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レポート F.C.C. TSR Honda France Victory brought the first win for Bridgestone at EWC in Europe

After 7 months of 1st race held at Paul Richard circuit southern France, 2nd race of the season was held at world famous Bugatti circuit at Le Mans, France. Race week starting 17th April this year's Le Mans 24 hours race has celebrated its 41th edition on 21st & 22nd April. Bridgestone has supported two elite team with proto-type tires, from Japan, #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France and from Austria #7 YART-Yamaha. On top Bridgestone had 5 competitive team racing with our production RACING BATTLAX tires, challenging this prestigious & tough race event.

Both #5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France and #7 YART-Yamaha recorded top level time from early days of race week. On Thursday, at 1st Qualifying Session, F.C.C.TSR Honda France recorded 2nd fastest average time by 3 riders, while YART-Yamaha recorded 4th. Both team looked very competitive towards weekend race.

On Friday, at 2nd Qualifying Session, strategy taken by these two teams were completely different. Considering 24 hours race with limitation on number of tires can be used by the regulation, F.C.C.TSR Honda France saved on time attack except Joshua HOOK improving his best lap. As a result, F.C.C.TSR Honda France secured 6th place grid for the weekend race. On the other hand, YART-Yamaha attacked very aggressively with 4 riders which include a reserve rider. They have finished at 2nd position with 3 official riders' average time. On Saturday, 3rd rider Takuya Fujita withdrew from race due to his health condition, with reserved rider's time, YART-Yamaha secured Pole Position for the race. #21MERCURY Racing using production RACING BATTLAX tire, secured remarkable 10 place.

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Race weekend started at 15:00 with very blue sky and warm temperature. After traditional "Le Mans Style" start YART-Yamaha lost their top position, however, both F.C.C.TSR Honda France and YART-Yamaha kept within 6th place at 1st stint. After the first pit stop, #94 GMT94 Yamaha (Dunlop) at the top, very closely followed by YART-Yamaha, and F.C.C.TSR Honda France at 3rd group position.
At 109th lap, Brock PARK of YART-Yamaha challenged GMT94 Yamaha with tail to nose and successfully passed securing top position. At the following pit-stop GMT94 Yamaha passed YART-Yamaha with very quick pit work. Marvin FRITZ of YART-Yamaha once again challenged GMT94 Yamaha and had overtaken to become at the top. However, at 157th lap, being a bit too aggressive, Marvin FRITZ of YART-Yamaha crashed losing its top position to GMT94 Yamaha.
Entering night time race, while various top teams having machine trouble and crashes, top position by GMT94 Yamaha, 2nd place by F.C.C.TSR Honda France remained the same for some time, entering into morning time towards final stage of the race. Remaining 6th hours to the checkered flag, at 624th lap, when F.C.C.TSR Honda France were making its scheduled pit-stop changing its rider to Freddy FORAY, GMT94 Yamaha crashed unexpectedly. At 628th lap, F.C.C.TSR Honda France took over the top position.

After taking over the top position, F.C.C.TSR Honda France made its "endurance" race toward 1st win in Europe, carefully monitoring time difference between following team. Remaining with 40 minutes to the end, at 819th lap, F.C.C.TSR Honda France made final pit-stop changing rider from Alan TECHER to Freddy FORAY. FORAY made final runs with very steady riding. At 843rd lap, race ending at 15:00 on Sunday, F.C.C.TSR Honda France marked their 1st victory in Europe to become the 41th edition Champion at Le Mans 24 hours race. Also this result meant the first win in Europe at EWC for Bridgestone supported team.

As for YART-Yamaha which crashed at the early stage of the race, went back into race after fixing the bike, however were not able to continue the race due to its damage. As for MERCURY Racing using production RACING BATTLAX, they raced very steadily, at the some point running as high as 4th position to finally finished at remarkable 9th place

F.C.C.TSR Honda France obtained 58 points with its win, now leading the EWC season series

Ranking EWC season series after 2 race
1. ♯5 F.C.C.TSR Honda France (BS) 95
2. ♯94 GMT94 Yamaha (DL) 91
3. #111 Honda Endurance Racing (DL) 82
4. #13 Wepol Racing by penz13.com (BMW、PI) 81

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◆Comment by Team Manager, F.C.C. TSR HONDA France: Masakazu FUJII
"The first win at World Grand Prix in 1991, the first win at the SUZUKA 8hours endurance in 2006, and today's the first win at the Le Mans 24 hours, for all these important "First Wins" has been always supported by BRIDGESTONE and I am very happy together. With today's win, now TSR is ranked at the top, but from the beginning our goal is to become the world champion at EWC. Our challenge continues with following races, at Slovakia, and Oschersleben, Germany, making sure to have strong position challenge at the final round SUZUKA 8hours."

◆Comment by General Manager, MC Tire Development Dept. Bridgestone Corp: Shinji AOKI
"Within EWC races, Le Mans 24 hours race is the most crucial condition race with long history, I sincerely would like to congratulate each member of F.C.C.TSR Honda France team for winning this prestigious race. Also since 2016, the team has supported our challenge toward developing EWC tires and we are very grateful to have winning moment in Europe at 3rd year challenge.
For this year, the road temperature varied form 43 degrees to 14 degrees, the team and Bridgestone engineer at the site collaborated very nicely to select optimum spec and contributed toward this win. I am very happy to see this winning collaboration.
Taking the data from this race, we will move forward to following races to further improve our tire development."

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