Team BMW Motorrad France 99 was unable to capitalize on its pole position start in the 24 Hours at Le Mans, despite leading the race until shortly before the halfway point. Technical problems in the second half of the race saw the #99 BMW S1000RR drop as low as 11th place before a spirited fight back by Sébastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon and Damian Cudlin was rewarded with seventh position at the checkered flag. The Team is now nine points back in the 2011 Endurance World Championship with one race to go.
Cudlin got a good start from pole position and avoided trouble early on in his stint before forcing his way through the field to hand over the RR and second place at the first pit stop. Gimbert and Nigon maintained station during their first stints, as reigning champions SERT tried to force them into a mistake by upping the pace. Gimbert, who was crowned as French Superbike Champion a few days prior to this mammoth endurance race, took the lead during his second stint, a position he and his teammates held until the eleventh hour of the race.
A change of brakes at the pit-stop initially dropped them back to second place but Nigon found himself rejoining the race down in 11th place just two hours later after Gimbert was forced to pit twice with technical problems. “We were leading fairly comfortably early on, although we did have some intermittent problems with the traction control that made things a little difficult. But worse was to come. Just before the halfway point I had to pit twice with an electrical and then an electronics problem, and that dropped us back to 11th,” said Sébastien Gimber.
The three Team BMW Motorrad France 99 riders then staged a comeback in the latter stages of the race, overcoming more time lost to a broken clutch cable, to eventually finish seventh and claim 13 vital championship points.
Having led the championship by six-points coming into Le Mans, Team BMW Motorrad France 99 will now head for the final round of the series in Qatar trailing SERT by nine points. With 30 points available to the winner of the 8 Hours of Doha, the championship is still far from over.
“I pushed and fought as hard as I possibly could every time I threw a leg over the bike,” said Erwan Nigon. “But the result didn’t come, which is a little disappointing. Once again the RR proved a good package; the bike is fast but it’s not physically demanding to ride, which is important in a 24-hour race like Le Mans. Michelin also played a big part, as always, with the tires offering consistent grip and a good feeling throughout the race. Unfortunately we couldn’t capitalize on this, after losing time to a few minor technical issues late in the race.”
The 8 Hours of Doha, the final round of the 2011 Endurance World Championship, takes place on November 12.