Doha: The Bol d’Or on April 26 and 27 will be the opener for another thrilling FIM Endurance World Championship season.
The quality of this year’s field promises a great show at the opening 24 Hour race at the Nevers magny-Cours circuit among both the Formula EWC world title contenders and the candidates for the FIM Superstock World Cup.
The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, with its thirteen World titles, is one of the favourites, especially now the factory Suzuki team has added former BMW regulars Erwan Nigon and Damian Cudlin to its core crew of Vincent Philippe et Anthony Delhalle.
Team SRC Kawasaki, with an unbroken run of five successive victories at the Bol d’Or and the 24 Hours of le Mans, is also among the race favourites.Aboard the factory Kawasaki (only racing the two French events), Gregory Leblanc and Matthieu Lagrive could be joined by World Supersport champion Fabien Forêt.
Several of the permanent teams are making no secret of their ambitions to win the Bol d’Or and to contest the 2014 World title. Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin, runner-up in 2013, has recruited the best of the French Supersport riders: Mathieu Gines and Lucas Mahias will be joining forces with David Checa and Kenny Foray. The other factory Yamaha, the Monster Energy Yamaha YART, with Pirelli tyres in 2014, will be at the start with Jerman, 2013 Australian Superbike champion Wayne Maxwell and his fellow countryman Rick Olson.
Team R2CL, a private team (Suzuki-Dunlop), is also looking confident since it confirmed its high-powered and high-profile line-up of Guy Martin, Gwen Giabbani and Gareth Jones. They face an unknown quantity in the new Honda Racing factory team (Dunlop) whose CBR1000RR will be carrying a trio of Endurance specialists, Sébastien Gimbert, Julien da Costa and Freddy Foray.
Among the challengers, we find stalwarts Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki-Pirelli), capable of taking the top teams by surprise, the Yamaha of Maco Racing Team (Dunlop), Honda National Motos, back among the permanent teams, and the Kawasaki of Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers (Dunlop).
In Superstock, the quest for victory is also looking wide open. 2013 FIM World Cup winner Team Motors Events April Moto (Suzuki-Dunlop) is graduating to Formula EWC, leaving the way free for the much fancied BMW of Penz13.com Franks Autowelt Racing Team (Pirelli), winner in 2012. The German team will have a “new” rival with the return of the QMMF Racing Team (Kawasaki-Dunlop), winner of the FIM World Cup from 2008 to 2010 and fielding Alexander Cudlin, Nina Prinz and Mashel Al Naimi.
The 24-Hour Bol d’Or will see the introduction of a major rule change in 2014. Points (10 points to 1 point) will be allocated to the ten first placed competitors in the intermediate rankings 8 hours and 16 hours into the race. The idea of this bonus is to reward those who make the running over long distance races. The Peninsula