The 2017 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring didn't disappoint with a heated contest taking place between two Yamaha teams: the YART Official EWC Team & GMT94. Read on as we recap the race, play-by-play, and find out who reached a top spot on the podium.
Throughout the Slovakian event, just like at Le Mans and Oschersleben, it was the GMT94 team and the Yamaha YART Official EWC Team (YART), both backed by Bridgestone tyres, that were the standout performers in practice and qualifying. YART secured a superb pole position on Friday, while GMT94 started Saturday's 8-hour race from second on the grid. It looked as though there was going to be another epic battle between the two Yamaha teams.
GMT94's Niccoló Canepa didn't enjoy the best of starts when the action got underway, dropping down to 11th and spending most of his first stint claiming his way to the front of the field. He moved up to third place during the first round of pit stops, and GMT94 found themselves trailing YART by 25 seconds.
GMT94's David Checa took the reigns during the second stint to take the lead, but the Spaniard soon found himself locked in a battle against YART's Kohta Nozane. The two swapped first place numerous times during their stint, a pattern that would continue for the next few hours.
The lead changed hands at nearly every pit stop, with neither team managing to break away from the other and every rider demonstrating a good pace. With just over two hours to go, GMT94 was trailing YART by 19 seconds until the YART team experienced a technical issue forcing them to return to the pits for a bike repair. Canepa pounced on this opportunity and took the lead before handing it over to David Checa to secure a one-lap lead.
Checa managed his leg of the race beautifully before handing the bike over to Mike Di Meglio for the penultimate stint. Then it was Canepa’s turn to bring the R1 and its Bridgestone tyres over the finish line to claim victory for GMT94. In addition to their victories at Le Mans and Oschersleben, the results of the 8 Hour Slovakia race placed GMT94 second in the championship standings with 131 points.
Broc Parkes had a better start for the YART team, stealing second place after the first 15 minutes. He immediately began to chase down the leader Josh Hook, a racer for F.C.C. TSR Honda, and within 30 minutes he took the lead for the first time in the race.
Hook wasn’t about to give up that easily though, and the two Australians enjoyed an excellent scrap at the front before Parkes handed over the bike to Nozane with a 3.8-second lead. The safety car saw any advantage that Parkes had gained in the first hour wiped out, and the GMT94 team took the lead from YART when racing resumed. Undeterred, Nozane retook the lead, opening up an 8.5-second gap over the GMT94 team before handing it over to Marvin Fritz.
Neither GMT94 or YART were able to shake the other, and another epic struggle was in full swing. Fritz was pushing hard, but made a couple of small mistakes that allowed GMT94 to pull ahead. But the German rider recovered well, and after three hours, Parkes retook the lead and got to work opening up a small gap at the front.
A couple of pit stops later, and YART had a comfortable 19-second lead. But with just over two hours to go, Parkes experienced an issue with the rear of his bike and was forced to the pit. After a quick check, he went back out, but the issue persisted, and he returned to the pits for more repairs to his R1.
This technical problem robbed the YART team of any chance of victory, but Parkes, Fritz and Nozane finished the race strong and achieved fourth place for the team.
Once again, we had an excellent battle with the GMT94 team. We felt we had the pace advantage, plus with the Bridgestone tyres working so well in the heat, we were confident of winning. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. We will go to Suzuka with no pressure for the championship and just focus on winning the race.Mandy Kainz , Yamaha YART Official EWC Team Manager
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