Le Mans nightmare for Kawasaki SRC
As four time former winners, luck was not with the Kawasaki Motors France supported team despite a fantastic pole position
It seems that the 37th Le Mans 24 Hours event was not going to be Kawasaki SRC’s race.
As four time former winners, luck was not with the Kawasaki Motors France supported team despite a fantastic pole position and a perfect start of the race. Unfortunately, things started to turn bad as dusk made way to night.
Leading the race since the end of the first hour, Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive and Fabien Foret were forced to change their tactics after Fabien had a small crash just before 11.00 pm.
The Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja spent 10 minutes in the garage before re-joining the race dropping to 16th position.
But fate dealt a further blow to the Kawasaki SRC squad. Back in tenth position in the standings just before mid-race, Matthieu Lagrive crashed at the Esses Bleus corner and had to stop once again to repair the number eleven machine. After another ten minute pit stop, the lime green bike was back on track returning to the fight.
But on Sunday early morning, Matthieu Lagrive was back again in the SRC garage forced to stop due to a quick change rear wheel system failure. That was just too much for Gilles Stafler the team manager, who decided to retire from a race where his bike didn’t have a realistic chance of a podium finish.
Gilles Stafler commented : “For sure it ‘s a big frustration but that’s the way it goes in Endurance. Each race is different from the previous one. I decided to stop the bike because we were too far behind our third stop to expect a podium place. I’m really sorry for Kawasaki and all my staff. We made a perfect job during practice and the first part of the race but in Endurance you can never know what you could expect from the race. We will be back and stronger in April and for sure get the victory that we deserved. »
Grégory Leblanc added : “Gilles took the right decision. We were not going to podium at this race. For sure it’s a big disappointment for me and I will not be the first rider ever to score fifth victories in a row. That’s endurance. I ‘m so sorry for the team because the mechanics did their best after the crashes to fix things as fast as possible. I’m sure we will win again here. We will be back !”
Fabien Foret explained : “I feel very sorry about my mistake. I was on my exit lap after a pit stop and I didn’t understand what exactly happened. Maybe I touched a white line while breaking and I lost the front. Last year we shared a victory for my first race with the Kawasaki SRC team but this year was not ours . That’s it !”
Matthieu Lagrive concluded : “That’s a shame because we were on a good pace and we really have the package to win this race. But as everybody already said, that’s endurance ! Like Fabien I’m still wondering what exactly happen when I crashed. I lost the front at the exit of the corner and from my point of view it’s not normal. Anyway, that’s racing and some time it’s not the most competitive squad who’s get the victory”.