While our attention right now is mostly on Austin, Texas for the MotoGP round, the FIM Endurance World Championship is kicking off in Le Mans, France.
And since one cannot talk about motorcycle endurance racing without also mentioning first one of the its most dominant teams, we bring you the launch of the 2016 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.
Comprised of riders Anthony Delhalle, Vincent Philipe, and Etienne Masson for the 2016 season, SERT again has a strong team riding its tricked out Suzuki GSX-R1000, and there is a strong possibility that the outfit will successfully defend its #1 plate.
Taking things all the way to the last round of the championship – the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race – the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team can finally lay claim to being the the 2015 FIM Endurance World Champions.
Though endurance racing is very much a team effort, this victory for SERT couldn’t have been achieved without the team’s EWC veteran riders: Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle, and Etienne Masson.
The trio’s results have allowed Suzuki to claim its 14th EWC title, which is just one part of the Japanese brand’s domination in the FIM Endurance World Championship.
On its road to EWC glory, SERT won at Le Mans, finished fourth in the very competitive specialist field at Suzuka, landed second on the podium at Oschersleben, and wrapped up the Bol d’Or in the third position.
As we speak right now, Endurance World Championship machines are lapping around the Paul Ricard Circuit, competing in the 2016 Bol d’Or 24-Hour race.
Ahead of the endurance event though, Yamaha’s factory teams debuted a tribute to the company’s 60th birthday, as Yamaha Motor Company was founded in July 1955.
For us YZF-R1 fans, this weekend means a special yellow and black “speedblock” livery for the Yamaha race bikes – a paint scheme that will be available to the general public (in Europe, at least) starting December 2015.
This isn’t the first time that Yamaha’s special limited edition speedblock livery has helped spice up the R1, and like its previous efforts, we like the result. The added Akrapovic pipe is a nice touch too.
Speaking of results, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) is sitting in second place, at the time of this writing, just one lap behind the leaders, Honda Endurance Racing. Meanwhile, the French factory team that is Yamaha GMT 94 team sits in 5th (+4 laps), with roughly 11 hours remaining in the event.
We’re sure Yamaha would love to tie-up this press debut with a victory at the French track, with either of its yellow-clad factory teams. Until then, we have some super high-resolution photos of the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 in its 60th Anniversary livery. Drool over them, after the jump.
Once upon a time, the Suzuka 8 Hour race was a big deal. A very big deal. It was the race the Japanese factories sent their very best riders to compete in, the event often being written into the contracts of the top Grand Prix and World Superbike riders as part of their factory deals.
The list of big names to win the race is impressive. Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Daryl Beattie, Aaron Slight, Doug Polen, Scott Russell, Noriyuki Haga, Colin Edwards, Daijiro Kato, Alex Barros, Shinichi Itoh, Tohru Ukawa, Taddy Okada. And of course Valentino Rossi.
There, they faced the very best of the Japanese Superbike riders, as well as the regulars from the World Endurance Championship, of which it forms a part.
It may have been an honor to have been asked to do the race, but the GP riders were far from keen. Held in July, the race fell right in the middle of the Grand Prix season.
Racing in the event meant multiple flights to Japan for testing and practice, then the grueling race itself in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Japanese summer. It meant doing the equivalent of four Grand Prix in the space of eight hours, then rushing home to get ready for the next race.
The best case scenario meant they started the next Grand Prix event tired and aching from Suzuka. The worst case was a crash and an injury that either kept them off the bike or left them riding hurt.
The only benefit was that it kept the factories happy, and marginally increased a rider’s chances of extending his contract with the manufacturer for a following season.
You may have already heard that Casey Stoner crashed out of the Suzuka 8-Hour this weekend, while leading the race no less. The result of which was a broken scaphoid and fractured left tibia/ankle for the 29-year-old Australian, who had finally found himself back in motorcycle racing.
Ultimately, the throttle on the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda CBR1000RR was to blame, with it getting stuck open at 26º of full throttle.
For fans that have been waiting the return of Casey Stoner, a rider we tip as likely the most talented ever to race on two wheels, this is a disappointing end to what could have been a fairytale weekend.
Time will tell if Stoner mounts another racing motorcycle, though we imagine this weekend’s events don’t help the realization of that pipe dream.
Click after the jump, for the carnage…and note why many riders consider Suzuka too dangerous a venue for motorcycles.
In Japan, the Suzuka 8-Hour is a huge deal, but for the rest of the world, it ranks on par with the rest of the FIM Endurance World Championship.
That’s kind of a shame, really, as the Endurance World Championship is the only motorcycle championship where we still see different tire manufacturers competing against each other, the bikes are beautifully technical in their own special way, and in the case of Suzuka, there are often heavy-hitters at play.
This year was no different, with Yamaha fielding its “Yamaha Factory Racing Team” with two MotoGP stars, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, along with factory test rider and MotoGP podium-finisher Katsuaki Nakasuga.
If you will pardon the pun, it’s a tough break for Casey Stoner and his Suzuka 8-Hour debut, as the two-time MotoGP World Champion broke his right scapula & left tibia today in crash that occurred while he was leading the famous iconic endurance race.
Stoner, along with his teammates Takumi Takahashi and Michael van der Mark, took the factory-backed Honda team of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO to a third-place qualifying position, after the Top 10 team qualifying shootout.
With Stoner at the helm of #634 for his first stint of the day, the Honda team took over the leading position, when the Yamaha Factory Racing Team pitted.
Subsequently, the Australian lost control of the Honda CBR1000RR because the throttle got stuck open, which then caused him to crash into the hairpin turn of Turn 11, which is appropriately enough called “Hairpin”.