It’s been a tricky year for Honda Racing, especially since revealing they were at fault for the John McGuinness crash that has left the King of The Mountain, feeling pretty depressed and contemplating his future in racing.
Sweeping all that under the carpet, Honda Endurance Racing is now ready for the FIM Endurance World Championship season. Kicking off on the 15th-17th of September at the Bol d’Or, the team has a brand new rider line-up for the 24-hour endurance race.
Who are these mad men? You may well ask!
The team has managed to keep hold of veteran rider Sebastien Gimbert but joining him will be Gregory LeBlanc and Yonny Hernandez. Speaking yesterday, Gregory said,
“I think is possible to achieve an excellent result because the team and the bike are very good. Also, my team-mates are very fast, and it is a pleasure to ride on the Fireblade. For me, it’s a new challenge, a new team, because I ride for many years on another bike. It’s very interesting for me to change and ride the Honda, it’s an honour and a pleasure to join this team.”
Paul Ricard will play host to the Bol d’Or. Located in the south of France, the team will look to secure the best result they can. Let’s face it, any result that doesn’t include riders breaking body parts will be a successful outing. It will be the fifth consecutive year that Sebastien Gimbert will line up for Honda. This year on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.
LeBlanc has won the Bol d’Or four times and will look to increase his success this year. Having the experience of Gimbert and the talent of MotoGP rider Hernandez alongside him, Honda certainly have the riders to walk away with a podium. However, do they have the bike?
Pre season testing with the new Fireblade seemed to be enjoyable for the trio. They have gained valuable lap time and made various tweaks to prepare for the first round of the new season. Team manager, Johnny Twelvetrees explains,
“Testing has gone very well, and all three riders have settled in quite quickly, especially our two new guys Greg and Yonny. They’ve worked very well together to help each other out at different parts of the circuit. Based on all the feedback from the riders we’ve made progress with the setup, and by the end of the afternoon all the riders were feeling very comfortable with the bike.”
LeBlanc adds. “The setting is very good but of course is necessary that we continue to work as we will ride faster throughout testing, but this setting is a very sound basis. For the Bol d’Or, I’m thrilled because the bike is a very beautiful bike and the team is a very professional team. It’s very interesting to work with an English team as it is the first time for me. It’s also an honour to ride with Yonny and Seb.”
Qualifying for the Bol d’Or will take place on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 September, with the race starting at 1500 local time on Saturday 16 September. We’ll certainly be hoping Honda, and the Fireblade have a more successful time with FIM EWC than they have with International Road Racing!