Solid second in class at the Bol d’Or for team

This opening round of the FIM World Endurance Championship at the famous French circuit saw the SRC Kawasaki team triumph again with a 9-lap lead over Monster Energy Yamaha and 11 laps clear of the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. For all the teams, it was an exhausting race that saw intermittent rain at the Nevers Circuit necessitating a wide choice of wets, intermediates and slick tyres, with tricky weather conditions and numerous crashes reshuffling the leading pack.

There had been high hopes for the BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent at the Bol d’Or, but they fell by the wayside when Sébastien Gimbert, Sylvain Barrier and Karl Muggeridge had to throw in the towel at dusk. Two early crashes had left their BMW S 1000 RR motorcycle too damaged to go on.

For the Franks Autowelt Racing Team that was contesting the Superstock class on the RR, there were no such problems, although the race didn’t go without incident. Having qualified 17th on the grid (and seventh in the Superstock category) the RR-mounted trio of Pedro Vallcaneras (ESP), Jason Pridmore (USA) and Steve Mercer (GBR) were involved in a long and close fight with Junior Team Suzuki LMS, who eventually chalked up the class win – and fifth overall – just behind the top teams.

During the night, the German squad of team principal Rico Penzkofer had kept up the pressure on the leading Suzuki team and reported no problems with their endurance-specification BMW RR. On the Sunday morning – after having raced throughout Saturday afternoon, evening and night – Pedro Vallcaneras, Jason Pridmore and Steve Mercer actually took over the lead in the Superstock category.

However, at around 11.30am, team boss Penzkofer was ordered to Race Control as Vallcaneras was reported to have overtaken under Safety Car conditions. The team got a ‘Stop and Go’ penalty for that which relegated them down to second place. This forced the team to evaluate their tactics and they decided to play the race safely – to work as hard and before but not take any big risks that could undo all the good work so far.

Pridmore had to come in for the penalty and went back out on track with a lot of anger in his stomach. He pushed hard afterwards – as did Vallcaneras and Mercer after him – but as the race neared its conclusion, it became clear that the gap of 40 seconds at the time just couldn’t be closed.

The final hour, which was shared by Pridmore and Vallcaneras, saw the team playing it safe, also because the 23 hours of racing prior to that was finally beginning to take its toll.

Summing up an excellent performance for his team that clocked up an impressive 788 laps of the Nevers circuit, Rico Penzkofer said: “Of course it would have been nice to win this race, but we have to be satisfied with our performance also. We did the 24 hours once again without any problems and our BMW S 1000 RR ran perfectly. Also our new Dunlop tyres were great. And furthermore – it’s not bad to be in second place after 24 hours of racing! That’s something special still!”

The next leg of the FIM Endurance World Championship will be the Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan on 28 July.

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