Wayne Tessels - Bol d'Or
Hey ChromeBurner fans!
As you may have seen on Social Media, Eurosport or maybe somewhere else, I’ve had a very busy but beautiful end to the 2019 season. After our home race at TT Assen, I worked for a few days and then headed off to Paul Ricard, to then drive from southern France to Hockenheim in Germany. Hereby we really experienced everything … what an adventure!
Our preparation for the Bol d’Or, the first round of the Endurance World Championship, started much earlier. To compete in such a ride, you need to be physically and mentally fit, as it requires a lot of strength and energy. Together with Raymon from Fitfactorij, we focused on this and adjusted our training sessions accordingly to be as prepared as possible. By nature, I’m luckily more of an endurance athlete rather than a sprinter, which can be a huge advantage in competitions like this. It’s quite a switch from competing in the IDM Supersport on the Yamaha R6 to the World Endurance Fireblade. First, I now get 10litres & 70hp more, but I’m also going from 2 x 16 laps to 8 or 9 stints of about 28 laps. So, the Bol d’Or would consist of a whole IDM season in one weekend of competition laps.
The race weekend started for me and my father on Sunday afternoon, when we – after the MotoGP of course – headed off to Le Castellet. A car ride of about 1300 kilometres that we split in two. On Monday we arrived at the immense circuit of the ex of Formula 1 chief Bernie Eclestone. I can assure you, if you enter a divorce and you’re dividing your assets, this isn’t a bad deal! The track is 5.8 km long with a very long straight holding an Endurance World Championship record speed of 349km/h. The reunion with the RAC41 team was great, even though communication is namely non-verbal due to a small language barrier (lots of hand movements involved!). Our evening mainly consisted of arranging things before we were able to partake in practice sessions on Tuesday.
It had been a few months since I had driven the 1000cc bike, but I was able to get used to it again quite quickly. My teammate Guillaume had further developed the engine during the French Superbike championship races, which was highly noticeable. For me, the focus was getting to know the track and adjusting my driving style to the Superbike, which has about 70hp more than the Supersport bike I rode during the German championship for SWPN. We were able to end the day well and knew that we needed to improve the performance of the engine to close the gap between us and the fastest lap time, but for day 1 we were not dissatisfied.
Wednesday traditionally consists of registration, media and inspection … for me a boring affair to be honest. It took almost 2 hours just to inspect my Hero suits and Shoei helmets – mainly since the French officials do not say no to une baguette or un café during working hours. Fortunately, we were back up to speed Thursday, and after some problems during qualifying with the tyres, we managed to improve and were ready for Saturday’s race … which was going to be memorable! In the meantime, the weather went from 25°C and sun to rain, wind and cold. My teammate Maxime was less happy on the wet French asphalt and after consultation with each other and team management, we decided that Guillaume and I would ride double stints whilst the asphalt remained wet. That meant stints of about 2 hours followed by 2 hours of rest, during which we needed to change, shower, eat, get a massage and get some rest.
After a good night’s sleep, Guillaume got off to a good start on the wet track and we managed to maintain our position around the top 5. Our strategy was to keep it steady and keep eyes one the competition during the first 12 hours and make our move during the second half. After 2 hours, Guillame came off the engine soaked, and I could give the Fireblade full throttle. However, a safety car entered the track within two laps. It was raining so hard by that point that I could feel it on my skin despite a very sturdy suit. After almost half an hour behind the safety car, the race was stopped. A good decision as there was little visibility on the long straight and we were troubled by aquaplaning which is not entirely advisable when reaching a speed of 300+ km/h. After waiting, it became clear that we would restart the next day at 6am. From then on it was quickly warming up, massaging, eating and straight off to bed as I would be starting this time round.
On Sunday morning we were immediately confronted with a lighting issue, causing us to lose 2 laps, but I knew there was still a lot of the race to go and I would be able to give it my all in the upcoming stints. After a strong stint of 2 hours in the rain, I managed to make headway. Guillaume also managed to keep it up and we were now in the top 15. For the last 4 hours the race track was dry, and we went as fast as we could. Due to tight lap times and great teamwork, we even achieved 9th place in the last hour! There was a big sense of relief within the team, our placement was certainly not handed to us on a silver platter, and we had to work very hard for it. From the catering team to the engineers and fuel men. We made it … despite the challenges that presented themselves to us along the way, and we achieved a top 10 ranking!
Until next time,
Wayne TesselsChromeBurner Racer.