Forced to retire from the Bol d’Or last September, the Kawasaki SRC team clinched a fifth-place finish at Le Mans after a heroic come-back.
Everything had started well for the team of Gilles Stafler … On the eve of the start, Randy de Puniet was letting guns do the talking by signing the fastest time of the free practice sessions. The former Grand Prix rider demonstrated that the Kawasaki ZX-RR # 11 on the Sarthe track could still be counted on.
Right from the first handover, De Puniet concretized the ambitions of the SRC team by fighting it out for the lead of the race with Kenny Foray, rider of the BMW No. 48. Both equipped with Pirelli tyres, the two machines put on a show in front of the 76,000 spectators around the Bugatti circuit. And then came the time for the first refuelling. Randy de Puniet left the handlebars to Mathieu Gines who, unfortunately, was to fall on his first lap. By the time they got back to the pits and make the necessary repairs, Randy de Puniet had to resume the race in forty-sixth position, far from the GMT 94 which had just taken control of the race.
Driven by their courage more than anything else, the riders of the Kawasaki No. 11 made a comeback as the laps sped by until a radiator problem once again plunged them into the depths of the overall classification.
Despite this second blow, Randy de Puniet, Jeremy Guarnoni and Mathieu Gines whipped their machine into shape during the two clocked laps to return to the top five. For their perseverance the Kawasaki SRC team won the Anthony Delhalle EWC Spirit Trophy which rewards fighting and sporting spirit. Fifth at ten laps from the winner, the FCC TSR Honda France team, the Kawasaki SRC team also scored its first points in the 2017/2018 World Endurance Championship at Le Mans.
Which means Gilles Stafler’s team is eleventh overall with twenty-seven points. The next event is in Slovakia on May 12 and 13.