CANEPA THE HERO OF THE HOUR AS YART YAMAHA TAKE EMPHATIC WIN IN SEPANG
The YART Yamaha EWC Official Team reignited their championship challenge with an impressive victory in a rain disrupted 8 Hours of Sepang race, the second round of the 2019/2020 Endurance World Championship. The Yamaha Sepang Racing Team were leading the restarted race in the early stages, until Mike Di Meglio collided with the rear of Michael van der Mark’s Yamaha R1 in the final corner, causing both to crash. After losing almost 10 minutes in the pits for repairs, the team fought their way back impressively to eventually finish in the points in seventh position.
In scenes reminiscent of the opening round of the season at the Bol d’Or, the start of the inaugural 8 Hours of Sepang was delayed for more than two hours due to torrential rain and standing water around the Sepang International Circuit. When the race did finally get underway the riders started behind the safety car, where they remained for just nine laps before deteriorating weather conditions forced race officials to show the red flag and suspend the race.
The weather finally improved enough to get the race restarted with three hours remaining on the clock and it was van der Mark and Di Meglio who made the early running at the front, until a mistake by the Frenchman in the final corner saw him collide with the Yamaha rider, causing both to crash. While di Meglio was able to continue, van der Mark was thrown over the highside and was forced to return to the pit box for repairs, losing almost 10 minutes in the process.
In the meantime, Niccolò Canepa was busy fighting his way back through the field, after an electrical problem dropped the YART Yamaha rider back to 26th position on the opening lap. In difficult conditions, with grip still at a premium on the wet track and with no electronic rider aids for most of his first stint due to a technical issue, the Italian’s progress towards the front of the race was relentless.
Canepa took the race lead after the first round of pit stops, but was overhauled by di Meglio shortly afterwards, only for the Frenchman to crash for a second time, leaving the YART Yamaha rider clear at the front of the race, with a significant advantage over his pursuers.
At the second and final pit stop, with just 30 minutes of the foreshortened race remaining, the YART Yamaha team opted to leave Canepa on the bike for a third stint, rather than send out one of his teammates in what were rapidly changing conditions. It proved to be a wise decision, with Canepa witnessing a number of crashes in his final laps, as his fresher rivals were caught out by the unpredictable track surface.
After three hours of racing, in what were treacherous conditions, and without making a single mistake, Canepa crossed the line to secure his and YART Yamaha’s first win of the season. The victory places YART Yamaha fourth in the championship standings with 43 points, 36 points behind the series leaders.
The final third of the race also proved pivotal for Yamaha Sepang Racing. Having lost a lot of time as a result of the crash in the opening stages, van der Mark’s speed and consistency saw him recover a significant number of places during his two stints on the #21 Yamaha R1, which he handed over to Franco Morbidelli at the final pit stop. The MotoGP rider joined the race outside the top 15 but went on to thrill the crowd with a spectacular display of riding, as he scythed his way through the field to eventually claim an incredible seventh-place finish at the chequered flag.
The Moto Ain Yamaha World Cup Supported Team made it a double celebration for Yamaha in Malaysia, as Roby Rolfo, Robin Mulhauser and Hugo Clere maintained their 100 percent record in the 2019/2020 championship with another SST class win, to add to their previous victory at the Bol d’Or. They finished fourth overall in today’s 8 Hours of Sepang race, missing out on the final podium place by only the narrowest of margins.
Michael van der Mark – Yamaha Sepang Racing Team: “It was a weird 8 Hours of Sepang, but when we did finally get to race the conditions were good. I had a good feeling with the bike and a strong pace from the start, so when I got passed for the lead I decided to sit in behind and follow rather than take any risks. My plan was to retake the lead when we hit traffic. I’m not sure what Di Meglio’s plan was with the pass at the final corner, but it didn’t work, and it ended for me with a massive highside that let me badly winded. The team did an amazing job to get the bike back on track and I was quick to rediscover my rhythm so, apart from the position, I enjoyed the race. When Franco took over the bike for the last stint, we could see he had really good pace, but we were still surprised to finish as high as seventh. Massive thanks to the team, who worked so hard for us this weekend, and also to Franco and Hafizh, who I really enjoyed racing with.”