The 2017/2018 FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) season commenced with the 24 Hours Bol d’Or, at Circuit Paul Ricard, near Marseille, France. Honda Endurance Racing (#111 - Sebastien Gimbert / Gregory Leblanc / Yonny Hernández Vega) was on the podium, finishing 3rd, while F.C.C. TSR Honda France team (#5 - Freddy Foray / Josh Hook / Alan Techer), a new joining of forces between F.C.C. TSR and Honda France, finished 6th.
- Sebastien Gimbert
- Gregory LeBlanc
The race began at 3 pm local time on September 16. Foray kicked off for F.C.C. TSR Honda France on 3rd grid, while Honda Endurance Racing’s Leblanc started for the team, two positions behind.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France in a concerted effort in the early stages, took the lead on Lap 17. Despite the top position fluctuating due to pit stop timings, at the 8-hour mark, the team was in a commanding position, with only last year’s winner, the #94 Yamaha team, on the same lap.
At this stage, Honda Endurance Racing was running 4th, waiting patiently for its moment to challenge the podium.
The race took a sudden turn on Lap 577, with three and a half hours remaining. F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s Techer slipped on the turn into Mistral Straight, damaging his bike. Although the team mechanics repaired and sent the bike back on track within 10 minutes, the team lost places, now down to 8th.
The newly formed team’s misfortune contributed to Honda Endurance Racing good fortune, bolstering the team to 2nd on the track. Electrical problems on Lap 578 brought them back into the pits for an unscheduled stop, however, dropping their position down to 4th. The problem was not completely fixed, and despite numerous recurrences, the crew kept their hopes alive.
With one hour to go, Gimbert is in the saddle for Honda Endurance Racing, the endurance race veteran entrusted with taking the team to the podium. He responds to the team’s wishes, pushing hard and reeling in the riders in front, snatching 3rd place with 20 minutes remaining.
The intense battle for the final podium place continues until the checkered flag is within sight, Honda Endurance Racing prevails, crossing the line for 3rd, completing 673 laps. F.C.C. TSR Honda France also regained places and honor, recovering from the unfortunate crash to finish 6th.
Round 2 of the Endurance World Championship, the 24 Heures Motos, will be contested on April 21 - 22, 2018.
- Yonny Hernandez
- Gregory LeBlanc
Honda Rider Comments
- Sébastien Gimbert | Honda Endurance Racing (3rd)
- "The finish was like MotoGP or Superbike, honestly I gave my full energy for this finish. I’m happy for my team-mates and my team because many people work for this and we don’t have the chance sometimes. The last 20 minutes I push the maximum I can and I gave it my full energy. I’m very happy for this, okay we finish third but it feels like a victory. My bike is very nice, we have a little bit problem with electric but now we have a full winter to make it better. To have the last stint for me was big pressure, but I’m happy because Chris has confidence in me. This result is good for the future because the mechanics and my team-mates are also like this. Now I want to work for the win and now for me I have a big party with many friends."
- Gregory LeBlanc | Honda Endurance Racing (3rd)
- "It was an amazing race. I want to say first thanks to Honda and Jonny for having confidence in me and also thanks to Yonny, because the first time I see this man is incredible he is very fast! And thanks to Seb because the last 20 minutes was amazing. I win many times the 24-hour race but this was a lot of emotion in 20 minutes! It’s incredible; we won the podium in the very last lap. It was an amazing 24-hour race. We have worked very hard all week and all race we were in the top positions and fight with all the top teams. This result is very good for me, for Honda and for the team because I think it is the first podium for Honda Endurance Racing at a 24-hour race. Is very good because the mechanics work so hard and I’m very happy."
- Yonny Hernandez | Honda Endurance Racing (3rd)
- "I’m so happy because it was really good experience and we made a really good job with the team. It was amazing but is difficult to explain the circumstances because we can’t live everything in two hours, it’s across 24 hours. Then in the last hours we had some problems, then the team works to fix the bike and then we have two laps in front and then two laps something crazy but so fun. I’m so happy because my target when I come, I dream of podium and in 24 hours is so difficult because there are so many circumstances and I’m so proud of all the work of the team and thanks to Jonny for giving me the opportunity of this experience and to Team Honda for sure. I’m very happy but now I just want to go home and sleep for 48 hours!"
- Jonny Twelvetrees | Honda Endurance Racing Team Manager(3rd)
- "An amazing race, we target a podium in 24-hour racing but we know that you need a lot to go your way to get a podium. We had a couple of problems early on which is part and parcel of 24-hour racing but we dealt with them fairly well. We had a really strong middle sector through the night, all three riders were really strong and all of them put in really good stints. Greg and Seb were both really strong and Yonny, around midday when the sun was up and it was more his specialist area, could push a good lap time. Overall we put ourselves in a good position, we were hoping at that point to be able to capitalise on a higher position, but these things don’t always work out. If we go back to our original objective of being on the podium, then objective achieved. The whole team has worked hard on the new Fireblade for 2017 and they couldn’t be more happier with it. It’s great for the bike and the team overall, and it’s a really strong platform that we can build on for the future."
- Masakazu Fujii | F.C.C. TSR Honda France Team Manager (6th)
- "We were ranked 4th last season in the EWC. This season, we’re aiming to finish higher up, or even on top. Of course it’s best to win the race, but we’re off to a good start for the season, with some championship points under our belt. I have no doubt Honda France is the best team to partner with to win the championship. We have the utmost respect for, and in some ways adore, each other’s heritage, and even if we don’t speak the same tongue, we overcome those difficulties by sharing the language of racing. It is magnificent that TSR’s history and achievements have been accepted in France, and hope that our new partnership will bring more historical achievements. The best part of Bol d’Or, is that we have become partners with such a wonderful team. We’re in France again for the next round, at Le Mans. I’m looking forward to another wonderful encounter, which only Le Mans can bring."
- Yonny Hernandez, Gregory LeBlanc, Sebastien Gimbert