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FIM World Endurance Championship

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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. 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.

Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz has certainly been in the news a bit these past few months, mostly for his involvement and falling out with the Circuit of the Americas and the Americas GP, but also more recently for his comments regarding Dani Pedrosa — we also sat down with Mr. Schwantz in Austin, and the Texan gave us some sobering insight into the future of American road racing. As if all that wasn’t enough, Schwantz is making a return to two-wheeled racing, and has entered the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race with Team Kagayama racing alongside Noriyuki Haga and team owner Yukio Kagayama.

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.

After announcing a “dream team” line-up for its 2013 season, Honda TT Legends has had to revise its rider-entry list, after coming to a mutual decision with Australian racer Cameron Donald, who will not not race with the Honda TT Legends World Endurance Championship squad this year.

Citing personal reasons, namely the desire to spend more time with his family, Donald’s absence from the Honda TT Legends team means that the HRC-backed squad will field a three-rider effort in this year’s four endurance rounds, leaving John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews to campaign on the Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.

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.

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.

Campaigned by Yamaha’s Austrian subsidiary, the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) has an impressive history in the FIM World Endurance Championship. Finishing third at the 76th Annual Bol d’Or 24 hour race, YART was the top Yamaha squad on the rostrum, and even upset the Yamaha France’s factory team: Team Yamaha GMT94 Michelin Yamalube.

YART was the 2009 WEC Champion, and over the last 10 years, the Stryia-based squad has finished in the Top 5 eight times. Not quite the pedigree that comes with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), but YART is a serious contender for the 2012 World Endurance Championship and is already giving the factory Suzuki squad a run for its money. It also so happens, that their 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 is one trick looking race bike — photos after the jump, naturally.

With the weather changing almost constantly during the weekend’s race and close to freezing at night, the 76th annual Bol d’Or proved to be both an exciting and grueling race that saw teams changing to wets, slicks, and cut-slicks almost constantly in the pit stops. Racing for 24 hours, the SRC Kawasaki Team did the unthinkable, and beat the heavily favored Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) in this year’s Bol d’Or endurance race. Losing most of its time in the pits, SERT had to contend with a crash in the fourth hour of the Bol d’Or, which sent lead-rider Vincent Philippe home early with a broken collarbone.

Completing the remaining 20 hours of the race with only two riders, SERT was able to close the gap to SRC Kawasaki in the final hours of the contest to only 60 seconds, but after several more pit stops the team would have to settle for finishing just on the same lap as the Kawasaki squad, as they slowed their pace to ensure victory. While one could make the argument that SERT lost the race instead of SRC Kawasaki winning it, riding a flawless and careful 24 hours is a part of the winning strategy in the FIM World Endurance Championship. Kudos to the SRC Kawasaki Team.