Success for BMW Motorrad at Le Mans
BMW Motorrad returned to world championship motorcycle racing with a fantastic result at the gruelling Le Mans 24 hour race in France this weekend, ending with a win in their class and a highly impressive 16th overall on the modified R 1200 S sports boxer.
Despite being down on horsepower compared with their rivals, BMW Motorrad Motorsport team riders Thomas Hinterreiter, Rico Penzkofer and Marcus Barth hustled the flat-twin around the 2.6 mile Bugatti circuit, entertaining 90,000 sun-soaked spectators with daring late-braking manoeuvres and impressive speed through the turns.
Throughout the 24 hours and 776 laps of the race, the bike's twin-cylinder engine never missed a beat. Considering that the BMW R 1200 S has only had one shakedown test - and that most of the top teams didn't suffer any serious misfortunes or retirements - to finish 16th overall was a tremendous result and one that will give the whole team a huge boost for the forthcoming season, according to Markus Barth.
"This was an amazing result and it's largely down to the way that the whole team has worked so well together," said the German rider who had originally been the substitute rider until an injury to Stphane Mertens meant that Barth got the ride at Le Mans. "All three of us put in very close and consistent lap times and that made us very competitive. I am very happy with this result because before the race, I thought that we'd do well to finish in the top 20, so to get 16th is super. I want to thank all the mechanics and everybody involved in the race effort because they've all played an important part in our success. Considering we were down on horsepower, I think we've done really well. I had no problems at all during the race apart from a bit of a sore neck, but I'm looking forwards to celebrating this success with the rest of the team."
This was a view shared by team-mate Thomas Hinterreiter: "This World Endurance Championship race result is a perfect start and I'm so happy because I never would have believed that we'd finish as high up as we did. Le Mans is a very tough place to race and most of our rivals had much faster bikes, so to do what we did was great. We knew we'd be at a disadvantage compared with the rest of the field, but this is all part of the challenge. I didn't have any problems during the race and I actually felt that the bike was getting better as the race wore on! We've not had much time with the R 1200 S before coming to Le Mans, so this result makes me very, very happy."
Rico Penzkofer was also very pleased with the team's performance and result in this race - one of the toughest on the endurance calendar: "I was thinking about a top 25 place before this weekend, so we did very well to finish 16th, especially as very few top teams crashed out or retired, so our result was all down to hard work and effort. The team has done absolutely perfect work and the team spirit has been super throughout the weekend - this is a great start to the season and it gives us plenty of confidence for the next race."
Director of BMW Motorrad Motorsport, Berti Hauser, was delighted with the team's first official outing and believes that Boxer fans can expect more of the same throughout 2007: "After five years of the Boxer Cup, we wanted a new challenge and we also wanted to give something back to the fans. We wanted to participate in a major race but knew we couldn't do Superbike with this bike (because of the regulations) so we chose what is probably the toughest discipline of all - endurance!"
"Le Mans is probably the most famous and also the toughest endurance race on the calendar, and with many strong teams participating, we knew it wasn't going to be easy. However, I never expected we'd finish in the top 16 and I am both happy and delighted with this performance. The team's motivation and spirit has been super throughout and this result is a great reward for everybody's hard work and commitment. We've learnt so much just from being part of this race and we've got a lot of ideas to work on that I know will help us improve the bike even more for the next challenge."
1. S.E.R.T. - 818 laps.
2. S.E.R.T. - 818 laps.
3. Kawasaki Motor France - 817 laps.
4. Yamaha GMT - 811 laps.
5. Yamaha Austria Racing - 810 laps.
16. BMW Motorrad Motorsport - 776 laps.
1. BMW Motorrad Motorsport - 776 laps.