Last updated: March 27th, 2024

RST at the Bol d'Or

The Bol d'Or stands among the world's most renowned endurance races, serving as the pinnacle of the EWC season. This year, we had the privilege of being there to witness the action up close. Stay with us as we delve into all the highlights.

So, let's talk about the 2023 Endurance World Championship (EWC) season, shall we? If you've been keeping tabs on the first three rounds, you'd know it's been quite a unique ride. Think unexpected mechanical issues, changing weather that had meteorologists scratching their heads, and even a few rider mishaps thrown in for good measure.

With all this in the rearview mirror, the final round of the championship arrived with several teams still in the running for the coveted EWC champions' title. In the superbike class, defending champs F.C.C. TSR Honda France were leading the pack. They had their destiny in their own hands; a top-3 finish would mean back-to-back titles.

As we geared up for the race, the F.C.C. TSR Honda team were looking solid, topping the practice charts with RST factory rider Alan Techer at the helm. But they had some fierce competition nipping at their heels. The likes of YART Yamaha Official Team EWC, BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, and the 2021 champs, Yoshimura SERT Motul, were all gunning for the title.

In the superstock class, it was a wide-open field with multiple teams still in contention. National Motos Honda, Team 33 Kawasaki, and the Chromeburner RAC 41 team were all in with a shout. This added an extra layer of excitement, especially for RST riders in the National Motos and Chromeburner Team.


'SLICK' OR Twist?

Now, let's fast forward to race day. The clock struck 3 pm, and the action was about to begin. But there was a twist - the weather. Rain had been making its presence felt for hours, throwing a wrench into everyone's plans. The teams faced a tough call: do they go out on wet tires and risk an early pitstop if the rain clears, or do they start on slicks and nurse the bikes until the track dries up?

Yoshimura SERT opted for the wet tires to ensure they could go full throttle from the start. But, as luck would have it, the weather decided to do a complete 180, and just 11 minutes in, Gregg Black was rolling the Suzuki back into the pits for slicks.

By the time things settled down, the sun had come out, and all the teams had switched to slicks. F.C.C. TSR Honda took the lead, with Yoshimura SERT in second and the BMW Motorrad team in third.

The top teams managed clean first stints for each rider, and as we hit the 3-hour mark, the order remained steady. There were a few retirements, including RST's Kenny Foray on his Tecmas BMW, who had to halt just 45 minutes into the race due to mechanical issues.

As the clock hit 6 pm and evening descended, the superstock class was shaping up with National Motos Honda leading the charge. Guillaume Raymond had a solid first stint, and as he hopped back on the CBR 1000, he seemed confident with the lead they had built.


Into the night

As evening turned to night, and the daylight departed: the darkness provided some key moments in the title race - as the defending champion F.C.C. TSR Honda unexpectedly entered the pit lane for an unscheduled stop. It became evident that all was not well, and despite the best efforts of the mechanics, their race was done, crushing their hopes of a repeat.

With the 2022 champs out of the running, three teams were now in contention for the championship. The question was, who would seize the opportunity?

Yoshimura SERT took the lead following TSR Honda's retirement, but there was a significant challenger - the YART team. They had taken provisional top spot in the championship after TSR Honda's exit. For SERT, winning the race wasn't enough; they needed a YART stumble to claim the championship.

Meanwhile, other RST-affiliated teams were holding their own. Team Bolliger, Chromeburner 41 Team, National Motos Honda, and Florian Marino on the KM99 machine were all running in the top 20.


Sun up

As the sun made it's return on Sunday morning, the race standings remained relatively stable. There was a brief hiccup when Yoshimura SERT had a quick spill, but remarkably, they only lost 10 seconds as Gregg Black slid the bike across the asphalt.

Apart from that, the race had been relatively calm at the front, but that was about to change. Daylight revealed an oil leak on the track, causing multiple riders to crash nearly simultaneously as they hit the slick patches.

This led to a rush to the pits as teams tried to quickly repair the damage, and several laps of racing occurred behind the safety car while the track was cleared.

Racing in traffic can be tough on an engine, especially at slower speeds, and even more so in the last quarter of a 24-hour endurance race. This prolonged period behind the safety car might explain the events that followed.

With around six hours left on the clock, the YART Yamaha team was comfortably in second place, with one hand on the EWC championship, needing only to finish in the top seven (thanks to retirements elsewhere). But then, things took a turn. As the bike headed to the pit lane, it didn't stop at the designated spot but turned right into the pit-box, immediately surrounded by mechanics.

After about eight minutes of work, it was clear they had identified a problem. The team was seen pouring water into the bike's radiator, which had run virtually dry. After nearly 10 minutes in the garage, the bike returned to the pit lane and rejoined the action. The cost? Nearly 15 minutes and three positions in the race order.

This raised the stakes for some championship drama. At the start of the weekend, F.C.C. TSR Honda was leading, YART Yamaha were second, and the Yoshimura SERT team placed fourth. The only way SERT could win the championship would be if TSR Honda and YART Yamaha hit roadblocks.

Now, SERT was leading the race, TSR honda were out, and YART battling mechanical issues. It boiled down to a simple equation for SERT: win and hope YART didn't make it to the finish line.


Final Hour and Unpredictability

As we moved into the final hour, a grueling 23 hours had already passed, and we still didn't have clarity on the superbike or superstock champions. In the superbike class, Yoshimura SERT was still in the lead, and YART was holding onto fifth place. In the superstock category, National Motos Honda had maintained a solid two-lap lead over the competition, led by the Chromeburner team.

With just 20 minutes to go, it seemed like everything had settled. YART had managed to overcome their earlier mechanical troubles. But in the superstock class, there was one last twist - a struggling National Motos Honda limping down the back straight with a clear mechanical problem. Rider Valentin Suchet nursed the bike back to the pit-box, but unfortunately, it was an issue that couldn't be fixed. Though not terminal, it dropped them from first to eighth in the superstock class, ending their chances of winning both the race and the championship.


ENDURED.

And so, it all came to a close. The Yoshimura SERT Motul Team claimed victory at the 86th Bol d'Or, while YART Yamaha held onto fifth place to secure the 2023 championship. RST factory rider Sylvain Guintoli bid farewell to his EWC career with a winning performance as part of the SERT team. While it wasn't the fairytale ending with a championship win, winning a 24-hour endurance race is no small feat, and Sylvain leaves as a Bol d'Or champion.

In the world of endurance racing, each twist and turn adds to the drama, making it one of the most thrilling motorsport spectacles. With the 2023 EWC season delivering surprises, triumphs, and a fair share of heartbreak, it's evident that endurance racing continues to captivate fans and riders alike, offering a unique blend of unpredictability and endurance. Until the next season, the motorsport world eagerly awaits the next chapter in this thrilling saga.


Want to find out more about the EWC? Visit the official website below;

View official EWC website
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Written by

Christopher Impey

A motorcycle rider and enthusiast; as the digital editor for RST, Chris is responsible for creating compelling copy and captivating digital experiences.