The 2008 French Superbike Championship is launched !
The first round of the 2008 French Superbike Championship was held on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans this weekend. And despite – or thanks to? – the rain, the spectacle was there! Account of the first of the seven acts…
Renamed "French Superbike Championship" last year (read), the French Open Speed Championship traditionally begins on the legendary Bugatti track in Le Mans..
But at the end of March, in this corner of France, the weather was particularly capricious and significantly increased the suspense of this first event….
After the timed practice sessions on Saturday carried out on a sometimes dry and sometimes “drying” track, the majority of the races took place on Sunday on a wet track. A well-watered start to the season, in short !
First surprise of the season: it is not the reigning champion, Alexis "poleman" Michel, who signs the best time of the tests on the handlebars of his inseparable Aprilia, but Jonas Folger, a young German who came to visit his French comrades on his KTM !
The wild card driver is more than a second ahead of Alexis Michel, Valentin Debise (Honda) and Steven Le Coquen (KTM), and leaves more than 3 seconds Cyril Carrillo, Jimmy Petit – who will not take the start -, Ornella Ongaro and Robin Barbosa.
But in the race, Jonas was surprised in the second lap by the precarious conditions of grip: he made a mistake and gave way to the lead of the race to Le Coquen, who escaped in front of Debise and Carillo. The three pilots will finish the race in this order.
"I’m super happy to say that last year I didn’t even think to score points in the rain, now I’m on the podium … fabulous", rejoices Valentin on his official website !
Kevin Meco finished 4th and we must salute the 5th place of Yannick Deschamps, the only competitor to ride a TVX 250 cc 4-stroke! As for the 2007 champion, he failed in a disappointing 12th place. No doubt Alexis will do better at Nogaro on April 27 !
Junior Pirelli Trophy
The Junior Pirelli Trophy does not reserve the same surprise on its starting grid, since it is the reigning champion Matthieu Lussiana (Yamaha) who takes pole, 48 hundredths ahead of Nicolas Kaluzny (Kawasaki), William Grarre and Pierre Gicquel (Yam ). Follow Baptiste Guittet, Anthony Loiseau, Étienne Masson and Dylan Buisson.
It is on a flooded track that the "juniors" set off in the early afternoon. After the fall in the first round of Masson and believing that his season in the European Superstock Championship matters more, Lussiana decides to return to the pits.
The 2007 champion therefore leaves Grarre, Loiseau and Buisson to fight for the head of the race. Finally, Anthony Loiseau was the most comfortable on the wet track and won with more than 5 seconds ahead of Dylan Buisson..
" Laurent Brian, ex-world endurance champion, is building a 600 cc team and asked me if I was interested in being part of it. He trusts me and thinks I could do some good stuff so I go for it !", Anthony explained on his personal website. Here he is rewarded !
William Grarre completes the podium 27 seconds behind the winner, 10 seconds ahead of the peloton made up of Kaluzny, Guittet, Maccio and Bulle.
"Jimmy (Maccio) is really the newbie of the team", recalls Marc Fontan, manager of the Darg Dog Academy:"it was the first time he had driven on wet tires in very changeable conditions. He was able to find his place by managing his comeback without making any mistakes from the 14th position he had on the starting grid. He finished 6th in his category, which is a good progression". To be followed very closely, therefore !
In Supersport, three world-class drivers logically seize the first three places on the grid: Matthieu Lagrive (currently 10th in the World Supersport) on Suzuki signs the pole ahead of ex-GP 250 driver Hugo Marchand (Honda) and Julien Enjolras (Yamaha, registered in the SSP World Cup last year).
David Perret (Kawasaki), the 2007 vice champion of France, completes the first row ahead of Fabrice Auger (Yamaha), Fabien Sohier (Triumph), Gregory Lefort (Yamaha) and Mathieu Andrieu (Kawasaki). Great novelty in 2008 for the Supersport category, as in Superbike: the pilots take part in two rounds per weekend !
A superb fight raged from the first round between Marchand, Perret, Enjolras, Auger and Lagrive. But very quickly, the rain appeared … The red flag was waved in the 6th lap: too late for Hugo Marchand, who fell in the 2nd and could not start again.
"Very quickly, I saw that I was comfortable and I took the lead to try to start in front with the intention of widening the gap. But it started to fall a few drops of rain, I lost the front suddenly in the second S and I could not do anything … Immediately after my fall, I tried to restart but the clutch was broken. I had to resign myself to letting this race pass…", explained the" big brother of the Dark Dog Academy.
The race resumed while the downpour did not end: in this little game, Matthieu Lagrive was the fastest and completed the 8 remaining laps, firmly in the lead. Good start, David Perret and Julien Enjolras crash in the first laps.
Having succeeded in isolating himself from the peloton, Sebastien Legrelle (Triumph) took 2nd place while Mathieu Gines (Yamaha) had to fight until the very last corner to take 3rd place on the podium. His direct competitor, Laurent Brian (Honda), unfortunately finished in the gravel pit, but managed to take 6th place.
At the sum of the two "rounds", Lagrive is declared the winner ahead of Gines and Legrelle.
The second race of the day also takes place on a wet track … and in pouring rain! Despite his fall and broken finger, Hugo Marchand took the lead ahead of Peter Polesso (Yamaha), Mathieu Gines and Gregory Lefort.
Pushed into the Dunlop by a competitor "a little too optimistic", David Perret is relegated to 8th position and will try to get back on the leading peloton, but in vain: he falls trying to grab 5th place.
In the 4th lap, Hugo must also retire, but this time due to a technical problem. Mathieu and Peter therefore inherited the command, closely followed by Gregory and Julien Enjolras. Finally, Polesso is holding on and will cross the finish line first. Gines was passed in the 10th lap by Enjolras and Lefort, then fell at the connection…
"I didn’t want to take any risks and I preferred to manage this second place following my setbacks in the first round", concluded Enjolras. Lagrive for its part had to make a long pit stop to settle"a little problem"and finished out of the points, not without signing the fastest lap in the race. It was also he who shortened the race by signaling a trace of oil…
Luckily for Mathieu Gines, who finally ranks 4th despite his slip! Nailed to the box by "an unpredictable electronic problem that is difficult to repair"during the first race, Kevin Denis – the 2nd driver of the Dark Dog Academy – won an honorable 12th place.
" This is exactly what we can expect from him within this team, which, let us remember, aims to train and advance his young drivers in the first year to bring them the following year in the top 3 of the championship.", explains Marc Fontan.
At the end of his first two races of the season, Peter Polesso takes the lead in the provisional standings with 38 points ahead of Mathieu Gines (33), Gregory Lefort (27), Matthieu Lagrive (25) and Julien Enjolras (20).
In the premier category, the qualifying "Superpole" event is repeated this year. Among the eight fastest drivers in practice, the one with the fastest lap is Emeric Jonchière (Suzuki). He will start in front of Thomas Metro (Ducati), Guillaume Dietrich (Suzuki) and Denis Bouan (Yamaha).
In the second row, we find Lucas de Carolis (Suzuki) – a former "Dark Dog" -, Freddy Foray (Suzuki), Cedric Tangre (Suzuki) and Gwen Giabbani (Kawasaki). Follow Stephane Duterne (Yamaha), Patrick Piot (MV Agusta), Laurry Fremy (Yamaha) and Jerôme Tangre (Suzuki).
This first race of the season will be largely dominated by Emeric Jonchière: "riding on a wet track is a situation that I love", he rejoices.
Do not make a single fault in his 15 laps, Emeric leaves no chance to his competitors: he will be almost 18 seconds ahead of Patrick Piot 2nd and 38 seconds over his teammate – and 2007 champion – Guillaume Dietrich passing under the Checkered flag !
"In the first round, many of my direct competitors for the championship having gone to the mat, I preferred to secure a third place synonymous with big points", explains Guillaume, uncomfortable in the wet.
Among these top drivers, we notably count Gwen Giabbani, 2nd before falling on the 9th lap, but also Laurry Fremy, Denis Bouan and Thomas Metro. Everyone will be keen to score big points in the second round…
It should be noted that during this first round, the KTM RC8 scores its first point in French SBK thanks to Philipe Donischal !
Finally, alone in the middle of the 39 guys, Magali Langlois finished in a respectable 23rd place: after a fall but "helped by the wonderful commissioners (this unexpected place, I owe it to you, thank you!)"she crosses the finish line"very moved".
The conditions are milder but wet areas persist … Jonchière, who was believed to have left for a single rider, was overtaken in the 2nd lap by Metro. Giabbani, who missed his start, then points to 10th place and begins a superb comeback !
Like the Kawa pilot who took the lead in the race from the 8th lap, Cedric Tangre and Christophe Michel (Suzuki) also overtook all their competitors and the trio climbed to the podium! On the 10th lap, however, Cedric made a mistake and found himself in 14th position..
Then Michel passed Giabbani: the rider Suz moved away and obtained his first victory in Superbike. Behind, Giabbani erases his fall in the first round by climbing on the second step of the podium, completed again by Guillaume Dietrich.
"In the second round, we had to whip to stay in the leading group", testifies Guillaume. Emeric Jonchière, handicapped by a bad choice of tires, finishes 7th and Cedric Tangre regains the 9th place. Patrick Piot is 4th in front of Thomas Metro and Freddy Foray. Magali Langlois on his R1" Snowball "is 26th.
Overall, Christophe Michel occupies first place with 38 points, followed by Emeric Jonchière (35), Patrick Piot (33), Guillaume Dietrich (32) and Gwen Giabbani (20).
In the constructors’ standings, the only MV Agusta of Patrick Piot (with 33 points) leads ahead of Yamaha (23), Kawasaki (22) and Honda (16). Suzuki, for its part, did not wish to participate in the "constructors’ championship", the participation fee of which amounted to 4000 €..
The Delannoy / Cluze tandem continues to reign supreme in the Sidecar category and takes both heats ahead of Le Bail / Chaigneau and Ducouret / Herman, respectively 2nd and 3rd in each race.
In F2, Bourch’his / Scellier and the Leblond couple fought hard during the two rounds and are only separated by half a point in the provisional classification. !
New challenge on the sidelines of the French championship, the Top Twin is contested – as its name suggests – by twin cylinders. The Ducati 1098, Hypermotard, 999 and 996, Aprilia RSVs and also the very recent Buell 1125Rs can be found on the track….
"This difficult race allowed me to regain my confidence on a wet track. I took maximum pleasure in my duels with Jean-Yves Mounier. The performances of the 1125R are there", reports Bruno Destoop at the end of the first round which he finishes 2nd, 34 hundredths behind Mounier and his 1098 !
Didier Dalet (Ducati) finished 3rd and the podium was reproduced identically in the second round. To underline the beautiful 12th and 13th places of Cristelle Orsi on her Hypermotard.
2008 French Superbike Championship calendar
- Le Mans (72): Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 March
- Nogaro (32): Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 April
- Le Vigeant (86): Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 May
- Ledenon (30): Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 June
- Albi (81): Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 July
- Magny-Cours (58): Saturday July 19 and Sunday July 20
- Ledenon (30): Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 September
Next meeting for the French Superbike Championship: April 26 and 27 in Nogaro … Under the sun exactly? Stay connected !
Matthieu BRETILLE – Photos Gerard DELIO
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