Reigning World Champions and current series leaders Suzuki Endurance Racing Team has signed-up Japanese Superstock rider Takuya Tsuda to ride alongside Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle at this weekend's fifth and final round of the 2012 Endurance World Championship; the 24 Heures du Mans in France.
Tsuda, who led the Suzuki SST Moto Map Team to fourth overall at the Suzuka 8-Hour race in July will be the third rider to join the French duo this season - Fabien Foret is riding at the Nurburgring World Supersport round and Yukio Kagayama is on Suzuki duties at the All Japan Superbike series at Okayama - as SERT bids for its 12th World title at the Bugatti circuit aboard the Le Mans-based team's GSX-R1000.
Suzuki leads the series by 19 points from BMW Motorrad France and Honda TT Legends (95 points to 76) with Yamaha GMT94 fourth on 74 points, followed by Bolliger Team Switzerland and Yamalube Folch Endurance in equal fifth on 55 points. And with 40 points being awarded to the winning team - the same amount that separates the top six teams - it's building-up to be one of the most hotly-contested and exciting series finale in Endurance World Championship history.
However, the French SRC Kawasaki Team, who won the opening round at Magny Cours in April - and who are only contesting the two French races - may throw a spanner in the works with the permanent teams after rider Julien da Costa set the fastest lap time during the August Le Mans tests. Monster Yamaha YART is also a contender, despite a season plagued with crashes and mechanical issues.
Le Mans is one of the most famous race-tracks in the world and the SERT racers will challenge for honours on the Bugatti Circuit, a layout which only shares a short section of the 24-hour car track. The circuit is a real stop-and-go design which will certainly test the endurance of the team in more than one way: The track has an incredibly-fast first corner which is taken flat-out in top gear before braking hard for a chicane and is sure to be an exciting part of the circuit as daylight gives way to darkness. Le Mans is approximately 200kms south-west of Paris and a lively crowd will fill the camp-sites around the circuit, hoping to cheer SERT on to a French victory in the race and the championship.Suzuki is also in contention for honours in the Superstock (SST) class with Team Motors Events holding a narrow four-point lead over Kawasaki's 3D Endurance Moto Center after three of four rounds (the Superstock Class did not participate at the Suzuka 8-Hour race in Japan).
The first free practice sessions for the 35th edition of the 24 Heures du Mans start tomorrow (Thursday) at 12:00hrs local time (GMT +2) followed by evening Qualifying and further Qualifying on Friday. Saturday's race is due to begin at 15:00hrs local time.
Live Race Timing is available on www.fim-live.com with regular live updates on the FIM's Twitter feed and also Team Suzuki Racing Facebook page. There is also a free live-stream during the race at the following link: www.youtube.com/user/tvfim.