As usual, the team to beat in the Endurance World Championship is the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Taking the 2013 title by a thin five-point margin though, SERT’s history of dominance in endruance racing is certainly being challenged. Biting at its heels are the factory teams from Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda — all of whom have strong teams for the 2014 season.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same — which applies equally well for the 2014 Suzuki GSX-R1000 which SERT will once again be campaigning in the EWC. The 2014 SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 looks like almost a carbon-copy of last year’s machine, and we will just assume that they don’t want to change a winning formula.
At the helm of the SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 are team regulars Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle, who will be joined by Erwan Nigon and reserve rider Damian Cudlin. With 13 Endurance World Championship under its belt, SERT will look for its 14th title this year, and their title defense starts tomorrow with the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race at Magny-Cours, France.
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.
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.