Isle of Man TT race winners John McGuinness and Cameron Donald have held onto their title hopes with another strong result in the Endurance World Championship.
The pair, racing alongside Jason O’Halloran in the Honda TT Legends squad, consolidated second in the standings with a 4th place finish in the latest round, an 8-hour race at Oschersleben in Germany.
McGuinness, a 19-times TT winner, said the team has a great chance of becoming World Champions in 2012 with just one round left.
After the first qualifying session, the three riders were within 1 second of each other, but it was McGuinness who was fastest at 1 minute 27.739 seconds, to place him third in his group and the trio ended the day 5th overall. During second and final qualifying, it was O’Halloran’s turn to shine and with Donald also improving his time, the combined average of each rider’s best lap from the two sessions – 1m28.053s – meant they lined up 5th on the grid.
The race kicked off at 2pm with O’Halloran taking part in the running start. A dramatic first stint saw the safety car deployed in the opening lap after a superstock machine crashed out. In the same hour, EWC contenders YART ran off the track while Bolliger Team Switzerland collided with superstock team QERT, leaving all three playing catch up for the remainder of the race.
With two of its EWC rivals out of the running for a top 5 position, the Honda TT Legends team secured 4th, while championship leaders SERT led the pack and BMW Motorrad France and Yamaha France GMT 94 tussled for the number two spot.
McGuinness, O’Halloran and Donald pushed hard for the next 7 hours and despite losing time after a brief safety car appearance in hour 6, brought the Honda TT Legends Fireblade home without any problems. SERT led from start to finish, while BMW Motorrad France won the battle for 2nd, pushing Yamaha GMT 94 into 3rd.
The result leaves the Honda TT Legends joint 2nd in the championship, with BMW, on 76 points ahead of the final round at Le Mans in September.
“We pushed hard in the race and we’ve made a lot of progress this year, getting closer to the front runners at each and every round. Right from the off we were on the pace and when I got ‘P3’ in first qualifying I thought my throttle must have got stuck or something!”
“I found a really good set up and rhythm and after the test we head here earlier in the year, I was able to hit the ground running. I got caught in a lot of traffic in second qualifying, but our combined times got us closer to the front and where we wanted to be so it set us up nicely for the race.”
“We had no issues at all with the bike in the race and it was pretty much the perfect race. Anything can happen in an 8 hour rac,e but all our pit stops were good and none of us made any mistakes so to finish fourth was very pleasing.”
“Cam and Jason did a great job again as did all the team and whilst it was a bit frustrating not to step on the podium, we gave it 100% and have put ourselves in with a great chance of becoming World Champions.”
“We’re joint second and we have it all to play for.”
“I’m absolutely thrilled. I didn’t qualify as well as I wanted to, but at the end of the day, it is endurance racing so it doesn’t matter so much. In the race, we were consistent and smooth, I felt good and John and Jason both rode really well.”
“As a team, we brought home a result we should be proud of. It’s my personal best result in endurance and that feels really good. The last session in the dark was great, the bike is going well and we’re really moving forward.”
“I’m looking forward to building on that at Le Mans and finishing the year off strong.
Race manager Russell Benney concluded:
“The team really raised its game this week. Both the riders and the crew have done an excellent job and while it would have been nice to get on the podium, we’ve done what we came here to do.”
“Our objectives were to pull away from Bolliger and Folches and to close the gap on the top teams, both of which we have achieved. We find ourselves in equal second going in to the final round.”
“It’s firmly our objective to be in the top 3 in the championship and mathematically we can take advantage of every point we can get at Le Mans to achieve that aim.”