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It is not uncommon to see factory endurance teams tapping into their WSBK and MotoGP riders for the Suzuka 8-Hours race, stacking the odds in their favor at the very prestigious and important Japanese race. But, we rarely see these marque names outside of Suzuka.

That being said, Bradley Smith will be joining the factory-backed Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) at the 8 Hours of Oschersleben, the final round of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

The reason for this is pretty simple: YART is tied for second, only eight points back from winning the FIM Endurance World Championship, and vying for the top spot with nine other teams mathematically in contention.

The 2016 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the bag, and once again the Japanese endurance race proved to be a formidable challenge to its competitors, and a great spectacle for fans.

As expected, this edition of the Suzuka 8-Hours saw strong teams succumb to the challenges of endurance racing – examples being the Honda factory-backed MuSASHI RT HARC PRO team, which had to retire early for mechanical reasons, as well as the SRC Kawasaki Team that also did not finish.

While there were surprises in defeat, we also saw surprises in victory, with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team once again winning the prestigious Japanese race. A repeat of last year’s result for Yamaha, today’s win is marks a shift in the balance of power for endurance racing in Japan.

“I’m very happy and very satisfied with this win, for me, for Alex and for Nakasuga-san because we really deserved it. From the start of the test we have worked so hard to get the best for us three,” said an ecstatic Pol Espargaro.

“After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I’m sure Alex will complete the second one next year! I just want to say thanks to Yamaha, to all the people that support this fantastic team, because we are three riders but a lot of mechanics and other people work in the Yamaha Factory Team.”

“Thanks so much to Alex and Nakasuga, they were amazing today, I can’t say anymore, just thanks!”

If you haven’t already drooled over the photos of the GMT94 Yamaha YZF-R1, we recommend doing so. The French outfit is fresh off a race win in Portimao, and a strong contender for the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) title.

Yamaha has two factory-supported teams though, the second being the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), which won the Endurance World Championship in 2009, and is always a force to be reckoned with.

What has always struck me though, is how different the two teams build their bikes, despite starting with the same platform: the Yamaha YZF-R1. Today, I want to illustrate some of those changes, so we can enjoy the subtleties of the French and Austrian teams.

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.

Yamaha is looking to defend its FIM Endurance World Championship title, won last year by the Yamaha GMT94 squad. Yamaha is still very much in the hunt for the 2015 title, though the GMT94 guys will have to post some strong results to overcome their 5th place finish at the EWC’s first round, at Le Mans.

You wouldn’t know that the reigning world champions were having a tough time of it, after checking out their promotional video from the 24 Hours of Le Mans Moto — it’s that well done.

Hopefully that will translate onto the track for the French team, and their Austrian counterparts at YART, who are also featured.

The Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) might not have had a result at the 2014 Bol d’Or that was commensurate with the team’s ability, but ask anyone in the Endurance World Championship paddock who the top teams are, and YART is surely on their short-list.

Finishing 5th in the 2013 Championship, YART’s first goal is to best its French counterpart, the Yamaha Racing – GMT 94 – Michelin squad. Running similar equipment, the Austrians have been making a strong showing in the French-dominated endurance paddock.

So strong is EWC in France, that Honda Racing Europe finally had to give up its TT Legends team, which was comprised of road racing and TT stars, in favor of an all-French rider lineup of endurance specialists.

Featuring some of the most interesting racing equipment, the Endurance World Championship breeds a special kind of racing motorcycle. Bikes are rolling compromises, setup to provide the widest range of usability and riding style for the two, three, sometimes four riders that have to share the motorcycle during an endurance race.

Reliability is key, where a bulletproof bike with superior fuel economy, can be an advantage over the bike with the most horsepower on the grid. The human-factor is huge too, especially as races like the Bol d’Or carry-on into the night. Mistakes from rider and crew can mean time lost, or worse, the end of a race.

That all being said, here is the Yamaha Austria Racing Team’s 2014 workhorse, in all its go-fast glory.

The first round of the 2014 Endurance World Championship is in the bag, as the 24 hours of the Bol d’Or at Magny-Cours are now in the bag. Taking the top step on the podium was last year’s Bol d’Or winner, SRC Kawasaki, but the win didn’t come easily for the Kawasaki factory team.

“The week got off to a bad start. With Fabien Foret out and the crash for Matthieu, I wouldn’t have fancied us to win,” admitted SRC Kawasaki Team Manager Gilles Stafler. “The best win we ever had in a 24-hour race was our first in Le Mans in 2010. But this one was the toughest. There was also a luck factor in the choice of the tyres and we had the support of really top-notch technical staff.”

Because of Matthieu Lagrive’s crash during the free practice session, this meant that SRC Kawasaki teammate Gregory Leblanc and Nicolas Salchaud had to pretty much split the racing duties for the 24-hour race. At one point, SRC Kawasaki was in the 20th spot, after an early crash, but the team rallied together, and capitalized on the misfortunes of others to bring home another Bol d’Or win.

Finishing five laps down, in second, was the Yamaha France’s factory-supported team: Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin; and in third was the Superstock Class leader, Junior Team LMS Suzuki, which was 11 laps down at the finish.

Noticeably absent from the finishing board were the usual suspects of Honda Racing, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), all of whom had to retire mid-race because of mechanical troubles, but had strong showings prior to their retirements.

If the scuttlebutt out of the FIM Endurance World Championship paddock is to be believed, AMA Pro Superbike racer Josh Hayes could be headed to Le Mans, France next week, as the American is tipped to be replacing Josh Waters in the YART squad for the final round in the Endurance Championship series.

The stout YART (Yamaha Austria Racing Team) is currently 13 points behind the venerable SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team) for the Endurance World Championship title, with the 24 Hour Le Mans race being the deciding event for the top spot in the EWC.

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.

While we were busy getting sunburned in Austin, on the other side of the globe in Magny-Cours, men and women road motorcycles around a french track for 24-hours straight, in a little something called the Bol d’Or.

With SRC Kawasaki making a return to the pole-position, the French squad made it two years in a row at the winner’s circle, giving them a fantastic start to the World Endurance Championship. At the helm of their Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R were Gregory Leblanc, Loris Baz, and Jérémy Guarnoni, who battled through rain and the cold night to put the Kawasaki on the top step.