Motorcycle endurance racing officially saw the light of day in 1960. At this time it wasn’t a world championship but an FIM Cup run over four events: Thruxton in England, Montjuich in Spain, Warsage in Belgium and the Bol d’Or in France. In 1976 this series became the European Championship, then in 1980 a world championship. Hervé Moinneau and Marc Fontan were the first riders to clinch the world title, the two Frenchman teaming up aboard a Honda RCB. With the discipline growing in popularity, the Japanese manufacturers saw it as the perfect way to promote their new machines.
Up until 2000, the world title was attributed to the rider having obtained the most points over the different races. From 2001 it was the team entered that was rewarded. The number of riders per team went up from two to three.
The Endurance World Championship comprises of different race formats. Some are runover twenty-four hours, others over six, eight or twelve hours. 1000 km races also existed in this competition series which, in 1989 and 1990, lost its world championship status due to an insufficient number of races.
Today, bonus points are attributed to the first ten teams as a function of their position after eight and sixteen hours of racing. Two different categories exist alongside each other, WEC and Superstock. The regulations for the first category are similar to that of World Superbike, while in Superstock only a minimal amount of modifications to production models are allowed.
Elf and Endurance
As well as allowing the development of specific or co-branded products such as the Elf Vent Vert lubricants range created for Kawasaki bikes and recognisable thanks to the green colour, the partnership between Elf and Kawasaki offers the chemists and engineers at TotalEnergies centre a different area of experimentation to that of Grands Prix. Whether it is in Superbike or in Endurance, race series for which the TotalEnergies Group supply Kawasaki’s factory teams, the constraints are effectively very different as far as fuel is concerned. Even more because the fuel is provided to all the competitors of the 24 hours of Le Mans Moto.
For lubricants as well, the constraints are specific due to the fact that the engines are deprived from production models, less high performance but constructed using fewer exotic metals. Commented Romain Aubry, technical and multi-energy manager of TotalEnergies’ Competition: “Even if they are competition engines pushed to their limits, we must take into account their specificities so as to offer suitable fuels and lubricants. Especially in Endurance, where reliability constraints are particularly demanding and for which we propose lubricants products that are more viscous. They also allow reduced consumption which is very important in twenty-four hour races.” Races where reliability is obviously a measure of success.
After three editions straddling two calendar years, the forthcoming season of Endurance World Championship returns to a more classic format. With the Covid pandemic playing havoc with the preceding calendar, the 24 Hours Moto organised in Le Mans on the Bugatti circuit is back as the opening round on June, 12th and 13th. Four other rounds are on the programme: the 12 Hours of Estoril, in Portugal on July, 17th ; the Bol d’Or, in France at the Paul Ricard circuit on September, 18th to 19th ; the Suzuka 8 Hours, in Japan on November, 7th and the 8 Hours of Oscherleben, in Germany to be confirmed.
World Champions in 2019, the Kawasaki SRC team will be keen to shine again after last year’s difficult season. After being forced to retire at the Paul Ricard circuit, following a crash caused by another team’s engine blow up, the riders of the team manager, Gilles Stafler, only made it once onto the podium in Le Mans. Sixth in Malaysia and Portugal, they finished the last championship in fifth place. This three pilots of the team Erwan Nigon, Jérémy Guarnoni and David Checa have just one goal: take another world championship title.
Team Kawasaki SRC
Benefitting from all the experience he acquired with the Kawasaki France team (TKF), and winner of numerous Endurance races in the 90s and the 2000s, Gilles Stafler set up his own outfit in 2009. Based in the Var, in the South of France, SRC became the Kawasaki factory’s leading team, not only in Endurance but also in the French Superbike and Supersport championships. Competitive right from the off, SRC Kawasaki won the 24 du Mans in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, the Bol d’Or in 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as several French Supersport and Superbike titles with Julien Da Costa and Gregory Leblanc. Two years ago the SRC team won their first world championship title with Erwan Nigon, Jeremy Guarnoni and David Checa. A trio that will remain unchanged for the upcoming season.