Third round of the 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship Suzuka

2025 Suzuki GSX-R1000R

YOSHIMURA SERT MOTUL CARRIES EWC CHAMPIONSHIP ADVANTAGE TO SUZUKA

Yoshimura SERT Motul faces a difficult race strategy as it prepares for the third round of the 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship at its home round in Suzuka, Japan.

A largely successful two-day test session at the famous track, ahead of the 45th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours, was hit by a setback when Gregg Black, a key member of the team, was injured in a crash while testing. This has forced the British-born French rider to withdraw from the event. His team-mates Brit Dan Linfoot, and Japanese rider Cocoro Atsumi, are in the line-up for the round at Suzuka, while Frenchman Etienne Masson will ride this round of the EWC series as part of the official Suzuki CN Challenge in an experimental class.

Having won the opening round of the 2024 FIM EWC season at Le Mans, Yoshimura SERT Motul went into the 8 Hours of Spa Motos with a nine-point championship advantage. Determined to maintain its lead, the French-Japanese team put in a solid and consistent performance, with efficient and rapid pit stops, to secure second place on the podium at the 8 Hours of Spa Motos.

The team left the Belgian event with 88 points and heads to Suzuka leading the championship by a slim, but important, one point.

Here the riders talk about their experiences at Spa, the tests at Suzuka and the upcoming Japanese round of the 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship.

GREGG BLACK
“Obviously, we always race to win and so finishing second at Spa was almost a disappointment. However, we had our eye on the bigger picture … the championship.

“Our strategy at Spa was to use less fuel and do fewer pit stops than YART. We did one less and everyone in Yoshimura SERT Motul did a great job. There were no mistakes made by anyone – we must be proud of that! A great race and a great job all round!

“We were lucky with the conditions at the Suzuka test where we had two important days of testing the bike to get the best possible race set up. Everything was going well. We were fast in both cool and hot temperatures. I then had a crash, which I’m really disappointed about.

“I was on an out lap with run-in Japanese-spec Bridgestone tyres when, out of the blue, on turn two, the first left, the rear end spat me out. Aside from the injury, I was hugely upset to crash in those conditions.

“I suffered three breaks and a dislocation in my left wrist. I had two surgeries in Japan … the first to sort out the dislocation and then a couple of days later, surgery for pinning the bones. I saw a surgeon when I returned to France, and he said the Japanese guys did a really good job!

“I’ve now got five weeks before the pins can be taken out and then physio for a few weeks. There’s approximately three months between the operation and Bol d’Or. I’m not rushing it as there’s nothing to do on the racing scene before Bol d’Or and I need to be back fighting fit and I’m confident that I’ll be back!”

DAN LINFOOT
“At Spa we finished a very close second to the winning team, with just 40 seconds difference after 8 hours of racing.

“We had a great race. There were no issues, we did one pit stop less than YART, but it just wasn’t enough. We suffered in the middle of the race when the temperature went up, however, I was quite content with the performance of my stints. It still wasn’t enough for victory, but it was important to get solid points and leave the second round leading the championship. It was odd as I didn’t know how to feel after the race. We finished second, which was a great result, however, we really wanted the win.
“It was so good going back to Suzuka for the tests in June, soon after Spa. I contested the race in 2023 as a two-man team with AutoRace Ube Suzuki and finished fourth overall.

“The tests were important for the team, and I bettered my best lap by a second. The main objective was to get better settings and get the race pace as consistent as possible. I’m so gutted that we lost Gregg along the way and hope he is back and race-ready as soon as he is strong enough. I was ill on the night of the first day and missed a session, but we left testing in a strong place and close to where we need to be.

“Looking ahead to the Suzuka race, I feel confident and believe I can deliver the performance needed. The feeling with the bike is good. The unknown at this stage is the rider strategy. Will it just be two? Cocoro and I? Or will there be a third rider to share the load? Whatever happens, I’m race ready and I’m sure Coco is too – after all, we both rode in two-men teams last year.

“I’m currently going out and cycling in the UK’s unusual heat wave to try and acclimatise and prepare for the hot and sweaty conditions at Suzuka. Also putting in some strength and cardio training to keep fit, healthy and injury-free.”

COCORO ATSUMI
“From the first ride when testing at Suzuka, I felt good. We worked hard and improved overall. It will be my first time to actually race with Yoshimura SERT Motul, so I have spent time studying team rules and trying to immerse myself into team life.

“I’m confident about race laps. During race week, the rainy season will be over, and the conditions will be even hotter and more humid, making it very difficult, so I think it will be important to adapt the machine and riders to these conditions.

“I recorded my best time in the summer. I’m still 0.7 seconds away from my actual best time, but considering that fuel is limited for endurance racing, I don’t think it’s bad.

“As a team, we tried out a variety of settings and were able to ascertain which felt good and which didn’t, so I think we’ll be able to find the best setting during race week. The tyres for Japan are harder than ones for Europe, but I know these well because I used them in the Japanese championship.
“Looking ahead to the Suzuka 8-hour … being a part of Yoshimura SERT Motul means I feel a sense of pressure to achieve better results than ever before, but it also means that it is entirely possible, so I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m so sad for Gregg as I was looking forward to racing with him as a teammate. His injury is really unfortunate. We don’t know what the strategy is yet for Suzuka. However, if we must tackle Suzuka as a two-man team, which is more physically demanding than racing with three riders, I think Dan and I will do well together. We both raced the Suzuki 8-Hours last year, so we are well prepared.

“It is a big responsibility racing the Suzuka 8 Hours as the championship leader. I will do everything I can to work with the team and hopefully play an important part in our challenge to win the championship.

“Finally, Suzuka is my most favourite circuit in the world. I have been racing there for over 15 years. It’s also a place that holds many memories for me, as I’ve been going there with my family to watch races since I was a child.”

ETIENNE MASSON
“Spa was not an easy race. We worked a lot during the week to find some solutions to things like more grip and traction. We were happy with the set up after qualifying but, during the race, the temperatures were high, and we suffered. We pushed hard to stay in the fight for the victory, but it just wasn’t quite enough. Obviously, we were happy to still lead the championship, but we always want more ….

“Before we went to Suzuka for testing, I received the news that I had been chosen by Suzuki to be a part of the official Suzuki CN Challenge team at Suzuka. It is an absolute honour. We will be in an experimental class due to the biofuel, so we won’t take any championship points.

“The tests at Suzuka were very good for us. I had time with the bike and the team, and I was comfortable. The bike is a little different, especially the power and tyres. We need to manage tyre life and the team are trying to find something to extend the longevity of the tyres. I found the crew – many who have a lot of MotoGP experience with the former Suzuki race/test team – to be really productive and they listened to our comments after each run. I am looking forward to riding this bike and with the team. I hope we can take the best possible result.

“When I saw Gregg crash, I felt very bad because he is like a brother to me. I’m fully confident in both teams and sure they will make the best team decisions.”

The third round of the 2024 FIM Endurance World Championship will take place in Japan for the 45th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours from the 19th to the 21st of July.

The race weekend gets underway with Free Practice at 08h30 on Friday the 19th, followed by first and second qualifying.

One of the unique features of Japan’s round of the FIM Endurance World Championship is the Top 10 Trial. This will take place on Saturday the 20th of July from15h30 to 17h00. It’s contested by the leading 10 teams after the completion of second and is used to decide the first 10 positions on the starting grid. The 5-4-3-2-1 qualifying points will be awarded after the Top 10 trial rather than after Q2, which is the case at other EWC events.

Sunday’s 45th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race will start at 11h30 and finish at 19h30 (all times are local).

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