2024 FIM Endurance World Championship bursts into action next week at Le Mans

The 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship bursts into action next week when Le Mans hosts the EWC season opener – the 24 Heures Motos – at the famous Bugatti Circuit in France

The 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship bursts into action next week when Le Mans hosts the EWC season opener – the 24 Heures Motos – at the famous Bugatti Circuit in France

The 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship bursts into action next week when Le Mans hosts the EWC season opener – the 24 Heures Motos – at the famous Bugatti Circuit in France.

English/Frenchman Gregg Black and French rider Etienne Masson – who have both enjoyed 24 Heures Motos victories – are joined by a new British recruit Dan Linfoot, with Japanese pilot Cocoro Atsumi securing a fulltime place as the fourth, reserve rider.

The first of four 2024 EWC races, the 24 Heures Motos is the coveted title all teams want to win, and with just over a week until the action gets underway, Yoshimura SERT Motul is in a confident mood. As the team heads to its home round at Le Mans, in the Department of Sarthe, its riders reflect on the months leading up to the pre-season private and official tests and look ahead to the flag dropping on the start of the season on Saturday the 20th of April.

GREGG BLACK;
“The winter went quite quickly as I continued training and went to Spain for a month, riding different disciplines which, alongside physical training, has kept me fit. Then before I knew it, we were back together for private testing at Jerez and Valencia before returning to Le Mans for the 24 Heures Motos Pre Test.

“It was good to meet the new chief mechanic and ride with Dan, who I have known for a long time. The team worked hard through the winter developing new bike parts, and we were able to test in wet, drying, and dry conditions. Our brief was to concentrate on testing the new parts now, rather than during the race ….. We didn’t focus on speed, but we still managed to go fast and showed our pace across all conditions.

“The Suzuki GSX-R1000R has always been really good at braking and into corners, so we worked on traction and to get a better all round package. Of course, an important part of that package is the tire set up and we know the Bridgestone tires are the best out there – whether wet, dry, hot or cold, they always work well.

“I’m really looking forward to race week. The opening round at Le Mans is always special and, like all circuits, has many different aspects.

“The important thing will be to have a good strong week of testing, qualifying for points, consistent pace and to keep out of trouble. We were unlucky at the start last year, but our performance showed that we were on a podium, if not race-winning, pace.

“We know that the race will be long and difficult, especially during the night with cold temperatures, BUT we will be there!”

ETIENNE MASSON;
“It felt really good to be back on the bike after a long winter. Yoshimura worked hard during the off season, and they made many changes to help improve our race pace. It was interesting to ride the same bike, yet with a completely different feeling. We need to adapt our riding style to extract the best possible performance from the Suzuki.

“It’s always a pleasure to share the bike with Gregg, we trained together a couple of times in the winter. I didn’t know much about Dan, but we spent a lot of time together in Spain and talked a lot and got to know each other well.

“I know a little more about Cocoro as he was the fourth rider at the Bol d’Or with us last year. He has carried out a lot of development work through the winter with the team to improve the bike. I’m grateful to him for his hard work and involvement.

“Looking ahead to the 24 Heures Motos … I always check the weather as Le Mans is special and famous for its fast-changing conditions. You never know what awaits you.

“The start of the race is challenging as all teams are nervous and, to begin with, your riding style is not the best as you’re not relaxed. However, after one or two stints it is much better because we are then fully focussed on our target.

“I’m confident as I have a huge amount of trust in all the crew, and I have worked hard on my physical condition.

“We were all frustrated about last year. We were fast and strong but didn’t have the best of luck at all races. However, we are fully motivated for this year and I’m sure the number 1 will be back on the bike at the end of the year.

“Everybody in the team wants the victory. That’s why I love where I am… “

DAN LINFOOT;
“After last year’s Suzuka 8 Hour, where I rode as part of a two-man team on a Suzuki, I contacted Yohei [Kato] to ask if I could be considered if a team seat became available – and here I am!

“Participating in the team tests at Jerez and Valencia would have been a big shock without that Suzuka experience. As it turned out, the bike, with the Bridgestone tires, felt familiar straightaway. It also helped that Gregg, Etienne and I are of a similar height and build.

“I didn’t want to push too soon in the Pre Le Mans test, preferring instead to ride the bike and get the feeling for it first. The testing wasn’t about lap times. The priority was to confirm that the development parts would work at race pace. Our natural laps put us where we needed to be.

“I first met Gregg back in 2004 so already knew him well, and there is a great vibe in the team. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and having a lot of fun. I like that we are team-mates, working together, rather than competitors.

“There are so many aspects of EWC that excite me. I love the regularity of the stints, the amount of time the bike can be ridden, the fast pit stops, riding in the dark, sharing settings, techniques, giving feedback and enjoying family morale. As a new member I can immediately tell that Yoshimura SERT Motul is a well-oiled machine. The result of many years’ hard work means everyone has an important role to play, and they all work together seamlessly.

“I’m really looking forward to the 24 Heures Motos. As the home round, it’s special for the team, and obviously our aim is to win.

“It will likely get cold, and we’ll experience all the challenges of endurance racing and its many variables. I must admit that I’m not relishing the 2am to 6am stint …. However, I’m ready rather than nervous.

“I’m excited, privileged, and motivated to show what I can do with Gregg and Etienne. Bring it on! “

COCORO ATSUMI;
“Firstly, I’d like to say that I am honoured to be part of the Yoshimura SERT Motul project. I’m prepared to always do my best in case something happens to one of the three race riders, and I need to race. I want to be able to ride at a good pace, even if it is just a chance to ride until qualifying. I think having a competent reserve rider will make the team feel more secure and allow us to focus on the bigger picture.

“The team’s hard work in the off-season has paid off and we feel that this year’s bike is faster and more comfortable to ride than last year. The bike is more stable in almost all areas, from corner entry to exit. In endurance racing, multiple riders ride a lot in different conditions, so the increased stability is a very positive thing. I’ve rarely tested new parts, so it was something new for me.

“The bike I rode at the All Japan Championship and the one I rode at the Pre Le Mans have almost the same specifications, so I was able to ride normally right away. However, there were some parts that felt different from the way I rode in Japan, so I told the team about them.

“The team members all work well together, and we have a good relationship. They are professionals who know how to win in endurance racing. I enjoy working with them and learning a lot from them. Now I want to learn English and French so we can communicate better!

“I’m looking forward to the 24 Heures Motos because the bike has improved over the off-season and my three team-mates are very fast. At the Pre Le Mans we showed our performance in all conditions. Personally, I’m aiming to beat my best time of 1:38.941.

“I like 24-hour racing as if you keep fighting and don’t give up, no matter what happens, you have a chance to win right up until the chequered flag falls.

“Yoshimura SERT Motul never gives up. The team is very experienced and very motivated. If we do what we have to do, I think we can win at Le Mans.“

Official activities start on Wednesday the 17th of April when, for the first time ever, all the motorcycles in the running for the 24H Motos title will parade together through the streets of Le Mans. The convoy will set off at 15:00 from the Bugatti circuit.

This is followed by free practice and first qualifying on Thursday the 18th, with second qualifying to determine grid positions, and the chance to collect some important pre-race points, on Friday the 19th. The hugely popular Pit and Paddock Tour is the chance for eager fans to get up close to the riders, machines and teams. It takes place from 19:00 on the Friday evening.

The starting ceremony for the 2024 24 Heures Motos is from 14:00 on Saturday the 20th of April, with the race itself starting promptly at 15:00!

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