EWC2018 - Vincent Philippe-R5
Team Suzuki Press Office – September 18.

Fifteen-time Endurance World Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team were unlucky to miss-out on a podium position following a chain derailment and two Stop-and-Go penalties at this weekend’s Bol d’Or opening round of the 2017-2018 series at Paul Ricard Circuit in southern France.

SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and new team rider Gregg Black were fighting in-and-around the top-three positions aboard their new 2017 GSX-R1000 for three-quarters of the 24-hour race at the 5.791km circuit in Castellet, until the issue cost them valuable time on Sunday morning, but in true SERT fashion, the team continued to fight back after pushing the machine back to the Suzuki garage and rejoining the race several laps later.

SERT also suffered a brake issue earlier-on after taking the lead for the second time on Saturday afternoon, but incurred two penalties for pushing the bike outside the designated areas and also for a pitbox infringement by one of the team members, but fought throughout to record a total of 670 laps and seventh position overall after taking a total of 28 pitstops.

The race, watched by more-than 60,000 fans at trackside, started positively with opening rider Philippe third into the first corner from fourth qualifying position on the grid, taking a momentary lead before SRC Kawasaki’s Randy de Puniet took the lead at the end of the opening lap. The lead changed several times in the opening hours between eventual winners GMT94 Yamaha and FCC TSR Honda France, as SERT settled in with the new machine.

After four hours, after stints by both Frenchmen Philippe and Masson, Briton Gregg Black took over at the fifth pitstop and chased back the leaders, at one stage regaining the lead and taking part in an exciting battle with GMT94 Yamaha’s Mike Di Meglio that lasted until darkness fell.

Ten hours in, SERT was still holding a strong third position with 295 laps completed, two laps behind GMT94 Yamaha and just behind FCC TSR Honda France, all three teams having pitted 11 times. This continued as Masson took over at the halfway stage and at that time one lap separated the top three.

With less than 10 hours to go, and under one of several Safety Car situations because of accidents, Suzuki were still in the mix, this time behind new leaders FCC TSR Honda and GMT94 Yamaha with 410, 410 and 409 laps respectively and just 90 seconds separating them.

In what was one of the most gruelling Bol d’Or races in years, just 29 of the 59 competing teams made it to finish with leading contenders like SRC Kawasaki, YART Yamaha, Team Tecmas BMW, Yamaha Viltaïs Experiences and April Moto Motors Events just a few suffering mechanical issues or crashes.

Said Team Manager Dominique Hébrard: “We were aware of the new Suzuki GSX-R1000 capacities during qualifying, but for this, we were venturing a little bit into the unknown and now we are looking forward to the next round.”

On another positive note, Junior Team LMS were back in action aboard their new GSX-R1000 Suzuki with Robin Camus, Cedric Tangre and Hugo Clere – taking third position in the Superstock class and 10th overall – under the leadership of Damien Saulnier.

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