Bol d’Or set to be a scintillating race
From our partner Fimewc.com
The Bol d’Or kicks off the new-format 2016/2016 FIM EWC season. The Paul Ricard circuit in Castellet will host the 80th edition of the 24-hour race on 17 and 18 September. The 60 teams in competition include both endurance heavyweights and new entries from the MotoGP – notably Frenchman Randy de Puniet, who will be riding for Team SRC Kawasaki.
Still high on the 2016 season – which finished end-August at the Oschersleben 8 Hours, with Suzuki Endurance Racing Team wresting the title from GMT94 Yamaha by just one point – the teams are back in the fray for the 2016/2017 FIM EWC season. The Bol d’Or 2016 is the first race of a new EWC era. In the revised race calendar, the season will start in September each year at the Bol d’Or and wrap up in July at the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Endurance and speed on the starting grid
All the major players of the 2016 season will be on the starting grid. For some, continuity is the name of the game in their bid for the 2016/2017 title – like Suzuki Endurance Racing Team with Anthony Delhalle, Etienne Masson and Vincent Philippe; GMT94 Yamaha with David Checa, Lucas Mahias and Niccolò Canepa, and Honda Endurance Racing with Julien da Costa, Sébastien Gimbert and Freddy Foray. Other squads have a remixed trio of riders, like YART Yamaha Official EWC Team with American rider Josh Hayes coming on board alongside Broc Parkes and Sheridan Morais, and the amazing Team April Moto Motors Events, third in the FIM EWC 2016, who have taken on Matthieu Lagrive, former SRC Kawasaki rider, to shore up Gregg Black and Grégory Fastré with a view to aiming even higher. Matthieu Lagrive’s move to the Suzuki #50 constrained Team SRC Kawasaki to replace him with a solid rider in the team’s fresh bid for a win. And for the Bol d’Or, the factory-backed Kawasaki squad has found its man. Randy de Puniet will be competing in his first-ever Bol d’Or in the saddle of the Kawasaki #11. The Frenchman – a MotoGP rider – has previously tested the endurance waters, finishing second at the 2014 Suzuka 8 Hours. Another French speed championship rider, Louis Rossi, is back in endurance on the Team Tecmas BMW after getting off to a shaky start in the discipline with GMT94 Yamaha in the early stages of the 2016 season. Max Neukirchner is back too. This time around he will be on the YART-supported Team Rabid Transit bike, alongside Ivan Silva and Igor Jerman.
Ten countries represented
F.C.C. TSR Honda started the ball rolling. This season, two Japanese teams have signed up for the FIM EWC. For the Bol d’Or, F.C.C. TSR Honda has called on Suzuka 8 Hours veteran Shinichi Itoh, four-time winner of the Japanese race, to be Kazuma Watanabe and Damian Cudlin’s teammate. Another Suzuka 8 Hours regular, Eva RT Trick Star (Kawasaki), will be competing in the Bol d’Or for the first time with riders Erwan Nigon, Hitoyasu Izutsu and Osamu Deguchi. Japan is the latest to join the many nations on the starting grid. Ten different countries will be represented at the 80th Bol d’Or.
The Superstock teams are equally ebullient. Team 3Art Yam’Avenue, the 2016 World Cup winner, has taken on Italian Superstock1000 rider Luca Marconi to team up with Louis Bulle and Alex Plancassagne. But they will have many ambitious challengers in the category.
The official tests for the Bol d’Or start at 9.30am (GMT+2) on Thursday 15 September. The race will be flagged off at 3pm on Saturday 17 September.