Suzuki has won the World Endurance Championship after an exciting and drama-filled deciding-round at the Oschersleben 8-Hour Race in Germany yesterday that saw two GSX-R1000 teams take to the 2016 overall podium.
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson lifted SERT’s 15th World Trophy aboard their GSX-R1000 after a race-long battle where they fought with several contenders; as just a handful of points separated the main challengers coming into this fourth and final event following the Suzuka 8-Hour race in Japan at the end of July.
Joining SERT on the overall championship podium was Suzuki privateer Team April Motor Motors Events, the early series leaders Gregg Black, Alex Cudlin and Gregory Fastre finishing third overall after suffering with some issues on the day, and with Fastre hurting after a crash in qualifying, but fighting back to finish 11th overall in the race.
At Oschersleben, SERT completed a total of 309 laps, to finish just 21 seconds behind race winners and eventual series runners-up GMT94 Yamaha. During a frantic eight hours, the Suzuki team took seven pit stops to clinch the title by just one point.
Coming into the final round, SERT was in fourth place, nine points behind series leaders Team April Motor Motors Events, and just one point behind SRC Kawasaki and YART Yamaha, who were both forced-out of the #event for various reasons. Also in the hunt was GMT94 a further seven behind; so the scene was set for possibly the most-exciting finale of the world’s most demanding of “on-track” motorcycle racing.
In practice and qualifying, SERT was always in the top-times, qualifying in third position, but from the start of the race – and under hot and dry conditions – the Le Mans, France-based, Dominique Meliand-run squad, took the lead until Gregg Black on the No. 50 April Motors’ GSX-R overtook Philippe and held it during an exciting opening few laps that saw the two Suzukis and Yamahas dominating. Black was unfortunate to slip-off in the opening 15 minutes, but heroically held onto the bike as it ploughed into the gravel and got back on track immediately, riding the rest of his stint minus a right foot peg, which was eventually replaced when he finished his first stint.
Drama continued to unfold as some of the leading title challengers dropped out and following the “Virtual Championship” win scenario switching between YART, GMT94, April Motors and SERT, in the end it was SERT and the reliability of the GSX-R1000 that successfully defended the title.