The pressure goes up a notch in the paddock on the Bugatti circuit!

With only four days to go to the start of the 40th 24 Heures Motos, the 60 teams are already hard at work in the Bugatt circuit paddock making the final adjustments. The riders can’t wait to get out there and go head to head and they will take to the track for the first practice sessions on Thursday after having been through administrative checks and scrutineering.

As the week gets under way all the teams are in the process of carefully installing themselves in their pits and in the paddock on the Bugatti circuit.  The latter looks like a buzzing hive! It’s still possible to run into riders dressed in civvies near the transporters and the teams’ hospitality units. They are all champing at the bit to get on their bikes and do battle with their rivals in the first practice sessions on Thursday.  
But before that, machines and riders will have to undergo scrutineering and administrative checks, which will start tomorrow.  The bikes will be given a meticulous inspection by the scrutineers to check their compliance with the 24 Heures Motos and Endurance World Championship (FIM EWC) regulations. The riders’ equipment and licences will also be carefully checked. After these procedures riders and their bikes will be allowed to take to the track on Thursday at 10:00 for free practice.

The 40th 24 Heures Motos has all the makings of a hotly-disputed race. In the second round of the FIM EWC (Endurance World Championship), five major manufacturers will fight for victory.  Among them is Kawasaki, which will be putting its title up for grabs with the no. 11 Team SRC Kawasaki ZX10-R that will be ridden by Mathieu Gines, Randy De Puniet (former MotoGP™ World Championship rider), and Fabien Foret. They will be taking on the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, the reigning world champions and winner of the Bol d’Or last September. The SERT is entering the 2016 version of the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 as there are still some specific parts for endurance missing on the 2017 model. The riders on no. 1, Vincent Philippe, Alex Cudlin and Etienne Masson, are determined to win the 40th staging of the Le Mans Classic to pay homage to their team-mate Anthony Delhalle who died last month. 

The Yamaha clan is making no bones about their intentions. The no. 7 Yamaha R1 entered by YART Yamaha was very quick in the Pré-Mans tests which took place on 28 – 29 March on the Bugatti circuit. Ridden by Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Kohta Nozane, it clinched the fastest time beating last year’s pole set by the BMW S1000RR by over a second! The GMT94 Yamaha squad also intends to put the make among the front-runners. To achieve this with the no. 94 machine, Christophe Guyot can count on a crew combining experience and speed: David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio (another former MotoGP™ World Championship rider).

Honda is chasing a victory that has eluded it since 2006 and it hopes to be back in the winner’s circle with its latest weapon, the CBR 1000 RR SP2. This new bike is the fruit of a long period of research and development in which electronics play a major role.  No. 111 will be ridden by Sébastien Gimbert, Julien Da Costa and Freddy Foray of the Honda Racing Team. The other works Honda team is flying the Japanese flag. The no. 5 F.C.C TSR Honda is betting on the old CBR entrusted to Damian Cudlin, Gregg Black and Arturo Tizon. 

BMW is the only European manufacturer to defy the Japanese armada’s challenge. BMW’s works programme is now entrusted to French team, Tecmas BMW. Kenny Foray, Lukas Trautmann and Camille Hedelin will have a tough job trying to win on the no. 9 S1000RR on the Sarthe circuit to give the German manufacturer its maiden victory in the 24 Heures Motos. 

These manufacturers will have to watch out for challengers like the Bolliger Team Switzerland (no. 8 Kawasaki), the Team National Motos (no. 55 Honda), Eva Trickstar Racing (no. 10 Kawasaki) Team April Moto Motors Events (no. 50 Honda), Team R2CL (no. 2 Suzuki) and the Maco Racing Team (no. 14 Yamaha). These private outfits will take advantage of the slightest slip-up on the part of the works teams to make their mark.

Battle will also rage in the Superstock category. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a crew from this category breaking into the top 5 overall. One to keep a close eye on is the Suzuki Junior Team Le Mans Sud which has entered the no. 72 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 as well as the Team MotoAin, victorious in Superstock in the Bol d’Or. Alexis Masbou, Hugo Clere and Robin Mulhauser will ride this Yamaha bearing the number 96. The Yamaha Viltaïs Experience (no. 333 Yamaha), the Voelpker NRT 48 Schubert Moto by ERC (no. 48 BMW), the Tati Team Beaujolais Racing (no. 4 Kawasaki), AM Moto Racing Competition (no. 3 Kawasaki), and the Team LMD 63-Ultimate Cup (no. 63 Yamaha) are all potential victory contenders in this category. 

Two teams have entered bikes in the experimental category which have unconventional front drive trains, the no. 17 Kawasaki Z10 Excentive and the no. 45 Metiss. Three European machines will slug it out in the Supertwin category: two Ducati 1299 Panigales nos  81 and 121 and the no. 78 KTM RC8R .

The 24 Heures Motos will kick off tomorrow for the teams with scrutineering and administrative checks, and on Thursday for the spectators with the first practice sessions starting at 10:00.