The Honda TT Legends team finished its debut Bol d’Or in an impressive fifth place after a gruelling 24-hour race that saw John McGuinness, Steve Plater and Keith Amor complete 796 laps of the Magny-Cours circuit, France.
The event was the first round of the 2011 FIM Endurance World Championship, which the team will contest along with the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster GP.
15-times TT race winner McGuinness started the race for the all-new team from seventh on the grid. His steady and conservative first laps set the tone for the rest of the race as each rider headed out onto the circuit for their individual stints with focus and determination.
The team remained in seventh position for the first section, battling in close contention with four other teams – including private French Honda team National Motos.
A dramatic turn of events came with the break of dawn as the Yamaha Endurance Racing Team retired due to a technical problem and National Motos suffered a brake problem forcing them back two laps.
This elevated the Honda TT Legends into fifth place where they remained steady for the rest of the race, eventually finishing 18 laps behind the winning team to achieve their aim of finishing the 75th annual Bol d’Or.
Keith Amor completed the final stint to bring the Fireblade past the chequered flag.
Here’s what the riders and management had to say:
“I’m pretty happy with that to be honest. It’s strange really because we were so close to the podium and it would have been great to get there, but we’ve got to be realistic with ourselves. We’re a brand new team and top five at world level in the first championship race is absolutely brilliant.
"It’s been like a war not a battle, incredible really. It’s a testament to the Hondas and to the hard work of the team, maintaining the bike through the race. The atmosphere here has been amazing, right through the day and through the night – what an event, what a festival and what an experience and the icing on the cake is fifth place”
“The whole team has put in a massive effort and worked really hard to get ready for the Bol d’Or. It’s a very hard, steep learning curve to do a 24-hour first rather than a six or an eight-hour.
"All the guys have done a fantastic job so we’ve got a good base to progress from. We’ve got an awful lot to learn from this and hopefully we can come back fro the next round at Albacete being even more competitive.”
“Right now I’m feeling relief, just massive relief. That was a tough race for me, it was really, really hard. The most important thing for me at the end there was to bring the bike over the finish line.
"We didn’t have any major problems at all during the race, no stop and goes, no unplanned pit stops – it all ran very smoothly and I think that’s why we got fifth. It just shows what the guys can do. Roll on the next one!”
Neil Tuxworth, Team Manager
“I’m so happy for everybody in the team. Endurance racing more than any other event is a team effort and everyone has played their part tremendously.
"Our main objective was to finish and the second was to place in the top six and we’ve achieved both of those things so as a new team we are very pleased.”
Russell Benny, Race Manager
“Any successful result is a team effort and on this occasion the team have performed splendidly. Considering it’s the first event of the year and the hardest event of the year, fifth place is beyond all our expectations.
"Congratulations must go to all the people who contributed – mechanics, timekeepers, caterers, everyone.”
1. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, 780 laps
2. Team SRC Kawasaki, 775 laps
3. BMW Motorrad France 99, 769 laps
4. Bolliger Team Switz, 768 laps
5. Honda TT Legends, 763 laps
6. National Motos, 761 laps
7. YMES Folches Endurance, 756 laps
8. Yamaha France, 752 laps
9. Metiss JLC Moto, 747 laps
10. T Motors Events, 746 laps