In the world of motorcycle racing the Isle of Man TT is indeed infamous, and as a photographer I have been lucky enough to shoot on the Isle in the Irish Sea. When my letter of credential for the Le Mans 24 Hour Moto arrived, I was beyond ecstatic — my charge would be to cover those same TT riders as they participated in the FIM World Endurance Championship finale at Le Mans.
An overnight flight from my home in Atlanta, and a train ride from Paris to Le Mans, and I was on-site 48 hours later. There are times when arriving at a circuit that I have never shot can be daunting, but one walk thru the door to the Honda TT Legends pits and I felt at home. As much due to the familiar faces, as to the more relaxed atmosphere of the team here at Le Mans versus the intensity at the Isle of Man.
After 24 hours of racing around a tiny historic track in France, the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycle endurance race, and final round of the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship has finally come to an end. A race of attrition, SRC Kawasaki claimed the top podium step, followed by Suzuki France’s Team R2CL (which was blessed with the addition of Guy Martin for the event), with Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube rounding out the final position.
The conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans also means that the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship rankings have been settled, with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) clinching the Championship, yet again, despite the team’s disappointing 26th place finish overall in Le Mans. Second in the Championship is the Yamaha France – GMT 94 – Michelin Yamalube squad, with SRC Kawasaki closing out the top three spot, for the four-round championship.
If the scuttlebutt out of the FIM Endurance World Championship paddock is to be believed, AMA Pro Superbike racer Josh Hayes could be headed to Le Mans, France next week, as the American is tipped to be replacing Josh Waters in the YART squad for the final round in the Endurance Championship series.
The stout YART (Yamaha Austria Racing Team) is currently 13 points behind the venerable SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team) for the Endurance World Championship title, with the 24 Hour Le Mans race being the deciding event for the top spot in the EWC.
Guy Martin, the affable TT racer from Lincolnshire, will be expanding his motorcycle racing horizons this year by competing in the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans. The final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship, Le Mans is a bucket list event for any fan of motorsport, and clearly ranked high on Martin’s list of racing accomplishments as well.
Entering into the iconic motorcycle endurance race with France’s R2CL Suzuki team, Martin got his EWC ride with help from Tyco Suzuki Team Manager Philip Neill. The sometimes-understandable TT personality will join other top TT riders on the Le Mans EWC grid, such as John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews of the Honda TT Legends crew.
In case you missed watching this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours (the second stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar), and that is pretty much everyone outside of Japan, since no live stream was available on race day, we’ve got you covered.
Compressing eight hours of hard-fought endurance racing into four and a half minutes, you can witness Ryuichi Kiyonari’s nasty crash on the F.C.C. TSR Honda, Schwantz’s epic return to road racing, and the victory of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda with Leon Haslam, Takumi Takahashi, and Michael Van Der Mark on-board.
Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember.
While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama, the Suzuka starting grid was also blessed with the entries of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews, and American Jason Pridmore.
Though a long eight-our race, the on-course action was surprisingly close, with the Top 5 teams on the same lap well past the three-hour mark. Team Kagayama was in good shape for a solid result from the onset of the race, as Noriyuka Haga put the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a solid fourth position.
The team rose as high as second-position with Team Manager Yukio Kagayama on-board, as the Suzuka specialist kept a solid pace, and benefited from the pit stops of other teams, not to mention the retirement of the FCC TSR Honda team, which had a race-ending crash with Ryuichi Kiyonari at the helm.
While the crash from Kiyonari on the FCC TSR Honda dashed the race-win-repeat hopes of World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, Kevin Schwantz finally dazzled fans in the third hour as he took to the course. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.
The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.
Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.
One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.
With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.
In case you missed the story last week, Kevin Schwantz is preparing to race in this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race. The blue ribbon event in Japanese motorcycle racing, a Suzuka 8-Hour win is perhaps the most covetted trophy to have if you are a Japanese motorcycle OEM.
The Japanese manufacturers take the Suzuka 8-Hour so seriously, it is not uncommon to see them stack their endurance teams with top-talent from other World and national series, like MotoGP, WSBK, BSB, and AMA Pro Racing. With rumors circulating about a very factory Yamaha team in the works, right now our attention however is on Team Kagayama.
Formed by Japanese rider Yukio Kagayama, who in addition to having raced in the MotoGP, World Superbike, and British Superbike Championships, is also a previous Suzuka 8-Hour winner with the Suzuki Endurance Race Team. Joining Kagayama and Schwatnz on the three-rider team is Noriyuki Haga, also of MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB fame.
Releasing a Q&A about his team’s Suzuka 8-Hour entry, Yukio Kagayama walks us through how the team came together, what equipment the riders will use, and his outlook on the team’s competitiveness. It’s a pretty interesting read.