Suzuki Endurance Racing Team has taken a dominating victory at the opening round of the 2015 Endurance World Championship, the 38th Le Mans 24-Hour, at Circuit Bugatti in France today, ending the race minus one rider, as Suzuki Junior Team LMS took top-step in the Superstock class.
GSX-R1000-mounted Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson overcame a high-speed slide-off by Delhalle just over an hour into the event, to take the lead after five hours and eventually cross the finish-line seven laps ahead of nearest rivals and initial race leaders SRC Kawasaki’s Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive and Fabien Foret.
After qualifying fourth on the grid, 13-time World Champions SERT – who also raced to victory at last year’s event - set a blistering and consistent pace, taking 26 well-orchestrated pit-stops during 24-hours of close-and-intense racing between the 56 entered teams; completing a total of 833 laps without the ultra-reliable GSX-R1000 missing a beat. SERT’s total pit-stop times took 36.2 minutes throughout the event.
Philippe and Masson finished the race after Delhalle fell ill during the night, so covered his extra stints, showing the strength of the team and its riders and technicians.
Suzuki’s Junior Team LMS, which is based at SERT’s race headquarters at Le Mans – and comprises young engineering students wanting to progress in their future industries - also topped the Superstock podium with team riders Baptiste Guittet, Gregg Black and Roman Maitre claiming fourth overall against the EWC teams aboard their GSX-R1000 Superstock machine.
SERT Team Manager Dominique Méliand said: "In Endurance, you have to manage the race, see what happens, set the pace according to the issues suffered by the opponents, take the least possible risks; and that is how we are on the top-step of the podium at the finish. And our greatest strength is to have good riders and a team which always answers the call of duty and never gives up!"
Vincent Philippe said: “We are a tight-knit group and we knew that the package was capable of winning."
Delhalle said: "It was a painful race for me. I managed to do five laps before losing grip of the front tyre. I concentrated on holding the bike as much as possible so as not to go into the gravel trap too fast and to prevent greater damage. Then in the night I was sick. In the morning, and for the first time, I went to Dominique to tell him that I was not able to ride and my two team-mates finished the race."
Masson said: "First race with the SERT and first victory! It’s a great feeling and the result of all the work we did this winter. I was afraid of not being up to scratch and I am very proud of what we have done! “
Junior Team Le Mans Sud (LMS) Suzuki Team Manager Damien Saulnier added: "We came here to win the class and we did it! The challenge was all the greater as the technical team was composed of new students this year. This means that we start from scratch each time. Hats-off to our three riders Baptiste Guittet, Gregg Black and Romain Maitre, who brought us to this fourth place overall and leader of the Superstock class."
The second round of the FIM EWC will take place on July 26th in Japan for the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Le Mans World Endurance Results:
1: SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Philippe, Delhalle, Masson – 833 laps – (26 pit-ins).
2: SRC Kawasaki (Kawasaki ZX 10R) – 826 laps – (26 pit-ins).
3: Team Bolliger Switzerland (Kawasaki ZX 10R) – 821 laps – (27 pit-ins).
4: Junior Team LMS (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Guittet, Black, Maitre – 821 laps – (22 pit-ins).
5: GMT94 Yamaha (Yamaha R1) – 819 laps – (27 pit-ins).
6: Team Traqueur Louit Moto 33 (Kawasaki ZX 10R) – 816 laps - (27 pit-ins).
7: BMW Motorrad France (BMW S 1000RR) – 816 laps – (30 pit-ins).
8: Tati Team Beaujolais Racing Team (Kawasaki ZX 10R) – (26 pit-ins).
9: AM Moto Racing Competition (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – 811 laps - (25 pit-ins).
10: April Moto Motors Events (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – 808 laps – (27 pit-ins).