Team Suzuki Press Office – September 19.
The new 2019-2020 Endurance World Championship kicks off this weekend at the 83rd Bol d’Or 24-Hour race with Suzuki Endurance Racing Team on track today for the opening free practice sessions at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France.
SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black posted an initial fifth-fastest time aboard the GSX-R1000, under new team leadership of Damien Saulnier, following the retirement of long-standing manager Dominique Méliand; who has gained 15 world titles for Suzuki over 40 years.
The new SERT adventure in the EWC continues with a technical team mixing former and new team members; and under Saulnier, who will also manage the Junior Team LMS, hopes to bring home a further world title in the 2019-2020 championship.
Philippe was the first on track today aboard the GSX-R1000R to set the sixth fastest time, with a best lap of 1.54.216. Then Masson had time to make a few very fast laps even though he was disturbed by the crash of another competitor causing a red flag. He was rewarded by a lap of 1.54.034, placing him third. Black did not have the opportunity to show his potential on the Paul Ricard circuit due to rain that disrupted the end of the sessions and set his best time at 2.22.913 after crashing on a wet track.
However, the SERT confirmed fifth place on the provisional starting grid with an average lap time of 2.03.846. Tomorrow sees final qualifying for Saturday’s race.
Damien Saulnier – Team Manager:
“It’s a bit frustrating; we had the means to do even better today. Vincent and Etienne have set excellent lap times and in the wet, and Gregg can be very fast, but unfortunately, he made a mistake. The good news is that he was able to go back on track and gain valuable experience regarding the tyre choice. We are now ready to face all the conditions, which is very encouraging for the weekend!”
Bol d’Or HISTORY:
1971: First F1 French Grand Prix.
1973: First motorcycle French Grand Prix.
1980: First Bol d’Or.
1999: Purchase by a new buyer and start of work to renovate and redevelop the circuit.
2002: Re-opening as the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track.
2006: Circuit gains FIA approval.
2009: Circuit re-opened to the public, with 10 to 20 events per year.
2015: Return of the Bol d’Or to the Paul Ricard circuit.
2018: Return of F1 GP with renovation and safety work on track reduced to 5673m.