FIM Endurance World Championship 2016-2017
Honda Endurance Racing returned to the podium on its all-new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 by finishing 3rd in Round 4 of the FIM Endurance World Championship 2016-2017, the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring.
Honda riders improved their lap times with each new session at the Slovakia Ring. F.C.C. TSR Honda was especially successful, with Josh Hook posting a 2 min 4s9 lap in the Thursday night qualifying session, followed by a more impressing 2 min 4s369 on Friday, giving the team an overall 3rd place on the grid.
Honda Endurance Racing’s Freddy Foray, Julien Da Costa and Sébastien Gimbert went into the race quietly confident after solid performances in the practice and qualifying sessions. The three riders, and the new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 were proving to be a good match with the Slovakia Ring, which is staging an EWC race for the first time.
The race started at 1:30pm. Foray was off to a convincing start, taking his Honda Endurance Racing bike to 5th place by the end of the first lap. The team subsequently lost places, down to 21st, and battled to regain ground lost to the lead group.
Hook started for F.C.C. TSR Honda. Their race plan was to run 9 stints, pitting 8 times, with each stint covering 24 to 26 laps. Hook, being the youngest, fittest and fastest rider in the team, was to ride 5 stints, more than half the race.
Once the race was underway, Hook moved up to 2nd place, and was leading by Lap 3. Fellow Aussie rider Broc Parkes (YART Yamaha) soon catches Hook, which led to an exciting first stage of the race with the two riders in a tail-to-nose ordeal.
Honda Endurance Racing’s seasoned endurance riders and speedy pit work brought the team back in to the top 10.
On the third pit stop, as Gimbert took over from Da Costa, the team was running fourth. All eyes were on the new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 on track. With consistent lap times and quick pit stops, the riders pushed despite the extreme track temperatures, bringing Honda Endurance Racing to within the sight of the podium.
As F.C.C. TSR Honda’s bike was handed to Damian Cudlin as planned, the team dropped to 3rd place. The managed to maintain 3rd, and once the bike was handed to Hook once more, charged to catch the leaders. Hook initially struggled to find pace on a full tank and new tires, but gradually improved his lap times. Once in the saddle, Greg Black defended their 3rd place positioning, but nearing the end of his stint, lap times were slowing, and noise from the engine forced the team to replace the fuel tank when the reins were handed to Hook. By the 100th lap, around three and a half hours into the race, F.C.C. TSR Honda was down to 7th place.
The fuel tank was not the cause of slower lap times, so Hook had to return to the pits after only a few laps. The entire crew frantically took the bike apart to find the problem, and after just under an hour, Cudlin was back on the track. The team was down to 26th, the last position of the teams still running, dashing not only hopes of a podium finish this race, but of winning the championship at Suzuka.
F.C.C. TSR Honda’s problems had been caused by a broken ignition cable. The race was already past its halfway mark, closer to 5 hours. To get results, they had to finish the race. The team refused to give up, determined to continue fighting in what little time was left.
Of the F.C.C. TSR Honda riders, Hook was most impressive. He had, before the race, stated that he would ride the fastest lap, and true to his word, he set a record 2 min 4s753 lap at the inaugural Slovakia Ring. Hook had set a record-breaking 4s077 during the morning practice session, and was confident.
In the closing stages of the 8 Hours of Slovakia Ring, the Honda Honda Endurance Racing pit was tense, as they were battling for 2nd place with the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. After 222 laps and approximately 1.315km, the Honda Endurance Racing team crossed the finish line in 3rd place, their first podium finish of the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship. The team is now ranked 11th overall.
After stints from Black and Hook, F.C.C. TSR Honda’s last rider, Cudlin, had crossed the finish line 22 laps behind the leader, with 201 laps completed. They missed out on points which could have given them a chance at the title in the final round at Suzuka, and had even been overtaken in the ranking, dropping to 6th overall.
Honda Endurance Racing and F.C.C. TSR Honda are now preparing for the final round of the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuka 8hours race, on July 30.
|1||GMT94 Yamaha / Yamaha|
(CHECA David/CANEPA Niccolò/DI MEGLIO Mike)
|2||Suzuki Endurance Racing Team / Suzuki|
(PHILIPPE Vincent/MASSON Etienne/CUDLIN Alex)
|3||Honda Endurance Racing / Honda|
(DA COSTA Julien/GIMBERT Sébastien/FORAY Freddy)
|4||YART Yamaha / Yamaha|
(PARKES Broc/FRITZ Marvin/NOZANE Kohta)
|5||Voelpker NRT48 by Schubert-Motors / BMW|
(KERSCHBAUMER Stefan/BÜHN Jan/PUFFE Julian)
|6||Yamaha Viltaïs Experience / Yamaha|
(MACKELS Bastien/ALT Florian/MAURIN Axel)
|7||Team LRP Poland / BMW|
(REITERBERGER Markus/ČERNÝ Jaroslav/FILLA Michal)
|21||F.C.C. TSR Honda / Honda|
(BLACK Gregg/CUDLIN Damian/HOOK Josh)
|27||Team April Moto Motors Events / Honda|
(LEBLANC Gregory/FASTRÉ Grégory/LAGRIVE Matthieu)
|30||MotoTech-EWC / Honda|
(VAN KEYMEULEN Didier/DUWELZ Gauthier/BUCHNER Marc)