Suzuki Endurance Racing Team Heads to 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans
The reformatted 2016/2017 Endurance World Championship began tragically for the reigning WEC Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). The SERT team lost one of its prime riders, Anthony Delhalle, who died last month during a practice crash.
Though emotional, the racing will go on. As a tribute to Delhalle, EWC promoters Eurosport Events will launch a new accolade, “The Anthony Delhalle EWC Spirit Trophy,” which will be awarded for the first time this weekend and presented by Delhalle’s widow Jessie Delhalle.
Suzuki says “the award will go to any team or rider, whether amateur or factory-backed, who does something remarkable during the race – climbing back up the ranks, repairing a bike, helping a competitor, or carrying-off a collective or individual feat. The honorary award, decided by a jury and given out after every race in the FIM Endurance World Championship, is intended to keep the sporting spirit and character of a great rider such as Anthony Delhalle alive for a long time to come.”
The usual SERT riders, the Frenchman Vincent Philippe and Etienne Masson, will be joined at this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans by Alex Cudlin.
The team will ride a 2016-spec GSX-R1000 superbike that the 15-time World Champions raced to victory last September at the opening round, the Bol d’Or 24-Hour, at Paul Ricard Circuit in France. The team hopes to ride the new 2017 GSX-R1000 at the Oschersleben 8-Hour on May 20.
A total of 60 teams will line-up for Saturday’s 40th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a record number of 72 teams fighting for those places on the grid, starting Thursday with the opening practice and qualifying sessions.
Alongside SERT will be a total of nine manufacturers with the strongest challenges expected from the factory YART and GMT94 plus 2016 Le Mans victors SRC Kawasaki teams. Other major teams include Honda Racing, BMW, Aprilia, KTM, Ducati and the Metiss JLC Moto in the Experimental class.
SERT Team Manager Dominique Meliand says: “We have to make sure we don’t mess up our great start to the season, and keep our points gap to the competition open at the Bol d’Or. The 2017 machine shows a lot of promise performance-wise, but we’re not quite finished with testing of all the new parts.”
However, Junior Team Le Mans Sud – who operate out of SERT’s headquarters in Le Mans – will debut the long-awaited 2017 GSX-R1000 in the hands of Baptiste Guittet, Cédric Tangre and Robin Camus in the Superstock class.
SERT Team Manager Damien Saulnier says: “It was easier to prepare the machine for our category. Baptiste Guittet, Robin Camus and Cédric Tangre will get to use the new-generation Suzuki, which is more powerful, more responsive and a lot livelier, plus very well-matched to the competition. We’ll also be functioning as a kind of test bench for SERT over a 24-hour race.”
The race gets underway at 3 p.m. local time Saturday.