Surprise at 24h Le Mans: YART replaces Fujita…and grabs pole position

Everything can happen in FIM Endurance World Championship. With the official confirmation yet to come, YART Yamaha should have got the pole position of 2018 24 Heures Motos Le Mans, which had originally gone to SRC Kawasaki. Why? Was anyone disqualified? Was any technical irregularity found? No, it was just due to a decision of YART, who decided to promote the reserve rider (and “team manager”) Max Neukirchner. The German rider will replace the 23-year-old rookie Takuya Fujita, who had to give it up because of stomach flu.

WHAT DO THE RULES SAY? – The regulation allows all the teams to change their line-up till just before the race. Something that has always been permitted by the regulation, with a little addition dating back to 2016/2017 season: last-minute replacements may lead to changes in the starting grid, which is determined by the average time of the three riders part of a team. Normally this happens just to the “second-rate” teams, so nobody had imagined that this rule would have changed the team in pole position…

YART IN POLE POSITION? – YART Yamaha had to take part in Practice session with sick Takuya Fujita. Yamaha chose him to replace in EWC Kohta Nozane (who went back to Japan to race in the national championship with Yamaha Factory), but the 23-year-old rider from Chiba was the slowest of the team: 1’37″986 is his best lap, very far from the laptimes set by his team-mates Broc Parkes and Marvin Fritz. Fujita was slow because of stomach flu, a problem that finally has ruled him out of the race weekend. For YART it wasn’t a problem, but a great opportunity to promote Max Neukirchner, who had been very fast in the “green” group (reserve riders) with a personal best time of 1’37″057. As a result, the average time of YART was recalculated and this led the Austrian squad to an unexpected pole position. All this after the traditional press conference, the usual celebrations and even after Max Neukirchner announcing his retirement last year. Everything can happen in Endurance, but this time there will be a big debate…

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