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At the Spa 24 hours, a mechanical problem ruined all hopes of victory for the Tecmas team, despite its superiority on the Superstock competitors. However, nothing is lost for the Worldwide Cup but it will be necessary to add the points at the Bol d’Or in September, like they did at the 24 Hours of Mans.

After its « historical » victory at the 24 Hours of Mans, the Bourges team Tecmas-MRP-BMW wanted to confirm it’s position of favorite in the Superstock during the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours. The three pilots, Kenny Foray, Loïc Arbel and Jean Bühn, very comfortable with the Belgium Ardennes toboggan, had actually signed the pole position in their category, therefore assuming their territory. “Of course, this BMW M1000 RR n°9 will be difficult to beat normally. Only a mechanical problem or an error from one of the pilots would help to give us a small advantage” was what you could hear in some boxes around the Tecmas team. A superiority well confirmed at the beginning of the race when Kenny Foray dig quite a significant distance on its direct competitors, still fighting against some impressive EWC.

3 hours and 31 minutes stuck in the stand!

One could wonder if, like in the Sarthe, there would be a unique lead of the Arnaud Sassone Team? It would have been presumptuous to believe it as it is so real that in any mechanical sport, things rarely remain as it has been thought. An oil puddle, a flat tire, an electronic problem, to go off the track, a mechanical breakdown sometimes for a ten € part! and everything can be changed. Tecmas learned that, against its will, losing the Ardennes battle, but with a certain heroism in its misfortune.

Christian ragot

Flash-back! It’s 2:27 p.m. when Kenny Foray is announced at a slow-moving at the other end of the track. Up to now, the Superbike Champion has done more than it’s job by distancing it’s direct Superstock competitors with about ten seconds. In the stand, everyone has their eyes fixed on the control screens. Each of them tries to understand what may have happened. Kenny succeed in bringing back the bike and under Sacha Collet supervision, all the mechanics rushed on the “n°9”. The pilot confirm that he had no alert signal. Morgan Rebeix, the Tecmas engineer, his eyes fixed on the screen confirm: no overspeed, no excessive downshift, no abnormal temperature rise. Nothing! Everything is dismantled and a tremendous mechanical cession occurs, something out of norms to the team’s credit, entirely concentrated towards the same target, to bring back the bike on the track just to finish the race and try to gain some points for the Worldwide Cup.

During 3h:31mn, the bike remained immobilized in the stand. “We have faced a problem on one part of the high engine” resumed Arnaud Sassone, quite vexed. “A part that the regulation authorizes to change, and that is what we did. The work has been long and difficult but the guys have realized an extraordinary job! … They have been heroics. Congratulations for them…”

It’s 6h01mn p.m. when Loïc Abel mounts his saddle for an in-out. One turn on the trac to verify that everything is fine and an immediate come back to check the oil level. All is granted and Loïc can go.

“Now, it’s another race which starts” say Arnaud Sassone”: “The motivation, for the guys, is different. No way to run to win but rather to finish…” As one says, in Endurance, to pass under the checkerboard flag is already a personal victory! “This is true say the boss. But here, if we want to get some points, we still have to cover 75% of the distance of the scratch winner. Mathematically speaking, it’s possible…”

Renunciation confirmed at 2 a.m.

At that time, the n° 9 had covered 13 turns and the leader (Gunitoli on the SERT’s Suzuki) 96 turns. Close to few minutes, 20 hours race. Nothing too much. But no way to let go. Each coming out of the Safety Car was that much time wan for the “9”. Any problem striking a direct competitor was like a relief. At midnight the “9” had covered 150 turns against 238 for the instant leader. The thee pilots relayed with a good regularity.

Excepted than an over oil consumption, certainly due to the big breakdown at the beginning of the race forced the bike to multiply the stops at the stand to control the levels. Therefore, one question occurred: shall we pursue the race in these conditions? “As a matter of fact, there was the risk of an engine break which will cause some enormous oils puddles on the track and one could imagine the consequences when a pilot would arrive at full speed. We did not want to take this risk. At two o’clock a.m., when Loïc Arbel finished it’s 201 turn, as a collegial decision, we decided to renounce. It’s even more frustrating that we certainly were the best in this category (the n°9 has been credited of the best turn in Superstock race with a chrono of 2’23’’488°, NDLR). But this is the hard law in sport” said the Bourges team boss, already looking forward to the 4th round of the Superbike, July 1st and 2nd at Magny-Cours and even more for the Bol d’Or, in September, at Le Castelet. And there, to win the Endurance Worldwide Cup, we must be present and efficient.

Les classements :

Scratch : 1. Yart-Yamaha n°7 (Canepa, Hanika, Fritz) 572 tours, 2. TSR Honda France n°1 (Di Meglio, Techer, Hook) à 1 tour, 3. BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team n°37 (Reiterberger, Mykhalchyk, Guarnoni) à 3 tours, 4. Suzuki Sert n°12 (Masson, Black, Guintoli) à 5 tours  etc…

Superstock :1. National Motos Honda n°55 (S. et V. Suchet, Raymond) 556 tours, 2. Team Louit Kawasaki n°33 (Calia, Gamarrino, Pons) 556 tours, 3. Honda No Limits n°44 (Masbou, Nigon, Gabellini) 553 tours, etc…

Texte : Christian Ragot
Photos : Stéphane Valembois
translation : Josette Borne

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