2011 Endurance World ChampionshipAustralia’s Damian Cudlin has taken the lead in the 2011 Endurance World Championship after claiming his best ever finish at the Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan this weekend.
The BMW Motorrad Team of Gimbert, Nigon and Cudlin entered the EWC race trailing championship leaders Suzuki Endurance Racing Team by 2 points, but a determined effort saw them dominate their rivals in Japan, securing 4th place at the finish, four laps ahead of SERT in 9th.Entering the BMW S1000RR into the Suzuka 8 Hour for the first time, the BMW Motorrad Team had a lot to learn in the limited practice sessions, however after making rapid progress with every outing, the team secured a slot in the Top 10 Superpole Shoot Out which determined the starting positions for the famous event.With rain interrupting Cudlin’s attempt at a fast lap in Superpole, Frenchman Erwan Nigon was put in charge of securing the team’s grid position, and he stormed to a 2.09.5 minute lap time and sensational seventh place. Having achieved their best ever starting position at the Suzuka 8 Hour event, the BMW Motorrad Team then elected Cudlin to start the race who’d shown impressive speed on race rubber all weekend.Bursting from his grid position, Cudlin made a tremendous start and ran as high as fifth in the opening laps before finding a comfortable rhythm in a group of three riders battling for sixth. Riding with speed, security and intelligence, Cudlin turned the team’s fastest lap of the race before bringing the bike back for Gimbert at the first round of stops.Damian Cudlin (BMW S1000RR) says: "The start procedure seemed to drag on forever and while I was sitting in the sweltering heat all I wanted to do was go racing. The last time I started a race it was a bit of a disaster when I couldn’t start the engine, so I was focused on getting it right this time. Thankfully I made a clean start and put in a solid first stint. I spent the whole hour riding around with fellow Aussie Wayne Maxwell which kept us both entertained!"The BMW Motorrad Team performed a slick pit stop and Gimbert took to the circuit for his first stint of the race, but just moments later the former EWC Champion was on the ground at the hairpin. Fearing the worst, Nigon prepared to take over, however a gritty display saw Gimbert pick up the bike and carry on in without pitting. Having done nothing to dent his confidence, Gimbert continued riding at impressive speed, before Nigon took to the controls at the end of the hour.The trio rode faultlessly from that point on in the race, and aided by lightning fast pit stops, the BMW Motorrad Team crossed the finish line in a terrific 4th place, trailing only the Factory Japanese Entries of Honda and Suzuki.Damian Cudlin says: "We’re over the moon with this result and to be leading the World Championship for the first time in my career. The race was tough but our priority here was to beat SERT and we did that convincingly. "The team performed brilliantly with faultless pit stops, and the Michelin tyres also made our life a lot easier in the race. It also shows how good the BMW S1000RR is… I could pass practically anyone on the back straight! ‘m really proud of this team and all our supporters. We’re giving 110% this year and I’m just happy to be a part of it."The BMW Motorrad Team will now focus on the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour race in September, knowing that a good result there could win them a World Championship.