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Endurance, lasting shine

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, the partnership between Elf and Kawasaki offers the chemists and engineers a different area of experimentation to that of Grands Prix. Whether it is in Superbike or in Endurance, race series for which the ELF brand supply Kawasaki’s factory teams, the constraints are specific due to the fact that the engines are deprived from production models, less high performance but constructed using less exotic metals. Commented Romain Aubry: “Even if they are competition engines pushed to their limits, we must take into account their specificities so as to offer suitable lubricants. Especially in Endurance, where reliability constraints are particularly demanding and for which we propose 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.

The 2022 stakes

Badly disrupted by the Covid pandemic over the last two seasons, the EWC championship should this year return to a format more in keeping with its status. There will be five races on the programme, two of which are new. Thanks to the major work carried out to modernise and improve safety, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit returns to the World Endurance calendar as a 24 hour race. The Belgian round will be held over the weekend of 4-5 June, with the Le Mans Bugatti circuit once again hosting the EWC curtain-raiser on 16 and 17 April.

Absent from the calendar for the last two years, the Suzuka Eight Hours will be held in Japan on 7 August, while the Bol d’Or will be run on 17 and 18 September at the Castellet circuit. A fifth round is planned for the beginning of December in Asia at the new Mandalika circuit, built last year in Indonesia on the island of Lombok. The world championship title holders, the Suzuki Yoshimura SERT team will defend their crown with the same riders (Guintoli, Black, Siméon) while SRC Kawasaki will attempt to take a second title with their new team comprising of Randy de Puniet, Florian Marino and Etienne Masson. The YART and FCC TSR Honda will be the two other teams fighting for victory.

Team Kawasaki SRC

Employing the considerable experience gained with Kawasaki France (TKF), winner of numerous Endurance races in 1990s and 2000s, Gilles Stafler set up his own team in 2009. Based in the south of France, SRC became Kawasaki’s lead team in Endurance, as well as in the French Superbike and Supersport championships. From the outset they have enjoyed considerable success. Winners of the 24 Heures du Mans in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and the Bol d’Or in 2013, 2014 and 2015, Gilles Stafler’s team also won several French Supersport and Superbike championship titles with Julien Da Costa and Gregory Leblanc. Two years ago the SRC team took their first world championship title with Erwan Nigon, Jeremy Guarnoni and David Checa. This season it will be Randy de Puniet, Florian Marino and Etienne Masson who will be flying the flag for Gilles Stafler.

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