Honda Endurance Racing returned to the podium on its all-new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 by finishing 3rd in Round 4 of the FIM Endurance World Championship 2016-2017, the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring.
Honda riders improved their lap times with each new session at the Slovakia Ring. F.C.C. TSR Honda was especially successful, with Josh Hook posting a 2 min 4s9 lap in the Thursday night qualifying session, followed by a more impressing 2 min 4s369 on Friday, giving the team an overall 3rd place on the grid.
Honda Endurance Racing’s Freddy Foray, Julien Da Costa and Sébastien Gimbert went into the race quietly confident after solid performances in the practice and qualifying sessions. The three riders, and the new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 were proving to be a good match with the Slovakia Ring, which is staging an EWC race for the first time.
The race started at 1:30pm. Foray was off to a convincing start, taking his Honda Endurance Racing bike to 5th place by the end of the first lap. The team subsequently lost places, down to 21st, and battled to regain ground lost to the lead group.
Hook started for F.C.C. TSR Honda. Their race plan was to run 9 stints, pitting 8 times, with each stint covering 24 to 26 laps. Hook, being the youngest, fittest and fastest rider in the team, was to ride 5 stints, more than half the race.
Once the race was underway, Hook moved up to 2nd place, and was leading by Lap 3. Fellow Aussie rider Broc Parkes (YART Yamaha) soon catches Hook, which led to an exciting first stage of the race with the two riders in a tail-to-nose ordeal.
Honda Endurance Racing’s seasoned endurance riders and speedy pit work brought the team back in to the top 10.
On the third pit stop, as Gimbert took over from Da Costa, the team was running fourth. All eyes were on the new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 on track. With consistent lap times and quick pit stops, the riders pushed despite the extreme track temperatures, bringing Honda Endurance Racing to within the sight of the podium.
As F.C.C. TSR Honda’s bike was handed to Damian Cudlin as planned, the team dropped to 3rd place. The managed to maintain 3rd, and once the bike was handed to Hook once more, charged to catch the leaders. Hook initially struggled to find pace on a full tank and new tires, but gradually improved his lap times. Once in the saddle, Greg Black defended their 3rd place positioning, but nearing the end of his stint, lap times were slowing, and noise from the engine forced the team to replace the fuel tank when the reins were handed to Hook. By the 100th lap, around three and a half hours into the race, F.C.C. TSR Honda was down to 7th place.
The fuel tank was not the cause of slower lap times, so Hook had to return to the pits after only a few laps. The entire crew frantically took the bike apart to find the problem, and after just under an hour, Cudlin was back on the track. The team was down to 26th, the last position of the teams still running, dashing not only hopes of a podium finish this race, but of winning the championship at Suzuka.
F.C.C. TSR Honda’s problems had been caused by a broken ignition cable. The race was already past its halfway mark, closer to 5 hours. To get results, they had to finish the race. The team refused to give up, determined to continue fighting in what little time was left.
Of the F.C.C. TSR Honda riders, Hook was most impressive. He had, before the race, stated that he would ride the fastest lap, and true to his word, he set a record 2 min 4s753 lap at the inaugural Slovakia Ring. Hook had set a record-breaking 4s077 during the morning practice session, and was confident.
In the closing stages of the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, the Honda Honda Endurance Racing pit was tense, as they were battling for 2nd place with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. After 222 laps and approximately 1.315km, the Honda Endurance Racing team crossed the finish line in 3rd place, their first podium finish of the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship. The team is now ranked 11th overall.
After stints from Black and Hook, F.C.C. TSR Honda’s last rider, Cudlin, had crossed the finish line 22 laps behind the leader, with 201 laps completed. They missed out on points which could have given them a chance at the title in the final round at Suzuka, and had even been overtaken in the ranking, dropping to 6th overall.
Honda Endurance Racing and F.C.C. TSR Honda are now preparing for the final round of the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuka 8hours race, on July 30.
Honda Rider Comments
- Freddy Foray | Honda Endurance Racing (3rd)
- “So today was pretty good! No, today was very good and the whole team needed this result, everyone has been working so hard and today, as you say the hard work paid off. The team did the perfect race with perfect pit stops and I cannot thank them enough. For myself I am happy, the start was good, as I didn’t fall! Then after that it was good, but the feeling you know was difficult with the track temperatures so I had to keep calm and see if I could get the right space to overtake. I made a silly mistake in the early stages, but this is endurance and you do have time to correct, which we did and we finish on the podium, so this is perfect.”
- Julien Da Costa | Honda Endurance Racing (3rd)
- “We are really, really happy with the result today. Everyone in the team has done a really good job; we had fast pit stops and a really good pace on track. I cannot believe it really that we are on the podium again, we have wanted this for quite some time and we all knew it was possible we just needed some luck. Thank you to all the team for their hard work and also to my team-mates.”
- Sebastien Gimbert | Honda Endurance Racing (3rd)
- “I am happy, so happy to be back on the podium, it’s the first time this year for us and it feels good. We had a good race and I have really enjoyed riding the Slovakia Ring, the Fireblade was perfect throughout the race and we were able to push, even in the hot temperatures. Of course now, as a rider I want more for the future and for a win. We have Suzuka coming up next and this for sure has set us up well for the event, thank you to Honda Racing and also to my team-mates, we finally got back to the podium!”
- Jonny Twelvetrees | Honda Endurance Racing Team Manager (3rd)
- “I’m really, really pleased to be on the podium today with the new SP2, the whole team has worked so hard since we received in January and we came so close to this in Oschersleben, but we didn’t quite make it. Today it feels like the right result for us and I cannot thank all the mechanics and riders enough, everyone did a superb job. Going into the week we knew it was possible and we set our strategy, which worked well and everything was carried out perfectly by the team. We’re looking forward now to Suzuka and the final round and hope we can finish the year on a high. ”
- Masakazu Fujii | F.C.C. TSR Honda Team Manager (21st)
- “Our hopes of winning the championship, or finishing close to it, have disappeared. I understand this is currently the best we could do, but at the same time, we know that we can challenge and beat the top groups, and the changes we made to the bike have worked, and show promise in the coming races. We’ll be regrouping for the Suzuka 8hours race, but we’ll also be making plans and preparing for subsequent races as well. Next season has already begun. To keep on racing, we have to keep on getting results.”
FIM Endurance World Championship 2016-2017
Round 04: Slovakia Ring – Slovakia
|1||GMT94 Yamaha / Yamaha|
(CHECA David/CANEPA Niccolò/DI MEGLIO Mike)
|2||Suzuki Endurance Racing Team / Suzuki|
(PHILIPPE Vincent/MASSON Etienne/CUDLIN Alex)
|3||Honda Endurance Racing / Honda|
(DA COSTA Julien/GIMBERT Sébastien/FORAY Freddy)
|4||YART Yamaha / Yamaha|
(PARKES Broc/FRITZ Marvin/NOZANE Kohta)
|5||Voelpker NRT48 by Schubert-Motors / BMW|
(KERSCHBAUMER Stefan/BÜHN Jan/PUFFE Julian)
|6||Yamaha Viltaïs Experience / Yamaha|
(MACKELS Bastien/ALT Florian/MAURIN Axel)
|7||Team LRP Poland / BMW|
(REITERBERGER Markus/ČERNÝ Jaroslav/FILLA Michal)
|21||F.C.C. TSR Honda / Honda|
(BLACK Gregg/CUDLIN Damian/HOOK Josh)
|27||Team April Moto Motors Events / Honda|
(LEBLANC Gregory/FASTRÉ Grégory/LAGRIVE Matthieu)
|30||MotoTech-EWC / Honda|
(VAN KEYMEULEN Didier/DUWELZ Gauthier/BUCHNER Marc)