Sébastien Gimbert won the 2011 French Superbike Championship aboard a BMW S1000RR after a second and first place finish at the final round of this year’s series at the Albi circuit in southwest France. This is the second consecutive year that an RR rider has won the title after Gimbert’s teammate Erwan Nigon won it for the first time in 2010. This season has been a constant battle between the two BMW Motorrad France team riders, who shared 11 wins out of a possible 13 (Gimbert won seven and Nigon won four) and have never been out of the top three in the series.
Coming into this final round though, the 2011 championship was still in the balance, although it was only Sébastien or Erwan who were in the lead. Gimbert arrived in Albi 29-points in front of his team-mate and 61 points ahead of third-placed Kawasaki rider Julien Da Costa. With a maximum of 51 points available, Erwan Nigon did everything he could, including qualifying on pole position and winning the first race, but a technical problem just three laps into race two forced him into the pits and his hopes of retaining a second French Superbike title were dashed.
That said, having ridden conservatively in race one, where he finished in second place, Gimbert went for it in race two, setting the fastest lap time and eventually winning by more than four seconds over second-placed Julien Da Costa. This result means that Gimbert finishes as clear victor for 2011 with 286 points, 48 in front of Nigon and another 27 points ahead of Julien Da Costa (with 211 points).
“Everything went well right from the first practice but I wasn’t able to relax and enjoy things for two reasons,” said Sébastien. “First of all, I wanted to win the title, but I also had one eye on the forthcoming Le Mans 24 Hours race, which is also incredibly important. I didn’t want to make any big mistakes that would put me out of contention for this event, not to mention the FSBK title itself!
“I was leading the first race, but I was desperate for Erwan to pass me so I could tuck behind him and follow him home, without risking anything. This worked well and I was happy to finish second. In race two, I got a reasonable start and moved into the lead past Da Costa. I had no idea what had happened to Erwan but the race seemed to last forever. It was great to get the win and eventually lift the title, and I’ll definitely be returning to defend it next year.”
After the victory celebrations, thoughts soon turned to Endurance racing and the forthcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place on September 24-25 at the historic Bugatti racetrack in the northwest of France. The BMW Motorrad France 99 team is currently leading the Qtel FIM Endurance World Championship after a great performance at the 8 Hours of Suzuka last month.