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Le Castellet. A thrilling FIM Endurance World Championship 2023 season finale at Le Castellet (FRA) saw the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team claim another podium finish and secure third place in the world championship standings. At the Bol d’Or, Markus Reiterberger (GER), Ilya Mikhalchik (UKR) and Jérémy Guarnoni (FRA) crossed the line in third place after 709 race laps. The trio reached the rostrum with the #37 BMW M 1000 RR in all three 24-hour races this season. The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team finished third in the world championship standings, just one point away from second place. The new world champions from the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team were only 21 points ahead.
The BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team secured pole position with a new lap record and the three BMW Motorrad factory riders and the team proceeded to do an outstanding job throughout the 24 hours of racing. Some problems with the electronics did knock the team back during the night. However, Reiterberger, Mikhalchik and Guarnoni worked their way back up through the standings to reach the podium positions. Mikhalchik also claimed the fastest race lap, posting a time of 1:52.898 minutes with the #37 BMW M 1000 RR.
The 2023 season started with third place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA) for the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team and the #37 BMW M 1000 RR. They followed this up with third place and another podium at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL). At the 8-hour race at Suzuka, the team secured an outstanding sixth place with the best performance of any European team. The team featuring Reiterberger, Mikhalchik and Guarnoni reached the rostrum again to round off the season – both in the Bol d’Or and in the world championship.
The team at Le Castellet featured BMW Motorrad WorldSBK factory rider Loris Baz (FRA), competing as the fourth rider for the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team in the finale, as well as in the practice sessions and during qualifying.
The Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team had secured pole position in the Superstock class with the #9 BMW M 1000 RR. As injuries prevented Jan Bühn (GER) and Nelson Major (FRA) from competing in the race, Baz was able to join the team at short notice as the third rider alongside Kenny Foray and Loïc Arbel (FRA). However, the team that had celebrated a hard-earned victory at the season-opener at Le Mans (FRA) now experienced just how cruel endurance racing can be. The team was forced to retire in the early stages of the race due to a technical failure.
Three privateer BMW teams were also racing at Le Castellet. The Team LRP Poland claimed eleventh place overall with the #90 BMW S 1000 RR and seventh place in the Formula EWC class. The Japanese TONE RT SYNCEDGE 4413 BMW team crossed the finish line in 22th position overall (eleventh place in the Superstock class). The French Seigneur Motorsport Team Mont Blanc team finished the 24 hours in 30th place (19th place in the Superstock class).
Reactions after the Bol d‘Or.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “We had prepared really well and our pace was great ahead of this race. We were very competitive in all the practice sessions and we also secured pole position, scoring our first five points in the process. We were 38 points behind and we still felt we had a good chance as there were 85 points up for grabs. We needed to win this race, and hope that the others endured some bad luck. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite manage it. During the night, we twice had a very similar problem with the power supply in the motorbike. That cost us about eight laps in total, which in turn definitely cost us second place and had an effect on the race for the world championship title. It is hard to take when there’s just one point in it. I would like to congratulate Yamaha on the world championship title and Suzuki on winning the race here. Nonetheless, we were able to show the pace we have and I am very pleased that we finished all four races this year, including three podiums in the 24-hour races. That was unthinkable last year and shows what potential we have. I would like to thank the entire BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, our great riders and everyone in Munich and Berlin who made this possible. We now have a long winter ahead of us. We need to continue to improve and I am sure that we when we return, we will be well equipped to challenge for the title.”
Werner Daemen, Teammanager BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team: “I have mixed feelings. To be honest, if you had told me about that result before the season, I would have been quite happy. But now we feel that the title was also possible and then you want more. But this is a particular race and I think we have been strong. In qualifying, we showed our potential by taking pole position. The riders again did a tremendous job. In the race, we had some bad luck and some technical issues that cost us several laps. If we could have won maybe the world title would also been possible. That means that we have some work to do and the title will be our goal for next year. Thanks to BMW, to the riders and the entire team for their hard and great work this season. There are so many people who have contributed to the fact that we finished all races and been on the podium in all 24-hour races. Next year we will attack again!“
Markus Reiterberger: “I am certainly feeling very happy. That was a tumultuous race here. We made a different tactical choice and maybe we had some bad luck with the safety car. But the two defects also cost us some time. However, we always managed to come back. I think that was my best race performance. I was able to really push in each stint, catching up on the bikes ahead, posting consistently fast lap times and keeping pace with the fastest racers. I completed the final two stints. I had been feeling good up to that point, but the last one was really tough. We gave it everything as we were still aiming to finish second and secure second place in the world championship. However, it wasn’t possible as the gap was just too large. I am still very pleased nonetheless. We completed every race and it looks like we have solved the problems that we had last year. And I think that if we continue to improve a bit, we can be challenging for the world championship title next year. Thanks to everyone at BMW Motorrad Motorsport and in the team, who all worked so hard. I think that we can be proud of what we have achieved, and we will manage to take the next step.”
Ilya Mikhalchik: “It’s like having mixed emotions. On one side, I am really happy, for sure. On the other side we missed the world championship title just narrowly and had some bad luck during the races. But I am happy that we all made big steps since last year, with the bike, with the riders’ performance, with the lap times. Everyone worked hard and you can see the results. I think that season was one of the best because we finished all races, have been on the podium on three of four occasions and have always been fighting for the top. Even in Japan, we have been close to the podium. So for sure we should be happy. I want to say thank you to all the BMW engineers for the big steps on the bike. I hope it’s only the start and we can be even stronger. A special thank you to my team-mates who push every lap. We’re learning from each other and that is great. Thanks to the entire team for the work – and I hope one day we will win the title.”
Jérémy Guarnoni: “Of course we are happy because to finish on the podium at a classic race like this is great. Also the result in the championship has been important after the difficult season we had last year, even if we had won at Spa. Now we are back, fighting with the top teams. That’s the positive point. But obviously we have been here for winning. We had some technical issues but even without them we could not fight for the win because I think that Suzuki was one step better than us. So we just have to keep working. I think that BMW and the team are working more than everybody else but endurance is like this and I think that our time will come. Let’s try next year!”
Loris Baz: “It has been a super nice experience and great to be with the team. I was just trying to do a good fourth rider job as I was asked to. I anyway love being at a race with my friend Jérémy and trying to help him. BMW then also needed help on the Tecmas-MRP-BMW Racing Team side in the Superstock class to try to catch the title for them because of injuries. So that was a last minute call. I was going cycling and everything was packed in my car and they called me and told me I am needed in Superstock. So I was really looking forward to this because it would have been really great to race with Kenny and Loïc. But unfortunately there was the technical issue early in the race. This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. I had finished my job on Friday, then I got a new job but could not ride. Since then I had been supporting Jérémy and the #37 as much as I could. I’m really happy they’ve made it to the podium.”
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