On 12 and 13 June, the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans will host the 24 Heures Motos, the first round of the 2021 FIM Endurance World Championship. The race is set to be a thriller, with new line-ups and favourites among both the factory teams and the increasingly ambitious privateer teams.
The wait has stepped up the pressure. The new contenders for the 2021 world title will race for the first time this season at Le Mans.
The official teams include familiar outfits such as YART Yamaha, who are fielding the same line-up – Karel Hanika, Marvin Fritz and Niccolò Canepa – that won the runner-up spot last season.
Webike SRC Kawasaki France Trickstar, the 2018-2019 FIM EWC champions, will also be chasing the title with the same line-up comprising Jérémy Guarnoni, Erwan Nigon and David Checa.
Japanese team F.C.C. TSR Honda France, the winners of the 2020 24 Heures Motos and the 2017-2018 FIM EWC champions, have recruited Yuki Takahashi alongside Josh Hook and Mike di Meglio.
As for BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, who were very impressive during the test with the new M 1000 RR, the Spanish rider Javier Forés has joined Markus Reiterberger and Ilya Mikhalchik. Kenny Foray is the 4th rider of the BMW team who are chasing a dual goal of a first 24-hour race win and a first world title.
ERC Endurance-Ducati have exactly the same ambitions. The Panigale V4R will be entrusted to Mathieu Gines, Louis Rossi and Etienne Masson (world champion last season with SERT), with Sylvain Barrier as back-up rider.
The new Suzuki line-up
Yoshimura SERT Motul in particular are eagerly awaited on the track. This new alliance between two legendary outfits is a dream team. Yoshimura, Suzuki Japan and reigning champions SERT have tied up to go after another world title. Gregg Black and Xavier Siméon will be joined in the saddle of the GSX-R1000R by Sylvain Guintoli, the 2014 Superbike world champion, and back-up rider Kazuki Watanabe.
Some privateer teams are capable of taking on these factory teams. Challengers who stood out last season include Poland’s Wójcik Racing Team, French teams VRD Igol Experiences and 3ART Best of Bike and Slovakian team Maco Racing. Bolliger Team Switzerland is another contender to keep an eye on.
A newcomer in the EWC class, Moto Ain, two-time winner of the Superstock World Cup, also has big ambitions with riders Roberto Rolfo, Robin Mulhauser and Randy de Puniet.
All in all, we can expect a thrilling race on the Bugatti circuit, with a close fight on the cards in the Superstock class as well.
The first official practice sessions for the 24 Heures Motos will get underway on Thursday 10 June, and offer early insights into the new pecking order in the world endurance championship.