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Slovakia to Suzuka - Eyes on the prize for YART

28 June 2017 by Rik Van Gerwen Achievement 4 min read

Throughout the Slovakian event, just like at Le Mans and Oschersleben, it has been the GMT94 team and the YART team of Broc Parkes, Kohta Nozane and Marvin Fritz that had been the standout performers in practice and qualifying. YART secured a superb pole position on Friday, while GMT94 would start Saturday's 8-hour race from second on the grid. It looked as though there was going to be another epic battle between the two Yamaha teams, and it didn't disappoint.   

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GMT94's Niccoló Canepa didn't enjoy the best of starts when the action got underway at 1.30pm CET, dropping down to 11th and spending the first stint gradually working his way to the front of the field. He was up to third when it was time for the first round of pit stops, and GMT94 found themselves trailing YART by 25 seconds. As David Checa took control for the second stint, a safety car meant that YART's advantage at the front was reduced to nothing and it was effectively like starting the race again. When the Safety Car came in, David Checa made his move and took the lead. The Spaniard became involved in an excellent duel with YART's Kohta Nozane as the two swapped the lead numerous times during their stint. This theme would continue for the next few hours as the two Yamaha teams became locked together in a duel for the victory once more.

"Once again, we had an excellent battle with the GMT94 team, but we felt that we had the pace advantage, plus with the Bridgestone tyres working so well in the heat, we were confident of winning. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. We will go to Suzuka with no pressure for the championship and just focused on winning the race."

Mandy Kainz - YART Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager

The lead changed hands at nearly every pit stop, with neither team managing to break away from the other and every rider showing good pace. With just over two hours to go, GMT94 were trailing YART by 19s, but then the YART team experienced a technical issue and had to come back into the pits for repair. Niccoló Canepa pounced on the opportunity, took over at the front and handed over to David Checa at the end of his stint with a lead of over a lap. The Spaniard managed this beautifully and handed over to Mike Di Meglio for the penultimate stint, before the French rider gave the bike to Niccoló Canepa to bring the R1 home and seal a convincing victory by over a lap from the team in second place to make it three wins in a row. Added to their victories at Le Mans and Oschersleben, this result means the GMT94 team are second in the championship standings with 131 points and have closed to the gap to the leaders to just one point with all to play for in the final round at Suzuka.

 

Broc Parkes had a better start for the YART team and was into second place after the first fifteen minutes. He immediately began to chase down leader Josh Hook on the FCC TSR Honda and within 30 minutes he had taken the lead for the first time in the race. Hook wasn't going to give up that easily though and the two Australians enjoyed an excellent scrap at the front before Parkes handed over to Kohta Nozane with a 3.8s lead. The Safety Car saw any advantage that Parkes had gained in the first hour wiped out and the GMT94 team took the lead from YART when racing resumed. Undeterred Nozane retook the lead and had opened up an 8.5s gap over the GMT94 team when he handed over to Marvin Fritz, although neither team could shake the other and another titanic struggle between them was in full swing.

 

Fritz was pushing hard, but he made a couple of small mistakes, running off track and letting the GMT94 team back into the lead. The German rider recovered well and after three hours, Parkes had retaken the lead for YART and set about opening up a small gap at the front. A couple of pit stops later and YART had a comfortable 19 second lead, but with just over two hours to go, Parkes experienced an issue with the rear of the bike and was forced to pit. After a quick check, he was sent back out, but the issue wasn't resolved and the Australian returned to the pits for more repairs to his R1. This effectively robbed the YART team of any chance they had of fighting for their first victory since 2009, the team re-joining the race down the field. Determined to finish strongly, Parkes, Fritz and Nozane all put in good final stints towards the end of the race to make sure that the YART team finished in a strong fourth position.

 

This sees the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team move up to third in the championship standings with 105 points, 27 points behind the leaders with 30 up for grabs in Suzuka.

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Images by Jonathan Godin.

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