To be updated in 2024
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 of the research center of the brand with the drill bit other fields of experimentation than those offered by the Grand Prix. Whether in Superbike or Endurance, race series in which the company TotalEnergies and its brand ELF supplies the official Kawasaki teams, the constraints are very different in terms of fuel. As far as lubricants are concerned, there again the constraints are specific due to the fact that the engines are derived from production machines, less efficient but built with a more commonly found metals. "Even if these engines remain competition engines pushed to their limits, we have to take into account their specificities to propose fuels and lubricants adapted to their needs,” notes Romain Aubry. “Especially in endurance racing, where reliability constraints are extreme, we offer more viscous products. They also help to reduce consumption, which is very important in 24-hour racing.” Events where reliability is obviously primordial for success.
The 2023 stakes
This year's World Endurance Championship (EWC) comprises four events. The 2023 season kicks off in Le Mans on the weekend of 15 and 16 April at the Bugatti circuit. After the 24 Heures Moto, a second round will be held in Belgium at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on 17 and 18 June. The legendary Ardennes track, which returned to the EWC calendar last year after undergoing a number of safety improvements, proved popular with the riders. The 24 Hours of Spa will be followed by the Suzuka Eight Hours. Like last year, the Japanese event will be held on the first weekend of August. The championship finale will take place a month later, on 16 and 17 September, at the Paul Ricard circuit, host of the legendary Bol d'Or.
The final 24-hour race will decide which team will succeeds the FCC TSR Honda France team, which was crowned champion in 2022. Among the candidates for the title is of course the new Kawasaki Webike Trickstar structure, which is the successor to the Kawasaki SRC team. Gilles Stafler has retired and passed the baton onto Ryuji Tsuruta. The Japanese team manager, who has taken on a large part of the French team, including technical manager Thomas Baudry, will this year enter Randy de Puniet, Kazuki Watanabe and Christophe Ponsson. To win, the Kawasaki ZX-10RR of the Franco-Japanese trio will have to beat not only the number 5 Honda but also the Suzuki of SERT Yoshimura and the YART Yamaha, two other machines in contention for the world title.
Team Kawasaki SRC
After more than ten years spent at the head of the SRC team that he himself founded, Gilles Stafler decided last winter to hand over the responsibility of defending the Kawasaki brand’s honour in the World Endurance Championship to Ryuji Tsuruta. A former rider, the Japanese knows the EWC series very well, having entered the Trickstar team several times over the last ten seasons. Kawasaki's official commitment to the EWC is now through the Webike Trickstar team, whose structure is largely based on that of the SRC. Also based in the Var region of France, the new Kawasaki team will be technically headed by Thomas Baudry, the former technical director of Gilles Stafler's team. With further support from Kawasaki Motor Japan, the Kawasaki Webike Trickstar team will be co-led by Keisuke Nakayama, Ryuji Tsuruta's right-hand man. The number 11 Kawasaki will be ridden this year by Randy de Puniet, Kazuki Watanabe and Christophe Ponsson.