The first race in the 2014 World Endurance championship was the 78th Bol d’Or, held at the French track of Magny-Cours. Victory went to the SRC Kawasaki team for the third time in a row, although it wasn’t easy.
Fabian Foret was out with injury after a World Supersport crash, and after a bad crash for Matthieu Lagrive in free practice, Gregory Leblanc and Nicolas Salchaud shared almost the entire race between them. Early on, a crash on the wet track pushed the Kawasaki outside the top 20. After that, a textbook race brought the team back to the top step of the podium, with a five-lap lead over Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin.
Gilles Stafler, SRC Kawasaki team manager, said, “The week got off to a bad start. With Fabien out and the crash for Matthieu, I wouldn’t have fancied us to win. The best win we ever had in a 24-hour race was our first in Le Mans in 2010, but this one was the toughest. There was also a luck factor in the choice of the tires and we had the support of really top-notch technical staff.”
The Yamaha team of David Checa (brother of former Moto GP and WSB racer Carlos), Kenny Foray, and Mathieu Gines was never out of the top three throughout the 24 hours of the race. The French factory Yamaha took the lead during the night but lost time Sunday morning after a crash on a slippery track following a shower of rain.
Perhaps the outstanding feat of this Bol d’Or was pulled off by Junior Team LMS Suzuki. Entered in Superstock (without the fast wheel dismounters), the team rode its way on to the podium alongside the factory teams despite two crashes, with Baptiste Guittet, Etienne Masson, and Gregg Black sharing riding duties.
Next race in the series is the 8-Hour set for July 27 at Suzuka in Japan.