The 32nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans started the 2009 FIM Endurance series off with a bang, as more than 92,000 spectators hung out in seriously wet conditions for 24 hours to see Yamaha Austria take victory by seven laps after their main competition ran into crash and mechanical issues. Yamaha Austria Racing Team riders Igor Jerman, Gwen Giabbani and Steve Martin managed to keep their new YZF R1 upright during 20 hours of heavy rain (and the track never really dried out even when it wasn’t bucketing down) to take the team’s first FIM endurance win, and the first for the new R1.
Three different brands were on the podium, as Honda France (Sébastien Charpentier, Matthieu Lagrive and Steve Plater), and Suzuki (Guillaume Dietrich, Vincent Philippe and Barry Veneman) took second and third. Suzukis filled the rest of the field down to eighth, where the first Kawasaki finished.
If the name Steve Martin rings a vague bell, he’s the colour commentator on the World Superbike TV feed we get on SPEED, and he also works for BMW helping with the development of their new WSB racer.
The most impressive result of the race, however, has to be the team that finished 26th out of the 46 entries. Team Moto Journal-Matmut used a 21-year-old Honda RC30 (entered in the Open class!) to beat 20 modern bikes on the way. After qualifying last, their best race lap was a 1:47.776, nine seconds off the race’s fastest lap of 1:38.242 set by Honda France — pretty impressive for a two-decades-old race bike ridden by journalists from Moto Journal, France’s biggest motorcycle magazine.
Big CMG congrats to D. Dumain, Z. Enault, L. Cochet, and J-P Bersoult.
The top 10 teams were 1. Yamaha Austria Racing Team Yam YZF-R1, 727 laps; 2. Honda France, Hon CBR1000RR, -5 laps; 3. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, Suz GSX-R1000, -11 laps; 4. RT Racing Team, Suz GSX-R1000, -18 laps; 5. Suzuki Junior Racing Team LMS, Suz GSX-R1000, -24 laps; 6. Qatar Endurance Racing Team, Suz GSX-R1000, -24 laps; 7. Rac41 – City Bike, Suz GSX-R1000, -31 laps; 8. Team GSR Kawasaki, Kaw ZX-10R, -32 laps; 9. TRT 27/Bazar 2 La Becane, Suz GSX-R1000, -35 laps; 10. Team Bolliger, Kaw ZX-10R, -35 laps.
The next event in the six-event schedule is an eight-hour in Germany, at Oschersleben, May 31.