BY GILES SPENCER
Tooting born superbike racer Gino Rea scored a third place finish at Spa in Belgium in the FIM Endurance World Championship last weekend.
The 32 year old and his three F.C.C. TSR Honda France team mates qualified in fourth place for the gruelling 24 hour race.
Continuing their strong form from the opening round at Le Mans which saw the Honda CBR1000RR-R mounted riders finish third, they sat in second place 1.993 seconds behind the championship leading Yoshimura SERT Motul team after an hour of racing.
Eleven hours in and the persistently fast pace paid off as they took the lead pulling a lap on the second placed BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team.
A mechanical issue during the night lost the team five laps and dropped them down to third place as Rea pushed the stricken Honda back to the pits but worse was to come as the rain started fall the next morning and team mate Mike di Meglio crashed out, dropping them to tenth place whist the bike was repaired.
Despite the setbacks, they dug in hard and moved back up into podium contention.
With barely a few hours left to go, the Falcon Racing team’s Yamaha suffers a mechanical problem, dumping oil on a large section of the track, forcing the race to be postponed whilst the track staff undertook a major operation to clean it up.
The re-started race was a four lap dash to the flag and Rea, starting from fourth, pushed as hard as he could to move up to third and hold on to take the final step on the podium by 0.538 seconds.
Their second podium on the bounce has moved the team upto second in the championship on 91 points, 15 behind the Suzuki mounted Yoshimura SERT Motul team.
“What a crazy end to a very dramatic race.” Rea said.
“That was a long 24 hours, so much went on.
“Again, same as Le Mans, we set off really well and we led at the 12 hour mark which was really good, we didn’t put a foot wrong.
“Then unfortunately we had a bike issue in the night time where the chain fell off. I managed to push the bike back and got back out there and in the morning when it started raining Mike had a crash.
“Luckily the bike wasn’t damaged too much so he was able to get it back and we worked our way into third place from tenth and then it got suspended because of the oil on the track.
“They had a four lap shoot out at the end and me and (Xavier) Simeon of SERT had an epic battle and I was glad to come out on top and that secured our podium.
“To have a podium after an eventful race like that is just incredible really.
“When the race was suspended, we were actually told it was not going to get re-started and if it did it would just be a parade lap. All three of us riders were literally packing our suitcases, we had our leathers packed away and then we got told it was going to be a sprint race at the end.
” I think we deserved it. Before the red flag (for the oil) SERT were due to pit which would’ve kept us in third position so I had to work a lot harder for the position in the end, took a few risks but made it happen.
“The team did a great job all week and so did my teammates so we’re very happy to come away from Spa with another podium and second in the championship.
“Obviously we’d have liked to have had a fair chance to fight for the win, which I think we could’ve. We were strong in all conditions but we’ll just move on from here and onwards and upwards.”
The next round of the championship will be held at Suzuka in Japan on the 5-7th August.
Photos: Stephane Valembois
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