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.
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.
Day 4 of TT 2013 has come and gone and we have still yet to see a Superbike turn a wheel on the famous old Mountain Course. Practice began on Saturday evening with the newcomers sighting lap, which saw riders liaison office Richard “Milky” Quayle have to stop on the mountain section of the course with a puncture, much to the amusement of John McGuinness.
Having spent the weekend at a sunny Donington Park for the World Superbikes I returned to The Rock on Monday evening were heavy rain during the day had restricted the practice session to superstock, supersport, and the sidecars. I hoped to catch the sidecar session, sadly the session was red flag following an incident at Ballacrye.
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.
Our riding brethren across the pond have all the luck, as we learn of another cool motorcycle production that will be hitting the British airwaves: TT Legends. An eight-part documentary series that will cover the Honda TT Legends team throughout the 2012 season, TT Legends looks like a cracking good watch, if the trailer (after the jump) is any indication.
Following John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, and Simon Andrews behind the scenes at six events, we get a unique perspective at some of the World Endurance Championship’s best venues like the Bol d’Or, Suzuka 8-Hour, and Le Mans, as well at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200. In addition to the racing footage, TT Legends also shows the stories off the track, as the riders prepare themselves physically, and mentally for the racing season.
With the 30-minute premiere showing on ITV4 at 8.30pm on Monday, February 4th, there is no word if the documentary will find its way into North America, though we imagine the internet might help in that regard. Check out the trailer after the jump.
Honda Motor Europe’s factory race team is better known simply as the Honda TT Legends squad, and this year the team is really living up to that name.
Fielding a five-rider all-star squad for the 2013 season, the Honda TT Legends team will compete in the 2013 Endurance World Championship (EWC) with John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Cameron Donald, and Simon Andrews.
For the Isle of Man TT and other road races, the team will retain McGuiness and Rutter, while adding Michael Dunlop to the mix on the three-rider squad.
John McGuinness might be the King of the Mountain at the Isle of Man, but Michael Rutter is the King of the Streets at Macau. After leading throughout the qualifying and practice sessions, Rutter rode a dominant 10 lap race to claim his eighth win at the Macau GP.
Virtually uncontested during the road race, Rutter finished to comfortably, despite a late-stage charge by Martin Jessop, who put on a show with his charge to second, after a poor start off the line.
“The team gave me a brilliant bike,” said Rutter. “The crowds have been fantastic. I enjoy coming here and hope it will keep continuing.” Riding for the SMT Racing team on a Honda CBR1000RR, Rutter was teammates with Isle of Man TT star and rival John McGuinness, whose seventh place finish put SMT at the top of Macau’s first-ever Team Award.
Rounding out the podium was Simon Andrews, making the post-race celebrations a strictly British affair. Meanwhile, America’s main man Mark Miller rode to a respectable fifteenth place finish for the Splitlath Redmond team. Full race results are after the jump.