Designed to test man and machine, the winners of Bol d’Or, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, finished first in this grueling 24 hour race.
SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Freddy Foray, and Oliver Four rode their GSX-R1000 to 815 laps, three more than the second place team, Honda Michelin Power Research Team cosnsisting of rider’s William Costes, Matthieu Lagrive and Josep Monge. But post-race it was discovered that the Honda Michelin Power Research Team was running a larger fuel tank (24.86 instead of the allowed 24 liters) and were penalized 40 laps, relegating them to 10th place. This moved GSR Kawasaki into second and Sapeurs Pompiers Suzuki up to third place.
It is the third time GSR Kawasaki has finished second in an FIM World Endurance Race. GSR Kawasaki’s American rider, Kenny Noyes, had these comments.
“We were racing for the podium for a long time with Yamaha YART, both on the timing sheets and on the track. I was having a lot of trouble at night out there until Steve Martin came by on the YART Yamaha and I was able to tuck in and figure the place out running with him. Eventually they retired with some kind of engine problems and that meant we could ease up a bit over the last three hours.
“I think people have the idea that endurance racing is easier because you don’t have to ride flat out all the time. The hardest thing about a race like this is making sure you are not part of somebody else’s crash and taking a little extra care of the engine and gearbox. There were times out there in the night when things were getting real sketchy. For the French riders this is their Super Bowl, the big one, so you have to expect anything, anywhere. They are fast and they know this place so well. But there are also really, really slow riders out there too and they are right on racing line–maybe racing with another guy who is also going the same speed, in some places, maybe 40 mph less on the entry to a fast corner. Imagine you are running in the dark–almost no lights except your own bouncing headlight beams on the black road–and there are fires all around at trackside! The fans started burning things in the night–eventually they set a grandstand on fire–so you are running past some big fires, coming up on some guys who are lost in their own race, moving around, and you know if you don’t pass them you might lose a second in the section, and about the time you decide there is just room to slip in under them, here comes this French guy, riding like there is no tomorrow and makes the kind of pass that I’d only make for the win on the last lap of a Spanish national!
“This team worked real well, never slipped up, but the bike was hard to ride, hard to change directions–weighs probably 40 pounds more than my Extreme Kawasaki in Spain, and it took some time to understand the Pirelli tires–but they worked and gave good feel. I have a long ride in the car back to Barcelona in front of me now–a day to rest up–and then two days of team practice at Albacete to get ready for the next Spanish Extreme round. So, sure, I am happy–happy to be second but happier to survive!”
It appeared to be a tough weekend for Yamaha since the best-placed YZF-R1, Team LTG57, finished in 20th. Overheating issues seemed to plague all the Yamaha teams. Front-runner Yamaha France GMT 94 had to withdraw from the race early on when a head gasket failed and BK Maco Moto Yamaha also had to retire after overheating problems when riders Jason Pridmore and Josh Hayes were forced to ride back-to-back sessions for almost the whole race after teammate, Dani Ribalta, was injured in a crash and declared unfit to race.
Yamaha Austria Racing Team also suffered overheating issues and electrical problems in the final hour of the race, but managed to return on the final lap and finish in 35th, gaining valuable points and capturing the 2009 Qtel FIM Endurance World Championship title even with one more race still on the books. YART rider Steve Martin, Gwen Giabbani and Igor Jerman have dominated 2009 on the R1, taking three race victories in a row and then a fourth place finish in Suzuka.
Having previously finished second in the championship in 2006 and 2008, rider Steve Martin was overjoyed with their championship win. “I feel ecstatic for the team, for Yamaha and all our technical partners, I want to say thank you for making my dreams come true. It’s fantastic to win with one race in hand so we can go to Qatar and really enjoy it with the pressure off. Big thanks to my fellow riders as well, it’s been a pleasure racing with them this year.”
Also commenting on their win, Igor Jerma said, “This year was quite tough because we started with a new bike and new tires, so the full package. Before the season started we had a lot of tests, we worked really hard to set up the bike for Michelin tires and it worked really well. The season has been great; we’ve had no problems apart from the last race, so we are very happy with the bike. It’s great to have won the title, this was our wish for this year, we tried really hard and we did it. I’m really happy for Mandy and he worked really hard to make a good team and a good bike so deserves this win.”
YART Team Manager, Mandy Kainz, was equally happy. “We came here to win, and we’ve done it. We tried to win all the races and for the last one it was not possible but we are very happy to win the title here already. It’s the first title for YART having taken second place twice, so we’ve waited long enough for it. The new Yamaha has proven it’s the best bike in the championship, it’s been incredibly reliable this year and consistently fast at every circuit. I want to say a thank you to the team who worked really hard at each round and to the riders who kept going and racing intelligently to bring home the points. Also a big thank you to all the Yamaha family for the help and support!”
Gwen Giabbani, the third member of the championship team, said, “I feel a bit disappointed about yesterday’s race as we had the speed and everything we needed to win. We have the title though so I feel better! The rest of the year was all perfect, winning at Le Mans to start with was unexpected but the best thing for us, and we knew we were capable of winning the other races from then on. It all ran easy from there, we just missed the podium at Suzuka but we took the points we needed and apart from that it’s been great.”
Racking up their best finish of the 2009 season were Suzuki AM Moto Racing Compétition riders, Sullivan Hernandez, Pierre Guersillon and Fabrice Auger in fifth place and Bolliger Team Switzerland in ninth place.
In the Superstock class, The Suzuki Qatar Endurance Racing Team of Mashel Al Naimi, Rashid Al Mannai and Anthony Delhalle, took the 2009 FIM World Cup win with their third-place finish behind the first place finishers, Kawasaki Maccio Racing and Suzuki Motors Events Joe Bar teams in second.
1 – SERT – Philippe, Foray, Four (Suzuki) 815 laps
2 – GSR Kawasaki – Foray, Noyes, Fores (Kawasaki) 808
3 – Team 18 Sapeurs – Molinier, Briere, Tangre (Suzuki) 793
4 – Rac 41-City Bike – Junod, Houyssin, Black (Suzuki) 793
5 – AM Moto Racing – Hernandez, Guersillon, Auger (Suzuki) 783
6 – Bolliger Team Switzerland – Saiger, Mizera, Rita (Kawasaki) 775
7 – Michelin Power – Costes, Monge, Lagrive (Honda) 772
8 – No Limits – Guareschi, Casas, Bellucci (Suzuki) 771
9 – RT Racing Team – Morillon, Jond, Devoyon (Suzuki) 758
10 – Motobox Kremer Racing – Gaziello, Scherrer, Hedelin (Suzuki) 757