The Queen of Endurance Karting competitions for 30 years, the 24 Hours Karting of Le Mans was this year given the status of the CIK-FIA Endurance Championship. This 31th edition included 31 participating teams, with 11 teams in the GP1 class with OK engines. This premiere was entirely successful and is poised to become a great CIK-FIA classic. The CRG factory team dominated the start of Race with its remarkable performance, but the experience of the French team Sarthe RTKF eventually triumphed for the 8th consecutive time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Karting and they won the title of 2016 CIK-FIA Endurance Champion.
Present at Le Mans throughout the Competition, the Vice-President of the CIK-FIA, Kees van De Grint, clearly enjoyed his weekend in the Sarthe. “I am very proud to have attended the 24 Hours Karting of Le Mans, an unparalleled and legendary event. Dominique Foussier, the President of ASK ACO, and Alban Martinet, in charge of marketing for the ACO, contacted us three years ago to prepare for the entry at the 24 Hours Karting in the calendar of the CIK-FIA. The ACO has invested in this project with great efficiency and I am very pleased with this first CIK-FIA Endurance Championship at Le Mans.”
“I must congratulate the winners, the team Sarthe RTKF, who demonstrated an excellent knowledge of the Competition and a perfect control of its peculiarities. I also want to thank CRG who had the courage to meet the challenge: their machine was very fast, even if it was not enough to win after 24 hours. I hope that the Italian brand will return next year to take revenge and that other factories dare to join them.”
“To me, the greatest victory of this 31th edition is for the concept of OK engines. We now have proof that this new generation of high-performance, reliable and affordable motors can win a classic 24 hour race. The top four were equipped with OK engines and the 5th also used an engine using the OK concept, even though it was from a one-make brand.”
“We had a very good surprise regarding the tyres provided by LeCont. The rubber from the Italian manufacturer held the pace without a significant drop in performance over the laps and the five sets permitted proved quite sufficient to cover the distance.”
“Finally, I want to thank Jacky Foulatier, the co-organiser of the race, for his contribution to the success of the event, and also for inviting me to drive a Kart Legend. I had the pleasure of driving a French 1961 Globb-Kart on the Le Mans circuit.”
Many things happen during 24 hours of racing and the 2016 edition was no exception to the rule. The weather was relatively mild with only one shower in the early evening, justifying the use of rain tyres during 2h30. Team 8 CRG SpA (CRG / Parilla / LeCont) with Flavio Camponeschi (ITA), Felice Tiene (ITA), Pedro Hiltbrand (ESP) and Henki Waldschmidt (NLD) dominated Qualifying Practice and the first three hours of the Race. There was an incredible comeback from the No. 50 La Manche Kartmag (Tony Kart / Vortex / LeCont) with Arnaud Bouilland (FRA), Bastien Leguay (FRA), Remy Deguffroy (FRA) and Paolo Besancenez (FRA). Starting in last position after a strategic error in the Qualifying, they were already in the top 10 after only 12 laps and were leading for nearly 100 laps before being delayed by mechanical problems.
Specialists know that pure speed is far from the only decisive criterion in a 24 hour race. The preparation of equipment and the experience of the team are key assets in endurance, associated to some degree with success. As in the car 24H, reliability and good overtaking can make the difference. Thus the # 1 Sarthe RTKF 1 (Sodi / Parilla / LeCont) crew of Charles Fiault (FRA), Gautier Becq (FRA), Kevin Petit (FRA) and Anthoine Hubert (FRA) took control almost permanently in the night, completing a total of more than 1,000 laps in the lead out of the 1421 in the Race. The other fast Sarthe RTKF team, No. 72 (Sodi / Parilla / LeCont) led by Maxime Bidard (FRA), Victor Compere (FRA), William Godefroid (BEL) and Thomas Ricci (FRA), fought for the final victory before finishing in 2nd place by one lap. It was the eighth straight win and a superb double for Claude Jamin’s karts, the iconic team manager at the 24 Hours Karting of Le Mans, who announced his retirement after this sensational result.
Very fast, but delayed on several occasions, the No. 55 Rouen GSK-REK (Sodi / Vortex / LeCont) with Sébastien Bailly (BEL), Benjamin Bailly (BEL), Nicolas Duchateau (FRA) and Jean-Philippe Guignet (FRA) managed to come back to 3rd position, six laps later, to complete the podium of the Competition and give Sodi the entire top three. The semi-official team No. 40 GTL Energy Corse (Energy / Parilla / LeCont) of Vincent Gendry (FRA), Tony Lavanant (FRA), Nicolas Markiewicz (FRA) and François Surut (FRA) finished 4th in front of the great No. 17 Parma Malevaut Sport (Tony Kart / Vortex DVS / LeCont) with Lodovico Laurini (ITA), Nicolas Picot (FRA), Andrew Deberne (FRA) and Romain Mange (FRA), the winners of the 2nd division, GP2, but using a motor of the OK concept. Long battling in the top three, No. 24 Wintec Centre (Sodi / Parilla / LeCont), led by Alexander Vromant (FRA), Wilfrid Lecarpentier (FRA), Enzo Coursimault (FRA) and Renaud Bertin (FRA), slipped back to 6th position in the last two hours.
The winner completed 1421 laps or 1966 km at an average speed of 81.9 km / h, including stops, without a single engine breakage. The LeCont tyres lasted for more than five hours with a drop in performance of around 5/10 to 7/10 only later on. The CRG SpA team took pole position with 1’07”684 on wet tyres and the fastest lap of 55”666. New in 2016: the lighting system at the Le Mans International Karting Circuit, now one of the most powerful in the world, offers a magical night atmosphere for spectators. The media coverage was, as always, very good by Le Mans TV with a live broadcast on several regional channels and the Internet for more than 10 hours, including more excellent images on track, discussions in the studio and numerous interviews in the pits.