BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Le Mans, France, 30/03/2016,
Like the French Superbike Championship (FSBK), the French European Bikes Championship (FR EU) also started its 2016 season in Le Mans on Easter weekend. The biggest sensation of the weekend was delivered by BMW racer Hernani Teixeira: the 58-year old taught his young rivals a lesson in mastering a race in most treacherous conditions and celebrated a brilliant victory.
Two more podium finishes by BMW riders Benjamin Colliaux and David Bouvier rounded off the successful season opener.
Also in this series, which is exclusively reserved for motorcycles produced by European manufacturers, the BMW Motorrad Motorsport family has grown even larger this year. No fewer than 19 BMW S 1000 RRs competed in Le Mans, as part of a 36-bike field – and they added to the success story that the RR has been writing in the FR EU in recent years.
The FR EU was also hugely influenced by the adverse weather conditions in Le Mans at the weekend. Race one on Saturday afternoon was initially hit by repeated showers, with the track only drying out late on in the race. The situation was difficult to judge – and the race direction first declared the race “dry” and then “wet” shortly after. As a result, half of the field returned to the pits after the warm-up lap to change from slicks to rain tyres. In the end, the top step of the podium was occupied by a BMW rider – but not necessarily one that many would have reckoned with: Teixeira, called “Papa” by everyone in the paddock. The 58-year-old has spent many years riding in smaller French championships. He switched to the BMW S 1000 RR in 2010 and was making his debut in the FR EU in Le Mans.
In an eventful race, Teixeira did everything right in tricky conditions, opted for slicks and worked his way through the field from 12th place on the grid. He crossed the finish line almost 22 seconds clear of runner-up Thierry Mulot, who had come into the pits and swapped bikes halfway through the race.
Behind the victorious Teixiera, a further six BMW riders came home in the top ten: Julien Brun (4th), Richard Mathivet (5th), Benjamin Colliaux (6th), Michel Amalric (7th), Madjid Idres (9th) and Bertrand Boyer (10th).
The rain made life difficult for the FR EU riders again on Sunday. The second qualifying session took place in wet conditions in the morning, with the track first being wet and then drying out quickly during the afternoon’s race. This time, all eyes were on another BMW rider: Benjamin Colliaux, who is among the favourites to do well again this year after six podiums in 2015.
Colliaux crossed the line in second place after a thrilling battle with Mulot at the head of the field. The third spot on the podium also went to a BMW rider, David Bouvier. He was followed over the finish line by a further three BMW S 1000 RR riders in positions four to six: Boyer, Manu Dagault and Amalric. Saturday’s winner Teixiera was eighth in race two.
The opening weekend in Le Mans did not go to plan for the usually-successful brothers Florian and Cyril, who finished second and third overall last season and were among the top ten riders in the 2015 BMW Motorrad Race Trophy. On the one hand, they had just recently received their new bikes and had no opportunity for pre-season testing – on the other hand, they really struggled with the adverse weather.
Cyril had to settle for tenth place on the grid following Saturday’s first qualifying session, with Florian down in 20th place. Tyre selection was a gamble in race one, and the pair opted for different strategies: Cyril decided to risk slicks, despite the showers, while Florian went for wet-weather tyres. This meant Cyril had to fight hard in wet conditions in the first half of the race, but was able to fight back to 11th place as the track dried out towards the end of the race. In contrast, Florian’s wet-weather tyres overheated on the dry asphalt in the closing stages, meaning last year’s runner-up could do no better than 21st.
Florian started race two from 12th on the grid after crashing on a wet track in the second qualifying session on Sunday. Cyril started from towards the back of the field in 20th place. They were unable to turn the tide in the second race: Both struggled with tyre pressure and having opted for rain tyres, they fought with blunt weapons when the track dried out. Cyril finished 13th, while Florian came home 17th.
The second race weekend of the 2016 FR EU takes place in Nogaro from 23rd to 24th April.