FIM Endurance press release:
The pre-24 Hours of Le Mans testing were the first occasion to evaluate the level of competitiveness, as most of the teams were present. However, amongst few others, Yamaha Austria Racing Team and official GSR Kawasaki team were missing, as they were doing their own private testing. With the official support of Michelin, YART took part of the French supplier testing a few weeks ago at Valencia, in Spain, to finalize the set-up of their new R1. The Austrian team remains one of the favourite for the 2009 world title.
At Le Mans, the fastest R1 was the one from official Yamaha France GMT 94. David Checa, Sébastien Gimbert and former official Kawasaki rider Erwan Nigon were all very satisfied with their 2009 bike. The Yamaha GMT 94 is fitted with Pirelli tyres, the same as used in the World Superbike Championship, were David Checa is also racing for the team.
BK Maco Moto Racing Team was also present on the Bugatti racetrack to work on their new R1 with their two new Spanish riders, Victor Carrasco and the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Dani Ribalta. They will pair with American rider Jason Pridmore.
The Honda teams were particularly impressive during the first testing sessions. Michelin Power Research Team, who joined as a permanent team the FIM 2009 Endurance World Championship on a CBR1000RR, has for main target the development of their tyres in real race conditions. However, while riding the Honda prepared by Daffix Motos, William Costes, Hugo Marchand and Josep Monge has proven that they are perfectly able to fight for a podium at Le Mans.
Also fitting Michelin tyres, the official Honda France bike made strong impression as well by signing some top-three laptimes. Matthieu Lagrive might also have signed a lap one second quicker than the 2008 pole position! We are looking forward to some intense battle from the qualyfing session of this 32nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Honda France had to modify their team, though. Suffering from a knee injury, Jean-Michel Bayle could not take part of the race. Sébastien Charpentier and Matthieu Lagrive won’t loose much as they will pair with another endurance specialist, Steve Plater.
In the Kawasaki Team, Bolliger Team Switzerland are still working on their ZX-10R setup, with not much change from last season. The only important change at Bolliger is the team of riders: German rider Rico Penzkofer came to support Patric Muff, Horst Saiger as Eric Mizera, former Bolliger rider, was expected on the Yamaha Superstock of Loic Motos Racing, before he signed for another permanent team on Suzuki, RT Racing Team Moto Virus.
Three new permanent teams competing in the Superstock class, took part of the pretesting sessions. Atomic Moto Sport on Kawasaki did their apprenticeship on the French Endurance Championship and also took part of the 2008 8 Hours of Oschersleben. Also on Kawasaki, Cordoba Patrimonio de la Humanidad, had some experience of Endurance and Road Racing in Spain. Last but not least, Markos Suzuki Serbian Team, first ever Serbian permanent team, also had a taste of Endurance last year at Oschersleben.
They all will have to battle against the big names in this class, in the like of last year Le Mans winner Junior Team Suzuki, as well as the top three of the 2008 FIM Superstock World Cup, Qatar Endurance Racing Team, Team LTG 57 Zone Rouge and Team Endurance Moto 45.
The first free practice of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place Thursday, the 16th of April at 10:45 am and the first qualifying session from 4:30 pm on the Bugatti racetrack at Le Mans.