The event is probably closer to the original Dakar Rally when it was held in Europe and Africa before shifting to South America after a 2008 terrorist threat cancelled the event. This year it moved to Saudi Arabia to “follow the oil money”!
Matt, who was born in Ballarat but now lives in Vancouver, was a late entry replacing a rider in Lyndon Poskitt’s Team Races 2 Places who had to withdraw due to illness. Matt finished the rally in seventh place.
“It was a crazy hard race,” he says.
Andrew (pictured top of the page) from Albury is an experienced international off-road racer. He finished 21st outright and is on a mission to compete in the Dakar next year.
“I came with no expectations other than to finish,” says Andrew.
“I had a couple of bad days and a few really good days.”
He has already had great success in Australia and now has backing from Coca-Cola Energy for next year’s Dakar.
Peter, who now lives in Saudi Arabia, finished 36th after losing plenty of time in an early stage when he got lost in the sand dunes.
He finished 30 hours off the pace so even finishing the tough event was a great achievement.
Riders struggled over the 14-day event with the demanding terrain, some stranded in the desert for up to 30 hours. One stage has to be cut short due to multiple serious crashes requiring evacuations by helicopter.
The Africa ECO Race is an annual rally raid that starts in Europe and retraces much of the path of the original Paris-Dakar rally, ending on the banks of the famous pink lake – Lac Rose – in Senegal.
The event started after the 2008 Dakar was cancelled one day before it was due to start amid fears of a terrorist attack in Mauritania.
While the Dakar was relocated to South America, diehard fans were disappointed it had left Africa.
So the ECO Race was created to ensure the original format and character of the Paris-Dakar continued.
Andrew says they travelled through “some of the toughest terrain in the world.”
“Whilst the Dakar Rally is the best known rally in the world, the Africa ECO Race is often referred to as the real race to Dakar as it retraces much of the old Paris-Dakar route and finishes at the original end point in Dakar, Senegal.”
This year’s event started under lights in Monaco on 4 January 2020.
Competitors then travelled to the port of Savona in Italy to board a ferry which took them to Tangier in Morocco.
From there they competed for 12 days racing over a distance of 6,500km through the mind-blowing landscapes of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal.
Each stage was between 300 to 750km, with the average day being a distance of 400 to 500km.
The race was won by Italian Allesdandro Botturi on a Yamaha, ahead of mostly KTM riders.
Stage 12 of the 2020 Dakar Rally marked the final day of racing, with riders covering a total of 447 kilometres, including a timed special of 374 kilometres from Haradh to the finish at Qiddiya. Ricky Brabec led the overall standings by a comfortable 13min-56s from Pablo Quintanilla into the day, while Toby Price was 22min-34s off leading pace.
Monster Energy Honda Team ace Brabec had snatched the leader’s spot on day three and refused to relinquish the top spot until the race wrapped up, two stage victories and 5000 kilometres later.
It was Pablo Quintanilla opening the track from Toby Price, with just 8min-30s separating the two, while Ricky Brabec seemed to be playing it safe with his lead, with teammate Kevin Benavides reportedly stopping and waiting for him.
Jose Cornejo set the pace in the first 69 km, with Brabec not far off, before Brabec upping the pace and taking the lead by km 119.
The final timesheet of the stage would see Jose Cornejo take the win from Brabec, who trailed him by 53-seconds, while Toby Price was 2min-53s off Stage winning pace.
Toby Price – Image by Rally Zone
Luciano Benavides was fourth, and Pablo Quintanilla fifth, Kevin Benavides sixth and top Sherco Adrien Metge in seventh, followed by top Yamaha in eigth. Macieg Giemza and Andrew Short completed the top 10.
Aussie Rodney Faggotter completed the final stage just outside the top-10 in 22nd, 9min-33s off leading pace.
The final standings would see Ricky Brabec retain most of the lead he held into the final stage, taking the overall win by 40h-2min-36s, with Pablo Quintanilla runner up, 16min-26s in arrears.
Ricky Brabec – Image by Rally Zone
Ricky Brabec – P1
“It’s a dream come true. Hopefully we can come back next year and repeat it. I know that it’s not going to be easy as the Husky and KTM boys will be breathing down our necks. I’m really excited to be here for Honda and for America as well. To be the only American to accomplish this goal is amazing. I think it’s really a dream come true. Now we’ve got to set our goals higher and accomplish more. We are going to come back next year and try and repeat this but, as I said, it’s not easy. We are happy. It was a big, tough race. A lot of kilometres. The team worked great together. The riders were good and the whole team worked well together so I’m really happy. The bikes were really good. We are all here. We are all happy and safe. That was the first goal. I can’t thank everyone enough – Honda, Monster and every one of the sponsors behind us. Thank you all so much. It’s the first time in Saudi Arabia. The scenery was insane! I love it. Hopefully I’ll be back next year. I’ve got a five-year contract so I think we’ll be back.”
Ricky Brabec – Image by Rally Zone
Pablo Quintanilla – P2
“I feel amazing. To spend most of 2019 in recovery and now to be here with my best ever result makes me extremely grateful. I never thought that I would be in this position at the beginning of the race. I would like to thank the team for their hard work over these two weeks – they have done an amazing job. Overall, my race has gone really well, it’s been a tough event for everybody, and the main goal was always to reach the finish. A podium at the Dakar is like a dream come true, especially after such a hard one this year. I still want that win so I’ll work hard and be back next year.”
Australian Toby Price was third overall, 24min-06s off winning pace, with Jose Cornejo in fourth and KTM’s Matthias Walkner completing the top five.
Toby Price – P3
“I’m really happy with another podium at the Dakar – every time I’ve made it to the finish at this event I’ve got onto the podium. So far, I’m either a number one or a number three guy. The most important thing is to be here safely at the finish. Obviously, we came here to win, but it just wasn’t our year. Yeah, after 18 wins in a row it would have been nice to get a 19th, but I think KTM’s winning streak won’t be topped for a very long time. We’ll go away now, regroup and come back stronger for 2021 and take that number one plate back.”
Toby Price – Image by Rally Zone
José Ignacio Cornejo – P4
Today’s stage was short but intense. I battled it out with Walkner and Luciano Benavides. They started out in front of me, so I started the special very focused, trying to reduce the time. In the end I didn’t make any mistakes and was able to win the final stage of the Dakar, and thus finish fourth in the general standings. I’m very happy with the way the entire rally went. The team has finally achieved the victory we were looking for after so many years. I’m very happy with the whole team, they have worked so hard.
José Ignacio Cornejo
Matthias Walkner – P5
“Firstly, it feels really good to cross the finish line, especially after such a fast Dakar in a new country. For sure, I’m not so happy with my result as my goal was to reach the podium. I know I made some mistakes in the first week where I lost some time, and it was very difficult to make that back up – especially as so many riders were competitive this year. The good thing is, I felt good with my speed and my navigation for most of the rally. Unfortunately, even with 11 good days, one bad day can spoil your race in rallying. Overall, I’m happy because I know I did my best and the team and the bike have been perfect.”
In sixth was Luciano Benavides, followed by Joan Barreda in seventh, with Franco Caimi the top Yamaha in eighth. Skyler Howes took ninth and Andrew Short 10th.
Luciano Benavides – P6
“It’s been a really tough Dakar and a very crazy race with lots of ups and downs. Overall, I have really enjoyed it and I’m happy to be here at the finish line. I knew this year would be a big challenge and would be a new experience for everyone, so my plan was to take it day by day and the main goal was always just to finish safely. I’m very happy with my pace, I have learnt so much and was able to really use that knowledge at this year’s event. So many riders were competitive, with times very close on a lot of the stages, so to come away with sixth overall is great. I’m really looking forward to the coming season now.”
Joan Barreda – P7
“This was a Dakar that from the beginning was really tough for me. I spent a few days with some great difficulties, but little by little I began pulling back and picking up pace. I had a bit of bad luck with the cancellation of the two stages and the change of engine also penalized me. But in the end the good feelings came back. We have to stay positive but despite all the difficulties, I have finished another Dakar.”
Franco Caimi – P8
“It’s a huge relief to finally arrive at the finish of this year’s Dakar Rally. It’s been a really rough two weeks that we have passed through with many different challenges to overcome. Thankfully, we did overcome everything and today we arrived at the finish. The whole team has worked so, so hard, not just during this Dakar but during the whole year. Obviously, I wish Adrien and Xavier all the best for a fast recovery and will now take some time to enjoy this moment and reflect on the event. I’m pleased to have finished, especially after two years of not finishing. It’s been a real adventure and I’m also pleased with some strong stage results. Now it’s time for some rest and then to make plans for the season ahead.”
Andrew Short – P10
“I’m really happy to get to the end of this year’s Dakar – it’s been a long race, good fun, but very tough for me, I had a lot of challenges. The first week in the north was beautiful – I’ve never raced anywhere like it. I had some issues in those first few days that really put me on the back foot for the rest of the event. It took a lot out of me as you prepare all year for this race and to have such a big knock so early on was tough. This is only my third Dakar and I’m still learning. A two-week event like this is certainly different to a one-week world championship event and you have to be able to gauge your speed the whole way through. I definitely want to be back here next year for Dakar 2021.”
Top overall Sherco rider was Adrien Metge in 12th, while Australian Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha Motor Australia) came home in 13th.
Rodney Faggotter – P13
“Wow its done! Top 20’s most stages, with a career best of sixth in stage 10 for a career best of 13th overall. I had a solid two weeks and rode the most “in control” but also the best I have ever done. The riders in front of me are the best rally riders in the world and most of them full time athletes – I’m pumped to be near and amongst these guys! Two weeks flat out and it comes to a instant stop and now I try get to reflect and appreciate everyone’s support and messages. Instead of going through and saying last but not least – I want to call out to my awesome hot beautiful supportive wife and best friend. Love ya babe!!! Thank you. And my boys Matt and Nate for their support! It’s so hard on family back home following the race especially when you disappear off the charts due to helping at a accident/or a mechanical failure or even just technical timing glitches. Massive shout out to the Dragon Yamaha team and my awesome mechanic Quentin Brossier. He says only a few English words and I say none French – so we get along great! He worked overtime all through the night sometime triple checking and sorting everything and I never had a issue. Thanks bud! Big thank you to Yamaha Motor Australia and Yamaha Motor Finance, Yamaha Motor Insurance Australia without their commitment to assist me this year – I would not have been here full stop. And also a big thanks to fellow competitor Ben Young for helping me get to the start line. So many others that helped or have helped previously – that got me to this point that I so much appreciate. Thanks guys.”
GasGas Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz was the highest placing female competitor, finishing stage 12 in 25th and completing the 2020 Dakar Rally in 18th overall.
Laia Sanz – P18
“I will remember a lot about this Dakar. Of course, I will remember Paulo, a true Dakar warrior. So, I have mixed emotions. I will also remember it because it is the race that I managed to start and finish my 10th consecutive Dakar, this is something I am very proud of. I think I’m the first Spanish rider to do that. Dakar is never easy, but when you have a crash it becomes so much harder. So, I’m pleased that I managed to overcome everything and finish the race, and also to have been the first rider to represent GasGas Motorcycles. It’s not been the best for me in terms of my overall result – after my crash on stage two I was riding in a lot of dust and the average speed was a little too high for me during the second week. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and want to thank all the GasGas Factory Racing team for their support.”
Matt finished in last place at 100th and placed last in 96th!
However, even to finish a gruelling Dakar is a massive feat and to have all four Aussie entrants complete the event is a tribute to their heroics.
About a third of the 158 field did not finish due to crashes or mechanical failures.
Five women made it to the finish of the Dakar led by Laia Sanz in 17th place overall, with Dutchwoman Mirjam Pol, South Africans Kirsten Landman and Taye Perry, and Spaniard Sara García also in the general classification.
Toby Price has dropped further off the lead after the marathon 534km 10th stage of the Dakar Rally was substantially shortened for safety reasons following several crashes.
Organisers said their rescue helicopters were all deployed for fallen riders and with strong winds picking up, they decided on a shortened stage.
The Aussie title defender and leading KTM rider finished fourth, some three minutes behind Joan Barreda Bort (Honda, Spain), losing another couple of minutes to outright leader Ricky Brabec (Honda, USA).
If Brabec is victorious, he will be the first American to win the event and break KTM’s streak of 18 wins.
Sadly Paulo later died and the eighth stage was cancelled in his honour, leaving less opportunity for Toby to make up time.
Toby tackles the dunes
“Today’s stage was cut short due to safety reasons,” Toby says.
There were a lot of drops throughout the course and I guess when we’re all traveling at such high speeds they do catch you out. I hope there were no serious injuries today and wishing those injured competitors a fast recovery.
“The cancellation of today’s stage has made it that much tougher for us to make up the time we needed. I was hoping to start a little further back tomorrow to make up that time but unfortunately that won’t be happening.
“We’re still in this race and aiming to get to the finish line strong.”
“Now I can really focus on the small number of remaining days to try and close this gap up to the lead,” he says.
Toby is dedicating his race to the loss of his friend, Paulo or “Speedy”.
Toby out on his own
Top 5 rankings
MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2020
34H 12′ 18”
ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA FACTORY RACING
34H 38′ 02”
+ 00H 25′ 44”
MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2020
34H 39′ 27”
+ 00H 27′ 09”
RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
34H 40′ 51”
+ 00H 28′ 33”
00H 02′ 00”
MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2020
34H 53′ 49”
+ 00H 41′ 31”
00H 01′ 00”
Today it was fellow Aussie Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) who stopped to help a fallen rider.
“He’s going to be ok and got him in the chopper,” says the veteran Queensland competitor.
Rodney stopped in the neutral zone and said it seemed they had run out of choppers to ferry the injured riders.
The consistent rider had his first non-top-20 finish with a 39th placing which only drops him one place to 134th outright.
Despite the big dropout of injured riders in the shortened stage, the other Aussie bike competitors are still in the event.
Fellow Aussie Ben Young (KTM) finished 76th and moves up three spots to 6oth in his second Dakar whileMatthew Tisdall (KTM) finished 101st and moves up two spots to 97th.
Stage Seven of the 2020 Dakar Rally has proven a sad day in the event’s history with Paulo Goncalves passing away after a fall 276 kilometres into the special, with medical staff finding him unconscious on arrival, after being alerted to the incident and quickly attending. Following resuscitation efforts in situ, he was transported to Layla Hospital via helicopter where he was sadly pronounced dead.
As a mark of respect to such a beloved figure in the Dakar bivouac who had been a fixture at the Dakar Rally since 2006 and was competing in his 13th Dakar, Monday’s motorbike and quad stage has been cancelled in order to give riders time to mourn their friend.
Our condolences to his friends, family and fellow Dakar competitors and team members.
Stage Seven saw Joan Barreda finish the stage as the first rider, however Kevin Benavides was one of several riders, including Toby Price and Stefan Svitko, who stopped to provide assistance to downed rider Paulo Goncalves, with results later updated to take this into account.
Kevin Benavides – Image by Rally Zone
As a result Kevin Benavides claimed the top position for Stage Seven, finishing 1min-23s ahead of teammate Joan Barreda, while KTM’s Matthias Walkner was third, 4min-17s off the leading time.
Dakar leader Ricky Brabec made for the third Monster Energy Honda Team rider in the top five, with teammate Jose Cornejo sixth.
Toby Price was seventh fastest in the updated results – 7min-57s off the leading pace, with the Dakar noting he spent a considerable amount of time trying to assist Paulo Goncalves, with the organiser sharing earlier, “Toby Price has finished Stage Seven in a time 1 h and 23 minutes slower than Barreda’s. However, the Australian spent a long time trying to help Paulo Goncalves, so his actual position will be calculated later today as well Stefan Svitko’s.”
Toby Price was first rider to the scene of Paulo Goncalves’s fall
The RockStar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing duo of Pablo Quintanilla and Andrew short were eighth and ninth, while Franco Caimi was top Yamaha in tenth. Quintanilla is also reportedly struggling with tendinitis in his left hand.
Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha Motor Australia) finished the day in 19th place, 20min-02s off the leading pace.
The standings following Stage Seven now see Ricky Brabec leading with a time of 28h 25min-01s, with Pablo Quintanilla running second, 24min-48s off the leader’s pace. Third is Jose Cornejo, with Toby Price fourth – 28min-44s off leader Brabec. Joan Barreda completes the top five.
“On arriving we heard the news about Paulo. We all know that motorcycling is a dangerous sport, but today is a really sad day for the people of Cross-Country Rallies. Our thoughts are with the family. The race standings don’t mean anything anymore. It’s secondary. Life goes way beyond sport.”
Ricky Brabec – Image by Rally Zone
KTM’s Matthias Walkner and Luciano Benavides now sit in sixth and seventh respectively, ahead of Skyler Jones, Franco Caimi and Stefan Svitko.
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Team Manager
“It has been an extremely sad day for the rally family and of course we send our condolences to Paulo’s family and friends. He was very much loved in the paddock – not only a great rider but also an amazing person and a legend of our sport. Obviously, the news has shocked us deeply, but no one more so than Toby, who was the first to reach Paulo after his crash. We are thankful that in respect for Paulo’s loved ones, and to pay tribute to a great man, tomorrow’s stage will be cancelled for the motorcycles. A day without racing will give all riders the chance to remember Paulo and clear their heads before continuing on Tuesday. Of course, we all hope for a safe finish to the event.”
Rodney Faggotter sits just outside the top-10 in 13th position in the general rankings.
Stage Eight was set to take place in the south of Saudi Arabia, looping back to Wadi Al-Dawasir, however has now been cancelled for the bike and quads categories to give riders time to mourn.
KTM’s Sam Sunderland has led home the Monster Energy Honda duo of Jose Ignacio and Kevin Benavides in Stage Four of the 2020 Dakar Rally, with Stage 2 winner Ross Branch fourth, and Paulo Goncalves completing the top five.
Previous stage winner Ricky Brabec had to settle for seventh, 11-seconds faster than defending champion Toby Price, but it was enough for Brabec to retain his overall lead, while Price moved up the standings into fourth – 12min-9s off the combined lead.
Stage Four of the Dakar Rally offered a long day in the saddle for riders, who needed to complete a total of 672 kilomtres, including a 453-kilometre timed special, offering a mix of sandy pistes and travel tracks, traveling from Neom through to Al-Ula.
Following the GPS and waypoint issues of the previous stage, Stage Four also saw the the Top-10 separated by just five-minutes, however the combined leaderboard continues to stretch out.
Aussie Rodney Faggotter finished Stage Four in 18th position on his Yamaha Motor Australia mount, 13min-4s off the leader, moving into 17th in the standings.
The overall standings now see Ricky Brabec leading Kevin Benavides by 2min-30s, while a more distant Jose Ignacio is third making a Monster Energy Honda Team 1-2-3. Toby Price and Sam Sunderland complete the top five, as the leading KTM riders, while Pablo Quintanilla is top Husqvarna pilot in sixth.
YART Yamaha took the win ahead of Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa and BMW Motorrad World Endurance in Malaysia at the very first edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang, which proved to be a nerve-racking race due to very bad weather.
After a delayed start followed by track action being suspended due to heavy rain, the first edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang made good on its promise of being an action-packed new FIM Endurance World Championship race. Duels at the front, lead swaps, drama and crashes kept the tension high all through the race on the Malaysian circuit.
YART Yamaha won the day despite an electronics scare in the early stages of the race by steering clear of trouble with Niccolò Canepa as the only Yamaha #7 rider in the saddle throughout the race. The strategy of having a sole fast rider with experience of tricky track conditions in the saddle bore fruit. Broc Parkes and Karel Hanika were however co-credited with the win.
Niccolò Canepa – YART Yamaha
“I’m incredibly happy with win here in Sepang, as it started as a difficult week, especially with the injury to Marvin. Luckily Karel was able to step in as a replacement at the last minute. I was feeling good at the start of the race but, after only a couple of laps, the bike switched off and when it came back on it was with no traction control or any electronics. That made things very difficult, but I managed to come back from P20 to P1 at the end of my first stint, which I was supper happy about. When the safety car came out, I switched the bike off and on and everything started to work as it should once again. At both pit stops Mandy asked me if I wanted to continue and both times I said yes, although I did take a bit of persuading at the first stop. I pushed hard throughout the race and, at the end, we took the win. Yes, we were a bit fortunate with the crash, but that’s part of the game in endurance racing, as we’ve found out to our cost in other races. So, I’m super, super happy and I’d like to say a big thank you to my team and especially my team-mates, as we race and win together. The win means we’re back in the championship and now we need to focus on repeating this success at the next race, the 24 hours of Le Mans.”
Mandy Kainz – YART Team Manager
“Obviously we are happy with our first win of the season, especially after what had initially been a difficult week for us here in Malaysia and one overshadowed by Marvin’s injury. The team and the riders didn’t let these difficulties defeat them, but instead worked hard to ensure we were well prepared for what turned out to be a very difficult race. It was shorter than expected because of the weather, but no less exhausting for that. We had a problem with the bike in the early stages of the race, but Niccolò did an incredible job to fight his way through to the front in difficult conditions and without any electronic rider aids. At the first pit stop it was tight at the front of the race, so we decided to keep Niccolò on the bike, rather than lose time while Karel got used to the conditions. We made the same decision at the final pit stop, opting to stick with Niccolò rather than putting Broc on the bike for the final 30 minutes on a damp but drying track. It was the correct decision and it paid dividends for us in the end. So, thanks to the team and the riders for a fantastic job; this win puts us back in the game as far as the championship is concerned. Finally, I wish Marvin a speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing him back on the bike, and hopefully on the podium, in Le Mans.”
YART Yamaha finished ahead of Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa, who ran a consistent race in the leading pack with Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi, Thai rider Somkiat Chantra and Indonesian Andi Farid Izdihar. The Japanese team’s cosmopolitan line-up had already done brilliantly in the Top 10 Trial, wresting second place on the starting grid and backing that up with second place in the race.
BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team claimed their second podium at the 8 Hours of Sepang with riders Ilya Mykhalchyk and Markus Reiterberger after their Bol d’Or podium finish. Kenny Foray sustained an injury in practice and was unable to compete in the race.
Marc Bongers – BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director
“The second podium in our second race in the FIM EWC – this is a fantastic result for our new BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team. We couldn’t have necessarily expected this as newcomers in this highly competitive World Championship. The team and our riders Ilya and Markus weren’t distracted by the adverse conditions. They did yet another fantastic, flawless job on the track and in the pit. On this occasion, I also want to send a get well soon message to Kenny, who surely will be back with us soon. Of course, we would have liked to get more riding in to gain more experience in race conditions with our RR, but it wasn’t possible in this weather. Now we will keep focussing on preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Congratulations go to our BMW customer teams as well, who also got strong results with their RR.”
The factory-backed BMW team moves up to second place in the FIM EWC provisional standings with a 15-point gap to Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, who maintain the lead obtained after their Bol d’Or win.
Damien Saulnier – SERT Team Manager
“When you are not on the top step of the podium you always wish you had a better place, but for this race with tricky conditions, our goal was a Top-5 and the job has been done. I am satisfied with the work we’ve done during the week while being aware that there is still some more work to do. The team keeps on growing up and everyone works hard. We are also very pleased with Yoshimura’s engineers support. I would also like to thank the organiser for this amazing event. Bringing 38 European teams to Malaysia was not an easy task! And last but not least, I would like to say a word for Vincent Philippe, who didn’t race today because of the circumstances. He is a very professional man and I had great confidence in him. I am filled with emotion, but also proud to have been able to work with this remarkable rider.”
Superstock winner just short of the podium
Moto Ain steamed steadily ahead throughout the action-packed race to a fourth-place overall finish and another win in the Superstock class. The French Yamaha-mounted team consolidated their lead in the Endurance World Cup with riders Roberto Rolfo, Robin Mulhauser and Hugo Clère, finishing ahead of both Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and Webike SRC Kawasaki France, who struggled in the challenging track conditions.
Moto Ain’s runner-up in the Superstock class was German team GERT56 by GS Yuasa (BMW). Lucy Glöckner, Stefan Kerschbaumer and Pepijn Bijsterbosch finished 14th overall after holding off Japanese team Tone RT Syncedge 4413 BMW until the end. After being delayed by a crash in the early stages, Tomoya Hoshino, Kokoro Atsumi and Takeshi Ishizuka climbed back up to finish their first race outside Japan on the third step of the podium.
Favourites have nerve-racking race
Yamaha Sepang Racing, who dominated qualifying and the early stages of the race, and their chief rival F.C.C. TSR Honda France broke away from the other front-runners to embark on a duel for the lead.
A collision involving Mike di Meglio (F.C.C. TSR Honda France) and Michael van der Mark (Yamaha Sepang Racing) knocked both machines to the ground.
After a pit stop, Michael van der Mark returned to the track beyond 40th place. By dint of piling up fastest race laps (including a 2:17.817 by Franco Morbidelli), Yamaha Sepang Racing finished 7th ahead of BMW Sepang Racing, 3ART Moto Team 95 (Yamaha) and Team ERC Endurance, who got their Ducati Panigale into the Top 10.
Michael van der Mark – Yamaha Sepang Racing
“It was a weird 8 Hours of Sepang, but when we did finally get to race the conditions were good. I had a good feeling with the bike and a strong pace from the start, so when I got passed for the lead I decided to sit in behind and follow rather than take any risks. My plan was to retake the lead when we hit traffic. I’m not sure what Di Meglio’s plan was with the pass at the final corner, but it didn’t work, and it ended for me with a massive highside that let me badly winded. The team did an amazing job to get the bike back on track and I was quick to rediscover my rhythm so, apart from the position, I enjoyed the race. When Franco took over the bike for the last stint, we could see he had really good pace, but we were still surprised to finish as high as seventh. Massive thanks to the team, who worked so hard for us this weekend, and also to Franco and Hafizh, who I really enjoyed racing with.”
F.C.C. TSR Honda France returned to the lead after the collision, but lost their chance of a win after Mike di Meglio crashed out with one hour left in the race.
Other teams also had a very tough time of it. Suzuki JEG Kagayama were well placed among the top three but lost a lot of ground due to a mechanical issue. A mechanical problem also led to the downfall of Tecmas BMW GMC, who had performed spectacularly in the early part of the race with rider Camille Hédelin clearly at ease on a wet track.
Next FIM EWC race: the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans on 18 and 19 April 2020.