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.