met a tragic death a few days ago. Like Suzuki, Honda will enter the new Honda CB R1000 RRSP with the backing of Honda Endurance Racing. Faced with these new bikes, Yamaha will rely on the R1 that will be run by two teams who will receive backing from the Japanese manufacturer: the French team GMT94-Yamaha and Austrian squad, YART-Yamaha. This winter, BMW decided to entrust its endurance programme to French outfit, Tecmas-BMW.  

But the works outfits will have to keep a close eye on the privateers, in particular the Japanese team F.C.C TSR Honda who caused an upset last year by finishing third despite their lack of experience in a 24-hour race. There will be another Japanese squad at the start, Eva Trick Star Racing, which underlines the interest generated by the 24 Heures Motos and Endurance in Japan. In fact, 2017 marks not only the 40th 24 Heures Motos, but also the 40th staging of the Suzuka 8 Hours. This anniversary will be celebrated at Le Mans where a Japanese delegation will be welcomed at the start of the 24 Heures Motos.   

The Team April Moto Motors Events, second last year, is out to repeat this exploit. To achieve this, the team managed by Hervé Moineau, 4-time world champion, has recruited two former winners of the 24 Heures Motos, Grégory Leblanc and Matthieu Lagrive.  

This year the Superstock category has again attracted the highest number of entries as no fewer than 34 bikes have been picked by the selection committee. At least 10 teams in this category are potential winners. The Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki has the new Suzuki GSX-R 1000 to help it in its quest for victory.  However, Damien Saulnier’s outfit will have its hands full fighting off increasingly well-honed rivals. After winning the category in the 80th Bol d’Or, the first round of the FIM Superstock Cup, the Moto Ain CRT squad is determined to make it two in a row and to achieve this it has former grand prix rider Alexis Masbou in its line-up. Seven more teams will have their say in the battle in Superstock. These include the Tati Team Beaujolais Racing, the Team 18 Sapeurs-Pompiers, AM Moto Racing Compétition and the Team 33 Accessoires Louit Moto pour Kawasaki without forgetting German outfit Voelpker NRT48 Schubert Moto by ERC with a BMW S 1000 RR. The Yamaha clan will be represented by the Yamaha Viltaïs Experience team so a ding-dong battle in perspective!   

There will also be a 100% womens’ squad in Superstock, the Girls Racing Team. Mélissa Paris, Amandine Creusot, Margaux Wanham and Muriel Simorre will ride a Yamaha R1 on which they finished 23rd in the 80th Bol d’Or. 

The three entries in the Supertwin category consist of two Ducati 1299 Panigales and a KTM RC8R. With BMWs and Aprilia RSV4s entered in the EWC and/or in Superstock, these Supertwins bring an additional European touch to the field entered for the 24 Heures Motos. It’s the first time this category will be represented at Le Mans as in 2016 when it was created, there were no Supertwins on the grid.   

Finally, there are two prototypes in the Experimental category, the Metiss and its triangulated front fork imagined and patented by Jean-Bertrand Bruneau (JBB), a dentist from Le Mans, who will be at the start. For the first time it will have a rival, the Kawasaki ZX10 Excentive entered by French outfit, TTS Excent. This bike too has an innovative front ensemble – a technical curiosity. 

Proof of the interest generated by the event is the fact that several sprint racers have entered like ex-MotoGP riders Mike Di Meglio (2008 125 cc world champion), Randy de Puniet (253 grands prix), Broc Parkes (20 grands prix) as well as riders from the Supersport World Championship, Jules Cluzel and Swiss rider, Robin  Mulhauser. Cluzel will ride the Team LMD 63-Ultimate Cup Yamaha managed by David Dumain, former chief editor of the Moto Journal magazine, and Renaud Lavillenie, Olympic Pole Vault Champion. Mulhauser will race the Moto Ain CRT team’s Yamaha. 

Twelve nationalities will be represented in the race: France (42 teams), Germany (4), Japan (2), Switzerland (2), Belgium (2), Italy (2), Great Britain (1), Austria (1), United States (1) Slovakia (1), Poland (1) and the Czech Republic (1). 

The entrants for the 24 Heures Motos will be at the Bugatti circuit on 28 – 29 March for the 2-day free practice session. 

The start of the 40th 24 Heures Motos will be given on Saturday 15th April at 15:00. It is the second of the five rounds making up the 2016-2017 FIM EWC World Endurance Championship. 

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “The 24 Heures Motos has attracted a full list of entries and we’re delighted by the enthusiasm generated by our event from a sporting point of view. Today, we’re unveiling a fantastic entry list. The field is a particularly rich one which is proof of the revival of endurance with marvellous bikes and top-class riders. The 24 Heures Motos promises a great on-track spectacle as well as being a fantastic festive party for motor bikes lovers to live to the full!” 

Vito Ippolito, President of the International Motorcycling Federation:I am gratified by the growing success of the FIM Endurance World Championship. The second event of the season at the Bugatti circuit is rapidly approaching and we can expect a thrilling edition of the 24 Heures Motos. There were so many teams entered that a selection committee had to be set up to select just 60. It was certainly not an easy task. There will be a top quality field and everything points to a truly magnificent 24 Heures Motos! The start is at 15h00 on 15 April. We hope to see you there!

Jacques Bolle, President of the French Motorcycling Federation:”This year we received more entries than ever before.  60 crews have been selected and such participation proves the dynamism of endurance and the Sarthe event in particular. This is an exceptional field, which promises a race worthy of the best!” 

Francois Ribeiro: Eurosport Events operations manager :“It’s great news to see that the ACO had to reconvene a selection committee for the 24 Heures Motos to choose 60 bikes out of the 72 entries. This hasn’t happened since 2010 and it confirms the positive dynamic of the EWC, which is attracting more and more French and international teams. It was one of the aims of Eurosport Events, promoter of the EWC since 2015. We’re going to continue our efforts to make this great championship an even more attractive one.  I’m delighted for the ACO, the 24 Heures Motos and the EWC.”  

Entry List of the 24 Heures Motos 2017