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.
While our attentions may be on this weekend’s inaugural MotoGP round at the Circuit of the Americas in Ausin, Texas, the World Endurance Championship (EWC) season is also kicking off with the 2013 Bol d’Or. A 24-hour that now takes place at the in Magny-Cours circuit in France, the Bol d’Or is one of two 24-hour races on the EWC calendar, and is in its 77th running.
At the top of the heap for tomorrow’s grid is the SRC Kawasaki team (WSBK’s Loris Baz is one of the team’s riders, for trivia points), which won the Bol d’Or 24-hour racing last year, upsetting the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Despite the upset defeat, SERT went on to win the EWC title outright in 2012, and remains the favorite for the 2012 season.
Though SRC is the team to beat to the finish come Sunday, it goes without saying that you cannot count out SERT from a top-step finish with their Suzuki GSX-R1000 endurance race bike. Yamaha France’s GMT94 entry finishes out the top three spots, and is another strong contender, as is fourth-place starter BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent.
Despite Qualifying 9th in the EWC field (12th overall), the Honda TT Legends crew is upbeat about their pace, and tip their consistency as being a deciding factor come tomorrow’s race. Fastest on the team, Michael Dunlop will move from being the team’s back-up rider, and instead will replace Michael Rutter, who is still nursing his leg injury from pre-season testing.
McGuinness, Andrews, and Dunlop will be hunting a Top 5 finish over the 24 hours, with a podium being an outstanding result ofr the factory Honda squad.
While many of us are counting down the start to the second rounds of World Superbike and MotoGP, the season-opener for the FIM Endurance World Championship is just around the corner as well. Starting the season with the Bol d’Or 24 Heures at Magny-Cours on April 20th, the Honda TT Legends dream team was out in Albacete, Spain getting some last minute practice in with their Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.
Built around the relatively low-tech Honda CBR1000RR street bike, the TT Legends crew have fitted the CBR with a MoTeC ECU, which provides traction control, wheelie control, and other electronic rider aids. Though the system is not necessarily increasing the top lap times of riders John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Michael Dunlop, and Andrew Simon, the MoTeC ECU does allow for the riders to ride within a more comfortable margin of safety and use less energy while on the bike.
In the game of endurance racing, managing riders’ energy is just as crucial of a component as is keeping the bike out of the kitty litter. Addressing both those concerns with their modifications, the Honda TT Legends team should be better equipped to challenge for the podium in the four-round Championship, especially at the longer 24-hour races like the Bol d’Or and Le Mans.
Helping us gear-up for the incoming season, there is some dubstepped video goodness after the jump. Enjoy.
Whether your four-wheeled racing fetish comes in the form of NASCAR or Formula One (maybe you tick the box for “other”?), chances are that you are accustomed to the concept of a pitstop. The idea is a bit lost on motorcycle racing though, as most circuit-racing is done on a single-tank of gasoline, e.g. MotoGP, WorldSBK, AMA Pro Racing, BSB, etc. At road racing events, like the Isle of Man TT though, pitstops become again the status quo, but the nature of the TT fails to bring a certainly level of sophistication to the process — the same cannot be said for the World Endurance Championship.
We already showed you today the oddity of a motorcycle chasing down a headlight on a race track, and we’ll bring you another interesting video from the WEC: a bonafide well-choreographed motorcycle pitstop. Showing us here a nearly textbook refueling, tire change, and rider swap, BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent’s total time in the pitbox was 17 seconds (a few seconds lost to some trouble getting the refueling system hooked up to the bike). Not bad.
With riders Sébastien Gimbert, Damian Cudlin, Erwan Nigon, and Hugo Marchand finishing second in the FIM World Endurance Championship, and third at Le Mans (a crash by Gimbert two hours into the race took the team off its pole-setting pace, and dashed hopes for an outright Championship win), the upstart French team is representing its German brand well. Hopefully they will be back next year to give those boys at SERT another run for their money.
We’re used to seeing on-board footage of John McGuinness riding his Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR race bike, though usually those videos include a certain island in the middle of the Irish sea. Well, McPint and crew were in Le Mans this past weekend, participating in the last World Endurance Championship round, and have provided us with a knew perspective on road racing.
Completing 24 hours of competition, the Honda TT Legends team finished a respectable fifth place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which allowed them to post a fourth overall in the WEC season standings — one of only two teams to finish every round of the WEC season, we might add.
Taking us around for a lap on the historic circuit at night, McGuinness drags some knees inthe pitch black night, with only the headlight of his CBR1000RR and a spattering of flood lights to show him the way around the French track. This isn’t your typical track footage.
Starting 33 years ago with the 1980 Suzuki GS 1000 (above), the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) has been one of the winningest teams in the FIM World Endurance Championship. Racking up 11 wins over three decades, SERT owes its victories to three bikes: the GS 1000, GSX-R750, & GSX-R1000.
Getting ready to defend the team’s 2011 Championship victory, SERT is heading to Magny-Cours, France on April 14th for the Bol d’Or 24-Hours and opening round of the endurance road-racing season. To help cheer the team on, Suzuki has released these photographs of all the SERT race Suzukis of the past 33 years. Enjoy those photos after the jump, just don’t ask us where the 1981 Suzuki GS 1000 is.