Le Mans 24 Hours: BMW 99 Tops Thursday

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2011 Endurance World Championship

The current Endurance World Championship leader, BMW Motorrad France 99, began in its usual strong form at Thursday’s practice session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most challenging motorcycle road races.

The BMW France 99 team of Sebastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon and Damian Cudlin posted the fastest lap of 1:38.455 at Le Mans.

But it wasn’t a runaway lap time; the top five teams were all within a second of each other. Following BMW France 99 by 0.260 of a second was Yamaha Racing France GMT 94, the team that trails BMW France by just 22 points heading into the penultimate EWC round at Le Mans.

The second-fastest time was posted by Yamaha France’s David Checa, although he smashed near the end of the session.

Third fastest was the SRC Kawasaki team, which was 0.431 behind BMW France. SRC Kawasaki rider Gregory Leblanc also wrecked, the rider hitting oil from a blown engine of the Team 18 Sapeurs Pompiers BMW team; the FIM reports that t”he incident also sent three other machines on the ground, and caused the free practice session to be interrupted for quite a long time.”

Fourth fastest was the Monster Yamaha YART team, followed by the final team to post within a second of BMW France, the reigning Endurance World Championship title holder, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT); the Suzuki team is just six points behind BMW France in the overall EWC standings.

As for the Honda TT Legends team of 17-time Isle of Man TT winner John McGuinness, Cameron Donald and Keith Armor, they were 11th fastest aboard the CBR1000RR.

The FIM reports that in the Superstock class, the Suzuki AM Moto Racing Competition is showing their ambition for victory ahead of the BMW of Van Zon Boenig Motorsportschool Penz13 RT and the Suzuki of Team Motor Events Bodyguard AMT, current Superstock leader.

The Endurance World Championship riders will be back on the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit Friday for practice (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. local time).