Suzuki Endurance Racing Team has snatched back the lead in the 2011 World Endurance Championship after finishing second at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in France yesterday.
Despite fielding a depleted team after SERT's main contender Vincent Philippe broke his collarbone during testing on Tuesday - and team regular Freddy Foray was deemed unfit to ride by his doctor mid-week following his crash and subsequent head injury at a French Championship race at Magny Cours in July - Suzuki's GSX-R1000 was piloted by Anthony Delhalle, Daisaku Sakai and 22-year-old WEC-class newcomer Baptiste Guittet; drafted in at the last minute from the Junior Team Suzuki LMS Superstock squad.
In an exciting and drama-packed race that saw the lead change many times and many of the top teams' crash over its 834 laps - and which finished at 3pm local time with the Suzuki one lap behind winners SRC Kawasaki - SERT's GSX-R1000 performed faultlessly throughout. And with previous series leaders BMW Motorrad France 99 suffering some mechanical problems and finishing 17 laps adrift, SERT's consistency and bike durability has put them nine points clear of BMW with just one round to run at Qatar on November 12th.
From the off, it was clear that 10-times and reigning World Champions SERT had its focus on victory, despite qualifying in a lower-than-usual fifth position. First rider off, Anthony Delhalle, launched out of the sprint-across-the-track start to grab second place behind SRC Kawasaki's Julien Da Costa, hounding him for the first several laps before taking the lead. From there on, it was a cat-and-mouse battle between Kawasaki, Suzuki, Monster Yamaha YART and BMW; who the led for many laps from the four-hour mark until an electrical problem resulted in a loss of 14 laps during the night.
Despite losing their regular rider Guittet to the SERT squad, Suzuki's Junior Team LMS riders Credric Tangre, Julien Enjolras and Loic Napoleone had opened up a lead in the Superstock class at the halfway stage; and despite a minor issue during the night, brought its GSX-R1000 Suzuki home in third position overall.
Le Mans Provisional Results: 1 SRC Kawasaki (Kawasaki) 834 laps, 2 SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) - 1 lap, 3 Monster Yamaha YART (Yamaha) - 8, 4 Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki) - 11, 5 Honda TT Legends (Honda) - 15, 6 YMES Folch Endurance (Yamaha) - 17, 7 BMW Motorrad France 99 (BMW) - 17, 8 TRT 27 City Bike (Suzuki GSX-R1000) -14, 9 Maco Racing (Yamaha) - 39, 10 Team Dunlop Motors Events (Suzuki GSX-R1000) - 43