“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

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“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

#1 Unread post by totalmotorcycle » Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:42 am

“The Road to @EWC Champion has Just Begun”

After spending a hot summer in Suzuka, F.C.C. TSR Honda had departed for Germany. They had been on the podium at Le Mans in Round 3 of the FIM EWC (Endurance World Championship), had finished 9th in Portugal, and after a monumental charge from almost the back row at the Suzuka 8hours, had finished 18th. The points they had fought long and hard for ranked them 5th, within striking range of the championship with the last round, the 8 Hours of Oschersleben, remaining.

Team Manager Mazakazu Fujii prepared for the season-closer, keeping his Suzuka 8hours riders Kazuma Watanabe and Patrick Jacobsen, and adding Damian Cudlin, rider in last year’s 8 hours event in Germany, to the team.

“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

The first day of qualifying started on August 25. Under EWC regulations, each rider is given a 20-minute session, and the average time of the three team riders determined grid positioning. Jacobsen, wearing a blue armband, was first out on the track for F.C.C. TSR Honda. The temperature was on the rise, with the track exceeding 50-degrees. He still managed to lap in 1 min 28s 568. Watanabe, the team’s last rider for the day, was on Cudlin’s used tires, and lapped 1 min 28s 511. The team was provisionally 5th.

“It’s nice to take pole position in qualifying, but our aim is to be a strong presence throughout the race. Our priority is to set the bike up for the race, and tire choice for qualifying is important. We can save the new tires for the race by riding on used tires in qualifying.”

As Cudlin had commented after qualifying, the limit on tires for qualifying and the race were stricter this year. F.C.C. TSR Honda opted to concentrate on the race, rather than qualifying.

“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

The next day was also sunny, even harsh, without a single cloud in the sky. The second and final day of qualifying would determine the starting grid. Jacobsen, again, was first on the track for the team. He was fast from the start, clocking 1 min 26s 676, over a second faster than the previous day. Watanabe was then on the track on new rubber for the first time, and gave it everything. “I was a bit too enthusiastic,” Watanabe commented, as he had made a few mistakes, but lapped his best time of the week, 1 min 27s 573.

Once the qualifying sessions were complete, the average time of the three riders was 1 min 27s 307. They had moved up one place to qualify 4th.

“This week it’s the first time we came to Oschersleben. We’ve been fine-tuning the bike ever since, and we were provisionally 5th yesterday. Today we went up a spot, to 4th. Each team has its own way of thinking, and approaches, so we’re not too interested in the qualifying results. We’ve been setting up the bike to race tomorrow for 8 hours, and those results are all that count, so today’s results are just fine.”

“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

Record-breaking heat was forecast for the race, and contingencies were needed for anything that could happen: weather, pitstops according to fuel efficiency and rider style, safety cars, crashes. To win, the entire team had to be able to handle any situation. Fujii had commented before the Suzuka 8hours:

“There’s a lot that has to be done preparing for the race, but the ability to set up the bike for anything, instantly, is vital. That’s the sort of team I have built.”

The team has the experience. And the confidence. All they had to do was do their best on race day.

On August 27, race day came. The three riders took turns during free practice in the morning, and Jacobsen was only fastest of his team, but of the session. Their efforts in setting up the bike for the race alone were paying off, and they were ready to fight for the championship.

Jacobsen, fastest during the morning session, was to start the race for F.C.C. TSR Honda. This was also the result of carefully planning 7 pit stops, managing tires since qualifying, and selecting the rider to race at night. The long, hot 8-hour race to the checkered flag begun at 2pm, as the temperature was relentlessly rising.

“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

Jacobsen was slow off the mark, and had lost ground. He would have to fight his way back from 16th place. But on Lap 10, he had clawed his way back up to 7th, and on Lap 16 was 5th. The safety car on Lap 29 also helped, reducing the gap to the leading group. The Oschersleben circuit is relatively short, with little chance to overtake, which also worked in F.C.C. TSR Honda’s favor.

On Lap 41, Cudlin took over the bike. The team’s concise work put him back out on the track in 6th place. But, as he gained a place and the leaders were within sight, tragic struck. From Lap 60, Cudlin pointed to the left side of his bike, frantically trying to tell the pit crew that something was wrong. He was in serious trouble. On Lap 70, Damian pitted. The water temperature light flashed angrily.

“The Road to EWC Champion has Just Begun”

The team was immediately at work to fix the problem. They replaced in haste the radiator, hose, and water pump. 30 minutes back on the track, the team was faced with a repeat of Suzuka: having to climb their way up from 31st (out of 35 teams), 20 laps down. F.C.C. TSR Honda never gives up. As is the case with Jacobsen. As he pitted after the second safety car came out, he was off the bike. And 2 hours and 29 minutes after the race had began, Fujii called it a day.

“We retired with mechanical problems. It’s such a shame. The whole team feels the same way, but this is racing. I’ll just have to accept it and move on. I didn’t have a chance to race in this final round, with the championship at stake, so I’m really disappointed. Next reason starts soon, so I’ll just have to battle on. I’ve experienced a lot in endurance racing this season, and I’ve grown a lot, so I’ll use the experiences to grow as a rider even more.”

“Today’s results are disappointing. No, appalling, maybe more out of our hands than Suzuka was. Why? We had prepared for this final round, for every circumstance. But it didn’t work as planned. That means we thought too much, for too many contingencies, which I’ll consider as an experience, and will learn from it. This season in EWC, we did well in the first round at Le Mans, which put us on the right track to challenge the series. I have no regrets, as it was an amazing experience for us. We wouldn’t be here without the four previous races, and I wouldn’t have thought the way I do now. For the experience we’ve gained, it was worth it.”

F.C.C. TSR Honda’s 2016 EWC season came to a close. Through battling on the world stage the team had gained valuable experiences and new perspectives. Although they did not reach their goal, this year was F.C.C. TSR Honda’s first attempt at the title. Next month, the 2016-2017 season starts at Paul Ricard in France, on September 17-18.

F.C.C. TSR Honda’s challenge has just begun.
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