After their amazing race-long duel at the last round in Le Mans, it was another incredible battle in Germany, with the GMT94 and YART teams in a league of their own at the front for almost the entirety of the race weekend. There was nothing to split the teams after practice and qualifying and the race was no different. Despite identical machinery, different tyres, different pit stop strategies, plus a stop and go penalty meant the teams constantly traded places at the front during the race on Saturday.
YART’s Broc Parkes started the race from second on the grid, heading into the first corner in fourth. The Australian lost no time in making his way to the front, battling and overtaking Canepa on lap 17. He opened up a lead of three seconds, before coming into the pits for the first time, Fritz jumping on the R1. Almost immediately passed by Checa, the German rode bravely, still feeling the after-effects of his crash at Assen in WorldSBK. An hour later he passed the baton back to Parkes after pit stop number two, trailing the GMT94 team by 30 seconds. The Australian continued where he left off, reducing the gap to the leader by 14 seconds in his second stint, meaning that when he handed over to Kohta Nozane, the gap to the GMT94 team was just 16 seconds. This weekend was the Japanese rider’s first visit to the track and he found a steady rhythm to keep the GMT94 team and David Checa within sight, although he could not match them for pace. When he handed the R1 back to Parkes just after the halfway point, the YART team were one minute down on GMT94. Once again, the Australian got down to business, but despite his best efforts he could not close the gap in any significant way, and when the GMT94 team re-joined the track after their fifth pit stop he was passed by Checa for the lead. YART came in for the fifth time a few laps later, Nozane taking over, but by now they were over a lap behind. But crucially the YART team had been able to ride longer stints thanks to the durability of their Bridgestone tyres and could make one less pit stop than their rivals. This, combined with GMT94’s stop-and-go penalty, meant the race was not over yet.
When GMT94 came in for another pit stop, Nozane took over the lead and extended it to 10 seconds, before it was time to come in himself. He swapped with Frits, the German rider re-joining in second, now 55 seconds behind the GMT94 team. Fritz pushed and inherited the lead when the GMT94 team made their eighth pit stop with just over an hour to go. It was short-lived, as he lost out to a refreshed Checa in the next few laps, and when he handed over to Parkes for the final stint after the team’s seventh pit stop, the Australian had the seemingly insurmountable task of trying to make up a lap with less than an hour to go. He pushed, but despite closing the gap in the latter stages of the race due to Checa’s fuel stop, after an epic 8-hour duel Parkes and the YART team crossed the line in second. Consecutive podiums mean the YART Team is now fourth in the championship standings with 86 points, just 22 points behind the leaders.
Up next is round four of the 2017 FIM Endurance World Championship, the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, on the 23rd-24th June.