Suzuki Endurance Racing Team has won the 2015 Endurance World Championship after a drama-packed Bol d’Or 24 Hour Race at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France.
SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson brought the team’s GSX-R1000 home in third position behind race winners SRC Kawasaki and 2014 world champions GMT94 Yamaha, completing a total of 677 laps of the 5.8 km Le Castellet circuit on the scenic Var hillside near the Marseilles coastline.
Racing in commemorative blue and white 30th Anniversary GSX-R colours, and in celebration of 35 years of the French team, managed by Dominique Meliand from its Le Man’s-based headquarters, SERT has now claimed a total of 14 Endurance World Championship titles.
From the start on Saturday at 15:00hrs local time, the 74,000 Bol d-Or fans witnessed exciting racing, that was action-packed from lap one until lap 684: Suzuki’s defending Superstock World Cup Champions Junior Team LMS Suzuki took the lead half-way around the first lap as SERT positioned its GSX-R1000 in seventh, soon to move into second, as main series rivals GMT94 Yamaha crashed and was forced to push back to the pits for repairs; losing four laps in the process.
Junior Team LMS Suzuki - Baptise Guittet, Gregg Black and Romain Maitre – who have dominated the Superstock class this season, led the opening stages of the race from eventual winners SRC Kawasaki, SERT and Honda Racing Team, but suffered an overheating problem early Saturday evening, forcing them back to the pits; but after the problem was rectified, team rider Greg Black was unlucky to crash, forcing the Le Mans-based team out of the race. However, the team still recorded second position overall in the series.
Going into the night after the Marseille Mistral wind had proved an issue for the teams - particularly on the flat-out 320kph straight - SERT led from SRC Kawasaki, Honda Racing, Monster YART (Yamaha), BMW Motorrad and GMT94 Yamaha; who climbed back-up from 54th position to sixth after its early incident.
But then things went wrong for SERT; just after collecting 10 bonus championship points for leading at the eight-hour mark, the SERT GSX-R1000 suffered and uncharacteristic issue with Philippe in the saddle - a rear wheel axle problem at 2am - which led to two unscheduled pit-stops that cost the team precious time. However, SERT rejoined the race and clicked-off consistent lap-times through the night into Sunday morning to climb-back into an eventual third position; and the top-step of the Endurance World Championship once again, to celebrate 30 years of the GSX-R Superbike and also 35 years of Dominique Meliand’s Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.
Said Meliand: “They say the younger you are, the more hunger you have for victory, but I can assure you it’s exactly the same at my age! This 14th World Championship title tastes just as good as our first one. And for anyone who dismissed the GSX-R1000, this title proves it is still a winning machine! I’m very, very, happy. It has been a very good year for us; and to finish on the podium today and win the Endurance World Championship is great for Suzuki Motor Corporation and all of our sponsors!”
Alongside Meliand, team kingpin Philippe – who has won nine world titles with SERT (Delhalle has now won seven) – was also overjoyed to help put Suzuki back at the top of this very-demanding world series.
He said: “I’m feeling really, really good right now. It’s been a very good year for us all; and to finish on the podium here today and win the World Championship is great for Suzuki and all of our sponsors.”