Honda Endurance Racing battled to a heroic Le Mans 24 Heures Moto podium in the second round of the 2018/2019 FIM Endurance World Championship. Randy de Puniet, Sébastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez rode the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 to the rostrum, with the fight for the win only being decided in the final minutes of the race. The #55 National Motos Honda (Emeric Jonchiere, Stéphane Egea, Baptiste Guittet) also rode a CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 to a top-8 finish.
The Honda Endurance Racing team stood on the second step of the podium at the 42nd edition of the 24 Heures Motos of Le Mans. Randy de Puniet, Sébastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez narrowly missed out on victory in a gruelling race for the second round of the 2018/2019 FIM Endurance World Championship.
After leading the race in the opening stages the rear light broke lose, forcing the Fireblade SP2 into the pits. Returning to the track after repairs, which cost the team a little over three minutes, they made up for lost time working their way up to the podium from 11th position.
Despite de Puniet's minor incident, in which rider and bike went unscathed, Honda Endurance Racing continued on with victory in sight.
During the dark hours of the race, the team relied on de Puniet, sending him out every other stint. The former MotoGP rider didn’t disappoint, setting the fastest lap (1’36.819 minutes) of the race shortly after 7 o’clock in the morning.
The Honda Endurance Racing team maintained its status as the fastest team on track from there on, making up most of the time lost to the repair and incident earlier on. The morning hours saw the #111 Fireblade constantly swapping positions at the sharp end of order as the leading pack contested the race-win.
The race will go down as one of the closest and most exciting race finishes in the history of Endurance racing, as SRC Kawasaki took over the lead in the final three minutes of the race, as the Honda team pitted for a refuelling stop. Still, second is a huge achievement for the team, which started with a completely new crew and a new evolution of the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.
It was also a strong race for National Motos Honda on the #55 Fireblade. The trio of Emeric Jonchiere, Stéphane Egea and Baptiste Guittet started in 25th position and climbed into the top-10, scoring an eighth place finish.
Reigning endurance world champions F.C.C. TSR Honda France, didn’t get any luck at this year’s Le Mans as Mike di Meglio encountered an early crash, leaving the team at the back of the field. The Fireblade was repaired in record braking time to send the trio of di Meglio, Freddy Foray and Josh Hook back out on track, and before long were sat in 8th position. However, they encountered another issue, in which the whole brake system had to be replaced.
For a second time, the team went back out on track, just for Foray to collide with another rider in a racing incident. Resulting damage to the engine cover caused an oil leak, while other internals also had to be changed, setting the team back a further two hours.
The team though then never gave up and sent the bike back out, determined not to retire, in the true spirit of endurance racing. After a sterling effort, the F.C.C. TSR Honda France finished 35th spot in the final classification.