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.
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.
Episode 3 of Following Fillmore finds us out in the California desert, as Chris takes part in a track day to benefit paralyzed road racer Rocco Horvath. Joining Fillmore at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway are some familiar AMA paddock names like Jason Pridmore, Josh Hayes, Melissa Paris, James Rispoli, and Benny Solis. If you are wondering what professional riders do in their spare time, here is your chance.
I have to say, in the three episodes we have shown so far of Following Fillmore (click to watch Episode 1 & Episode 2), this latest installment has to be a staff favorite here at A&R. Not only do we get a real human moment from Chris towards the end of the video, but we get to see his rationalization on the inevitability of crashing and possibly getting seriously hurt from the sport he loves. Something to chew on — good stuff.
Back in October 2008, one of the first stories I ever covered on Asphalt & Rubber dealt with an interesting statistic: in the prior 12 months, more Marines had died from riding their motorcycles here in the USA, than did from enemy gunfire in Iraq — worst of all, all of those 25 of those deaths were on sport bikes. The statistic wasn’t a fluke either, as in 2009, the Army National Guard announced a similar trend, where it lost 36 Guardsman to motorcycle crashes that year, compared to the 25 lost fighting in Iraq.
Evaluating the causes for these motorcycle fatalities, the Army National Guard discovered an alarming trend in the paperwork. Almost without exception, the ultimate reason given for why a Guardsman died while riding his or her motorcycle was “a loss of control due to inexperience.” These crashes were typically in the 70-100mph range, and more often than not, the crashes featured soldiers who had recently bought a new sport bike.
Part of a larger program by the US military to better train and protect our soldiers with mandatory MSF courses and minimal riding gear requirements when on-base, the Army National Guard took things a step further, and setup a free program where Guardsmen could get their hands-on advanced motorcycle training in a track environment. The man for the job was none other Jason Pridmore, whose STAR Motorcycle School now features military-only school days around the country.
It was our supreme privilege here at A&R to recently attend one of Pridmore’s STAR classes for the Army National Guardsmen, and witness first-hand what the US military is doing to protect its soldiers — not only when on the field of combat, but also when they have returned home from duty.