2019 #8hSepang: Yamaha on Pole – What happened so far
The Races of Malaysia have begun. This weekend, the FIM Endurance World Championship will hit the Sepang International Racing Circuit near Kuala Lumpur, sharing the track with the final race of the WTCR car racing season. Since Wednesday, the bikes of the EWC have been on track. It is the first time also the European Stock teams have travelled to Asia.
Pole-Position went to the #21 Sepang Racing Team Yamaha with Franco Morbidelli leading the trio an sharing the bike with Hafizh Syahrin and Michael van der Mark. The team was amongst the quickest in all sessions and Morbidelli went to the Top-Ten Time Trial where he confirmed his pace and the pole for the YART built bike. Morbidelli had a crash during qualifying but was left unharmed after the front had folded.
There was drama a plenty for YART Yamaha, when Germany’s Marvin Fritz crashed on his first flying lap in the Qualifying 1 session, breaking his right collarbone in the incident. He will now be replaced by former GP rider Karel Hanika.
Hanika jumps in for Fritz
Hanika already was YART’s reserve rider at the Bol d’Or in September but back then rode the race for MACO Yamaha. Hanika qualified for the Sepang race on the #14 bike, but had his first laps on the #7 YART Yamaha already during the 45 minutes second free practice session right after the Qualifyings and shortly before the Time Trial Superpole. Hanika will share the bike with YART regulars Niccolo Canepa and Broc Parkes.
Surprise by Honda
The #88 Honda Asia-Dream Racing with Showa squad made the actual headlines in Time-Trial as Somikat Chantra put their bike to second on the grid. He was just seven tenth of a second slower than Morbidelli but conditions had changed a lot so times were far off the expected pace and one to two seconds slower than during the actual qualifying sessions.
But it was EWC’s regular team of F.C.C. TSR Honda France who also could steal the show from the Sepang-Yamaha, as Josh Hook, Freddy Foray and Mike di Meglio put in more than fast lap times. The team is equipped with the full HRC factory bikes that have been run at Suzuka by the Red Bull Honda team so should not have any reasons to complain about the bike. They took third on the final starting grid.
The reigning World Champions of #1 SRC Kawasaki got fourth on the grid with Jeremy Guarnoni, Erwan Nigon and David Checa.
Drama at BMW
The at the Bol newly formed BMW Motorrad World Endurance team of Belgian masterminds Werner Daemen and Steven Casaer already got a blow, when Kenny Foray crashed during Wednesday’s Night Practice session and injured a muscle in his upper body. He is out of the event so Markus Reiterberger and Ilya Mikhalchik will have to race on two only as there are no reserve riders around at 8 hours races and the #37 squad not had the same options as YART.
ERC debuts with de Puniet and Ducati
All eyes were on ERC Endurance when on track proceedings got ahead on Wednesday. The team has made a spectacular move by sending their BMW S 1000 RR machinery with the rest of the field’s central shipment, and flew in two new Ducati Panigale V4R.
ERC will run two teams at Malaysia – the main one on the Ducatis and the BMW Sepang Racing team. Both teams made it to the Top-Ten Time Trial!
On the Ducati, Randy de Puniet is a prominent addition to Louis Rossi, with Czech rider Ondrej Jezek having joined the main equipe as well. The bike looks amazing and has a great sound but above all seems to be quick and fast. To get a good base set up and the project running, team owner Uwe Reinhardt also flew in two WorldSBK mechanics from BARNI Racing and a data engineer from Ducati in Bologna.
De Puniet could put the ERC Panigale on sixth on the grid, right behind YART Yamaha and in front of the ERC BMW ridden by Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, Adam Norrodin and Julien da Costa.
#333 VRD Igol Pierret Experiences Yamaha (Florian Alt, Florian Marino, Xavier Simeon) would gain ninth for the grid, whils #77 Wojcik Racing rider Gino Rea disappointed his team mates Christoffer Bergman and Axel Maurin with a high speed low side in the Superpole session. The team’s second outfit with #777 Wojcik Racing 2 also had a blow with Marek Szkopek suffering a foot injury in a Wednesday crash.