Double victory for BMW Motorrad at Le Mans
Last weekend saw the penultimate round of the French Superbike Championship
and after fantastic performances by S1000RR riders Erwan Nigon and Sebastien
Gimbert, one thing is for sure – a BMW Motorrad France rider will be crowned
champion at the final round in Albi at the end of the month, although nobody
yet knows which one of them it will be…
Having qualified first and second in a grid of 36 riders at the historic 4.185
km Bugatti circuit – and with lap times well over a second faster than their
nearest rivals in both Superpole sessions – Gimbert and Nigon were both fired
up for the first 15-lap Superbike race of the day.
In fact, so fast was Sebastien Gimbert on the S1000RR during Saturday's
free practice that his best lap of 1:36.603 was only 3.2 seconds slower than
Valentino Rossi's pole position time at the same circuit earlier this year
– and only 0.8 seconds slower than the final MotoGP qualifier, Mika Kallio
on the Pramac Racing Team Ducati. However, Gimbert set his time on a virtually
With a 21 point deficit to his team-mate Nigon, reigning 'Champion de France'
Sebastien Gimbert knew that there was still everything to play for in both
races and with the title chase still possible, it was him who got the got the
best start off the line, followed by Suzuki rider Freddy Foray and Julien Da
Costa on the Kawasaki. Despite taking the lead in the early stages, Freddy
Foray was soon forced to yield to the two BMW riders, who soon mounted an early
challenge for the lead and powered ahead at the front of the pack of riders.
Before long, pole-setter Sebastien Gimbert had pulled a one-second gap on
his team-mate – posting the fastest lap of the race on lap 7 – and going on
to comfortably win the first leg by nearly four seconds in advance of Nigon.
Third place went to Julien Da Costa, although he was more than 16 seconds behind
winner Gimbert. With privateer S1000RR riders Loic Napoleone, Nicolas Pouhair
and Alexandre Perrault finishing the first race in 12th, 13th and 14th places
respectively, there were five RR riders among the top 15 in race one.
Having closed up the points gap over his team-mate, a resolute Gimbert lined
up at 1615 for the day's second Superbike race. As predicted, the title chase
continued between the two BMW riders, with both determined to ride as hard
as possible, but neither wanting to make any mistakes that would allow their
team-mate to seize the advantage.
It was the #7 RR rider Erwan Nigon who made the best start to race two, just
in front of current champion Gimbert. On the second lap, challenger Kenny Foray
crashed out of contention and left the two BMW Motorrad France riders to battle
for the lead in front of Kawasaki rider Julien Da Costa in third, albeit it
quite a long way behind.
Having set the fastest lap of race two as early as the third lap, it was Gimbert
who showed he meant business on his #1 RR and just two laps later he found
a way past his team-mate and took the lead. After this point, he was simply
Unstoppable on the BMW superbike and cruised ahead to win the second race –
and his first double victory of 2010 – by over four seconds.
With Nigon finishing in second place again, these excellent results make life
very interesting for the team, especially with just one race meeting remaining
and the 2010 title still to be decided. With his two victories at Le Mans,
Gimbert now has 239 points – just 11 fewer than Nigon on 250. With 50 points
still available, it's anyone's guess who will become the 2010 French Superbike
Champion at Albi circuit on 26 September but one thing is for certain – it
will either be Sebastien or Erwan. Furthermore, with an unassailable lead in
the Manufacturers' championship too, BMW Motorrad France will undoubtedly be
celebrating a near-perfect first season in this prestigious series, which concludes
in two week's time. As they say in France, 'les jeux sont faits'…