GSX-R1000 Wins Le Mans Overall

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The VTR1000-SP1 Honda of Fabien Foret, Sebastien Charpentier and SebastienGimbert finished in second at the Le Mans 24 Hour race held in Franceover Saturday and Sunday. The Honda twin was forced into second place bythe Sports Production GMT94 Suzuki GSX-R1000 of Guyot, Scarnato and Dussauge. A secondSports Production Suzuki GSX-R1000 machine took third place with Lavieille, Morrison andVan den Bossche at the controls.

The race had began well for Honda with Fabien Foret racing at close quarterswith the Yamaha of Delatang, Maillot and Holon, and the GMT94Suzuki. The three machines swapping the lead as the first hour drew on. At theend of the hour the Yamaha led from the race winning Suzuki, the VTR a closethird...

At the four hour stage, the Yamaha hadcrashed spectacularly, badly damaging the chassis, which ended their efforts.The VTR was now a lap clear of the number two Suzuki with Guyot, Scarnato andVan den Bossche third.

From that point on Foret, Charpentier and Gimbert steadily increased theirlead over the Suzukis and the Yamaha R7 of Jeandat, Morllion and Brian. Asthe race passed the midnight mark the VTR was building a lead, and at onepoint the team held a four lap advantage. At 2:30. am the drizzle started tofall making the conditions a lottery and the crashes came thick and fast.Hardly a team escaped a fall, a race fact confirmed by a pit lane full ofbattered and broken fairings.

At 16 hours, the Honda's lead was down to less than two laps due to the constant drizzle thathad produced fearsome track conditions. Rain, and previously spilled oil makefor an ice rink and the numerous crashes had disrupted the riders race rythmand concentration.

With five hours to go, Foret slid off the VTR at the last corner of the 4.305kmcircuit, the scene of numerous mishaps for the leading teams. Foret pushed intothe pits but the team lost over eight minutes to the Suzuki effecting repairs,returning to the track four laps down. They fought back and were eventuallyhelped by a brake problem on the Suzuki with 40 minutes to go.

The Suzuki lost three laps, but as they returned to the track, it started torain again. The Suzuki had rain tires fitted while the VTR was still on slicks. Hardas the VTR pushed it was all to no avail and the team were forced to acceptsecond on the track, one lap down on the GMT94 Team at the end of the 24 hours.

They had not won the race outright but the Endurance World Championshipcategory was won by the VTR. But the disappointment of not taking outrightvictory was there for all to see on the faces of the team, riders andmanagement alike.

Team manager Bernard Rigoni said of the race, "of course I am disappointed forthe team that we did not win this race, a very special race considering theweather and the track conditions. But on the other hand I am happy to have wonthe World Endurance race. The VTR is an unbelievable machine. It steers verywell, has an excellent braking system and is relatively easy to ride fast. Wehad a small problem with the gear shifter late in the race but that's all. TheVTR has a very high potential."

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