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Le Mans 24-hour: YART celebrates triple pole with lap record

YART Yamaha secured a sensational third provisional pole position in succession for the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans on Friday.

With qualifying results based on the average time of the fastest two riders from each team this season, and a crash for Thursday’s fastest man Niccolò Canepa in the red session, Karel Hanika and Marvin Fritz’ stunning efforts claimed the honours for Yamaha’s factory squad. The sole rider to navigate the famous 4.2km Bugatti Circuit under the 1’35 barrier, Hanika’s 1’34.878 lap took a new record in the process.

“I’m really proud of my team because they give me the perfect bike and I could really do the perfect lap so we’re happy to be on the pole again,” 26-year-old Hanika confirmed.


“It’s the result of our hard work during the winter, we were practicing also very well here and our pace is really strong. For me it was a great lap, I had the perfect timing, the perfect bike, the perfect tyres and I’m really thankful to my team for that.

“We always say it’s possible to do better and I am sure one of us next year is going to prove this. But now I’m really happy because my teammates are doing a great job and I’m learning every day with them. It’s amazing to be again on pole, we are ready for tomorrow.”

Last year’s winner and defending EWC world champion’s Yoshimura SERT Motul, qualified second ahead of F.C.C. TSR Honda France, BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and ERC Endurance-Ducati. Wójcik Racing Team was the top Independent Trophy entrant in sixth followed by Team  Moto Ain. Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers CMS Motostore headed the Dunlop Superstock Trophy.

Following Thursday afternoon’s first qualifying, which ended with session bests for Hanika (Blue Rider), Gino Rea (Yellow), Canepa (Red) and Kenny Foray (Green), Second qualifying took place in similarly dry and sunny, albeit cooler conditions on Friday morning. Hanika took full advantage to once again top the Blue session after Josh Hook looked to be in command. Hook ended up third behind Gregg Black but ahead of Markus Reiterberger and Claudio Corti.
Italian Corti was one of a handful of riders to crash during the session, with Christian Gamarino and Marek Szkopek also falling.

BMW’s Ilya Mikhalchik initially headed the Yellow order before Fritz and then Gino Rea demoted him in quick session, with Rea completing the 20-minute session in first place for Honda on 1’35.186 pace. Fritz took second followed by the Ukrainian, Xavier Siméon and Xavi Fores who, along with Kevin Manfredi, was among the notable fallers.

Mike Di Meglio was the early pacesetter in the Red session until Canepa moved ahead only to fall at turn seven. Di Meglio retook top spot and headed the order until the final five minutes when returning champion Sylvain Guintoli grabbed the initiative. The session ended with Guintoli fastest thanks to a 1’35.535 lap. Canepà returned to the action and ended up second quickest ahead of Di Meglio, Jérémy Guarnoni and David Checa. Moto Ain’s Bradley Smith was seventh.

“I’m really happy and I’m really proud of my team and my teammates,” Canepa reflected at the end of Friday’s action. “Karel did an amazing lap time that was really impressive. We are in pole position, we are here and we have to be happy.

“We feel really good for the race. During the whole winter in the winter testing we did really well as a team and we feel good with the bike, we have a good pace. Our target is to finish the race but I am confident we can fight for the victory. We believe we have the strongest machine to win the race.

“When I crashed, we checked the data and we saw there was a small problem on the brakes. I knew I was coming back to the pits so I was not pushing. I was really surprised to be on the floor but when I came back in we didn’t have any fresh tyres so I had to put on a rear tyre with more than 50 laps so it was impossible to improve my lap from yesterday and be in the 1’34s. But we are on pole, we are three riders and we did the pole and this is enough.”

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