Yamaha Takes Third In Le Mans Qualifying
The chilly weather was unable to stop the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team and GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team from heating up the Le Mans Bugatti circuit with today's second qualifying action ahead of the 24 Heures Motos.
The day was filled with challenges in the shape of traffic on track, deliberate tyre-strategy compromises and two crashes, but both Yamaha teams overcame all obstacles on their paths and will kick off the 2016 FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) tomorrow from third and fifth place on the grid respectively.
Though they struggled in yesterday's wet Q1 session, clocking the eighth fastest time in the combined classification, the YART team took a brave gamble in today's dry session. Knowing that the starting position counts for very little in the 24 hour event, they decided to use only one set of tyres for the entire Q2 session, so they will have plenty to spare during tomorrow's race. Despite not changing tyres, their pace didn't suffer.
Broc Parkes was the first rider of the Austrian team to take the number 7 Yamaha to the Circuit Bugatti. The Australian gradually upped his pace throughout the session and climbed up to third place with five minutes of the session remaining. His 1'38.772s lap, 1.352s off the front in the classification of the first riders, set the tone for what was to come when Max Neukirchner took over. The German rider followed seamlessly in his teammate's footsteps by posting provisional pole on his first flying lap. The 20-minute rider two qualifying session became a duel for the lead in the standings between him and Kenny Foray, but eventually Neukirchner had to opt for conserving the tyre for the third rider and dropped to third place. His best lap was a 1'38.408s, 0.182s off the front in his session.
YART's second qualifying was concluded with Iván Silva taking over the YZF-R1 and his fast pace brought him provisional third early on in the third rider qualifying session. However, the Spanish rider's outing came to an end when he suffered a crash in turn 7 and was unable to continue his stint. His best time of 1'39.617 left him ninth in the rankings, 1.174s from the front. Combined, the YART team members rode an average time of 1'38.932s and scored second place in the combined qualifying sessions classification, just 0.731s from pole.
Fellow official Yamaha EWC team, GMT94, also faced some challenging circumstances during the crowded qualifying session, but the team's unrivaled team-spirit saw them pull through. Endurance rookie Louis Rossi was GMT94's first pick and impressed early on in the second qualifying session with his solid pace. He held a place in the top 3 but was pushed back to sixth place after a small crash. His best lap of 1'39.233s was 1.813s off the lead in the classification of the first riders.
Fellow EWC-newcomer Niccolò Canepa on the number 94 YZF-R1 started his fast lap shoot-out on the second bike. Though he struggled to get a feel for the second bike and get used to the endurance-qualifying structure, which has more than 50 riders on track at the same time, he improved his lap times considerably over the course of the session and eventually set a fastest time of 1'38.827s for seventh place, 1.601s from the second rider session leader. It was then time for the 'veteran' to take over. The ever cool and collected David Checa was the last rider of the French team to set a hot lap during qualifying 2. His strong stint underlined his status as one of the most experienced riders in the field, as he clocked a 1'38.848s for third position in the third riders classification, 0.405s off the front. GMT94 hold fifth place in the combined qualifying standings, having ridden an average time of 1'39.302s, 1.101s from pole. After today's positive results, both teams look forward to tomorrow when the 24 hours of non-stop racing action will start at 3pm local track time.
Besides YART and GMT94, also Yamaha Viltais Experience secured a place in the top 12 of the overall qualifying classifications. Consistency proved key for the Superstock team consisting of Axel Maurin, Nicolas Salchaud and Olivier Depoorter. They were the third fastest SST team on track today.