Rain changed everything at Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race

2024 Suzuki SV650X

Yoshimura SERT Motul was on track for a solid second overall at the third round of the FIM Endurance World Championship at Suzuka, Japan. Unfortunately, its strong charge was brought to a halt towards the end of the race when wet weather caused team member Gregg Black to crash. The #12 Suzuki finally crossed the line in 12th position.

Fifty teams qualified for the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race, the third round of the 2023 FIM EWC. Thanks to its positive qualifying, Yoshimura SERT Motul started from fifth position on the grid. From the start of the race, Black once again showed his startline skill by taking the lead over his rivals. He led the first three laps but then settled in second position.

Sylvain Guintoli and Etienne Masson took it in turns to ride the team Suzuki, putting in some very fast laps which enabled the team to consolidate its second place in the provisional standings, without losing contact with the race leader.

The Franco-Japanese team held second place and built up a significant gap on the closing teams until the final stages of the race. With 1 hour and 15 minutes to go, just as the #12 Suzuki was heading for an excellent result, rain appeared on the circuit. Black immediately returned to the pits to put on rain tyres. As soon as he got back on track, the Suzuki rider was unfortunately unable to make the most of this advantage, as he crashed on his exit lap on a very tricky circuit. The Yoshimura SERT Motul crew reacted quickly and Guintoli returned to the track in 11th position.

Delicate weather conditions marked the final hour of the race and led to further crashes. Determined to take home as many points as possible, the Yoshimura SERT Motul riders kept fighting right up to the chequered flag, claiming points for finishing in 12th position.

The Yoshimura SERT Motul team now has a total of 76 points and is in fourth place in the championship.

The team will go into the Bol d’Or, the final round of the 2023 season, scheduled for the 16th and 17th of September at the Paul Ricard circuit (France), determined to end the season on a positive note.

Yohei KATO – team director
“We were doing the perfect race, until the rain. We had to be strong as a permanent endurance team, but we made a mistake. I’m very disappointed. We were very competitive, and we were holding on to second place.

“It has been really good to race in our own country and spend time with key sponsors and partners – top management from Suzuki Motor Corporation joined us too. We always like to race in front of home fans and appreciate their support. Now we have to think about the Bol d’Or.”

Damien SAULNIER – team manager
“The week was almost perfect. The coordination with the Japanese, the staff, all the new faces we didn’t know, all worked well. In the race too, everything was going well until Gregg’s crash. But we mustn’t remember the mistake he made today and think of all the victories we’ve had thanks to him. It’s especially hard not to have been able to bring home a trophy for Yoshimura and all the staff who were there in Japan. We’ll have to bring this cup back from the Bol d’Or to end our season on a high!”

Gregg BLACK – rider
“Obviously, the race didn’t end as we’d hoped. We made a good start and my team-mates and I had a really good race pace while managing our fuel consumption well. But when I took off again on rain tyres, I rode on a white strip without realising it because of the smoked screen on my helmet. That mistake ruined our race and I apologise to the whole team. We really deserved a podium here.”

Sylvain GUINTOLI – rider
“The race seemed to be under control for us, but the arrival of the rain changed everything. Some corners of the circuit were dry, others wet, so it was complicated to assess the grip and the best tyre choice. Then Gregg made a small mistake, and we lost contact with the race leaders. It’s a shame because we had the podium at hand. We’re obviously disappointed, but that’s racing. It’s fair to say that this season we’ve been really unlucky. There’s one race left and we’re going to try to finish on a positive note.”

Etienne MASSON – rider
“It’s a big disappointment, of course. The bike was perfect, and we followed the established strategy to the letter. The refuelling was also very quick. Everything was perfect until the rain came. The track became very tricky. It wasn’t easy to decide which tyres to use. You know the rest. That little mistake cost us dearly. We thought that luck would finally be on our side here in Suzuka. We’ll have to wait for the Bol d’Or. We’re going to give it 100%, that’s for sure!”

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