Suzuki Endurance Team wins Le Mans 24hr

The Suzuki Endurance Race Team of Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etinne Masson scored a commanding victory in the 2015 Le Mans 24-Hour, beating second-place SRC Kawasaki by seven laps at the finish. Team Bollinger Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Both SERT and SRC Kawasaki had early race troubles, with Delhalle of Sert and Fabien Foret of SRC suffering crashes at separate points during the initial stages. Delhalle’s slide off track cost SERT precious time, but five hours into the race the team had moved into the lead. Foret’s crash left SRC back in 13th and a handful of laps behind, but dogged determination through the night got the Kawasaki squad back to podium position in the early hours of the morning.

SERT faced an additional challenge during the second half of the race as Delhalle was unable to continue after getting sick, leaving Philippe and Masson to finish off the remaining hours.

It was a painful race for me,” explained Delhalle. “I managed to do five laps before losing grip of the front tire. 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.”

“I’m disappointed because I made a mistake early, in my second lap,” said Foret. “I apologized to all the team before going back on track and rank up as many positions as possible. Congratulations to the SERT but I would have loved to fight with them for the victory.”

To show solidarity with Foret, the SRC team appointed him the rider to cross the finish line at the end of the race.

Bollinger Switzerland had a completely different experience in the opening round of the 2015 Endurance World Championship, only facing a slight technical issue due to a faulty sensor. The problem did cost the team a few laps, but beyond that their race ran smoothly.

Junior Team LMS Suzuki, a Superstock class team, finished fourth overall followed by GMT94 Yamaha in fifth. GMT’s original starter, David Checa, the team’s original starter, was unable to take on the traditional sprint to the bikes due to a leg injury sustained during a crash earlier in the week. Kenny Foray took the starting reigns instead and took a handful of laps to acclimate to the Circuit Bugatti. Once he found his stride, Foray was able to move from 24th to 11th position before handing off to teammate Mathieu Gines. The team then climbed as high as third-place but Checa’s injury reared its head again later in the race and forced his teammates to pick up additional stints through to the finish.

“It was difficult, because we were racing with only two and a half riders, because David is injured and couldn’t ride as much,” said Gines. “Kenny and I pushed extra. Normally we could have finished higher, but we had some small problems. I am happy about finishing the first race and taking points for the championship. I think it will be good for the next race.”

Team Traqueur Loit Moto 33 finished sixth overall followed by BMW Motorrad France in seventh. Tati Team Beaujolais Racing Team took eighth followed by AM Moto Racing Competition in ninth and April Moto Motors Events in 10th.

One team that was in the hunt for a podium finish, Honda Racing, was forced to retire from competition after 20 hours of racing. Honda qualified in third-place and for the first six hours was swapping back and forth for the lead. Late in the night issues started to rise, forcing the team to take some unscheduled pit stop to fix the problems. In the morning the CBR1000R Fireblade SP stopped on track and after the machine was back in the garage the team found metal filings in the oil which posed the risk of even greater engine failure on track. Following that discovery, the team retired.

The second WEC round, the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour, is scheduled for July 26th.