Sepang, Malaysia - After a delayed start followed by track action being suspended due to heavy rain, the first edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang made good on its promise of being an action-packed new FIM Endurance World Championship race. Duels at the front, lead swaps, drama and crashes kept the tension high all through the race on the Malaysian circuit.
YART Yamaha won the day despite an electronics scare in the early stages of the race by steering clear of trouble with Niccolò Canepa as the only Yamaha #7 rider in the saddle throughout the race. The strategy of having a sole fast rider with experience of tricky track conditions in the saddle bore fruit. Broc Parkes and Karel Hanika were however co-credited with the win. “We won it together,” said Niccolò Canepa at the post-race press conference.
YART Yamaha finished ahead of Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa, who ran a consistent race in the leading pack with Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi, Thai rider Somkiat Chantra and Indonesian Andi Farid Izdihar. The Japanese team’s cosmopolitan line-up had already done brilliantly in the Top 10 Trial, wresting 2nd place on the starting grid.
BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team claimed their second podium at the 8 Hours of Sepang with riders Ilya Mykhalchyk and Markus Reiterberger after their Bol d’Or podium finish. Kenny Foray sustained an injury in practice and was unable to compete in the race. The Belgian factory-backed team moves up to 2nd place in the FIM EWC provisional standings with a 15-point gap to Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, who maintain the lead obtained after their Bol d’Or win.
Superstock winner just short of the podium
Moto Ain steamed steadily ahead throughout the action-packed race to a fourth-place overall finish and another win in the Superstock class. The French Yamaha-mounted team consolidated their lead in the Endurance World Cup with riders Roberto Rolfo, Robin Mulhauser and Hugo Clère, finishing ahead of both Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and Webike SRC Kawasaki France, who struggled in the challenging track conditions.
Moto Ain’s runner-up in the Superstock class was German team GERT56 by GS Yuasa (BMW). Lucy Glöckner, Stefan Kerschbaumer and Pepijn Bijsterbosch finished 14th overall after holding off Japanese team Tone RT Syncedge 4413 BMW until the end. After being delayed by a crash in the early stages, Tomoya Hoshino, Kokoro Atsumi and Takeshi Ishizuka climbed back up to finish their first race outside Japan on the third step of the podium.
Favourites have nerve-racking race
Yamaha Sepang Racing, who dominated qualifying and the early stages of the race, and their chief rival F.C.C. TSR Honda France broke away from the other front-runners to embark on a duel for the lead. A collision involving Mike di Meglio (F.C.C. TSR Honda France) and Michael van der Mark (Yamaha Sepang Racing) knocked both machines to the ground. After a pit stop, Michael van der Mark returned to the track beyond 40th place. By dint of piling up fastest race laps (including a 2:17.817 by Franco Morbidelli), Yamaha Sepang Racing finished 7th ahead of BMW Sepang Racing, 3ART Moto Team 95 (Yamaha) and Team ERC Endurance, who got their Ducati Panigale into the Top 10.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France returned to the lead after the collision, but lost their chance of a win after Mike di Meglio crashed out with one hour left in the race.
Other teams also had a very tough time of it. Suzuki JEG Kagayama were well placed among the top three but lost a lot of ground due to a mechanical issue. A mechanical problem also led to the downfall of Tecmas BMW GMC, who had performed spectacularly in the early part of the race with rider Camille Hédelin clearly at ease on a wet track.