The 34 teams competing in the 3rd round of the 2017-2018 FIM EWC took to the track on the Slovakia Ring at 11.40am for the first official free practice session with timed laps.
The session will provide an indicator of the favourites’ form. F.C.C. TSR Honda France has arrived in Slovakia as provisional standings leader in the world championship. But the Japanese team have a fresh challenge in store, as this will be their maiden run on the CBR 1000 RR 2018 that Honda Endurance Racing’s Gregory Leblanc, Sébastien Gimbert and Erwan Nigon have been riding since the beginning of the year. It remains to be seen how Josh Hook, Freddy Foray and Alan Techer will fare on F.C.C. TSR Honda France’s new bike. Alan Techer has already taken a spill in the course of a private test: the bike’s first outing on the Slovakia Ring. The crash left the rider unharmed, but had rather more serious consequences for the CBR 1000 RR #5.
GMT94 Yamaha’s Niccolò Canepa also crashed early this week. Once again, the rider suffered only a minor injury, but the Yamaha #94 was seriously damaged. GMT94 Yamaha, which goes into the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring only 4 points behind the leader of the provisional standings, is fielding its usual rider trio: David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio.
Riders’ ambitions and moves
The other factory-backed Yamaha squad YART Yamaha has confirmed Max Neukirchner as primary rider together with Broc Parkes and Marvin Fritz. Some other ambitious teams have strengthened their rider line-up. Team SRC Kawasaki has roped in Julien Da Costa to replace Mathieu Gines, who was injured at the 24 Heures Motos, alongside Randy de Puniet and Jérémy Guarnoni. Meanwhile, the factory-backed German BMW team NRT48 will be competing with a line-up comprising Kenny Foray, Stefan Kerschbaumer and Peter Hickman. Lucy Glöckner, who usually rides the NRT48, will be shoring up BMW-mounted Team LRP Poland’s talented 18-year-old IDM rider Arnaud Friedrich and Jaroslav Cerny, the fastest Slovakian rider on the Slovakia Ring.
Homegrown squad Maco Racing Team will take to the track with three French riders, Anthony Dos Santos, Louis Bulle and Alex Plancassagne, but has entered a second Yamaha with a Czech/Slovak line-up in the saddle.
Other teams to watch out for are the all-Czech Mercury Racing and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, which is expected to be back in the front ranks after running into technical problems at Le Mans, not to mention Team April Moto Motors Events and Bolliger Team Switzerland, which are never far behind the favourites.
Following this morning’s official free practice session, the first qualifying will get underway at 3.40pm on the Slovakia Ring. A night test will wrap up the day’s track action.