An early end
Despite their elation about returning to Japan to take part in the Suzuka 8 Hours, the SRC Kawasaki team did not reap the rewards they expected. Far from it. A fall shortly after the halfway mark put an early end to the dreams of Gilles Stafler’s team.
Having managed to find the budget this year to complete the full Endurance World Championship, Gilles Stafler was eagerly looking forward to the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Although the prestige event
is organized on the Japanese manufacturers’ home turf, the official Kawasaki team had not taken part in the race for twenty years. Their participation was cut short, due to tires outclassed by the competition.
Grégory Leblanc, Fabien Foret and Matthieu Lagrive
were in an unexpected seventh place when the first of the three men fell at the end of his stint.
“The fifth hour of the race was approaching and I still had five laps to go,” said Leblanc. “I wasn’t riding the bike too hard because since the beginning of the weekend we knew we couldn’t expect much with our tires. And then the same thing happened as during the practice test sessions: the front gave way without warning. The bike turned cartwheels in the gravel, and was too damaged for me to get back on.”
The retirement was a terrible disappointment for Gilles Stafler.
“With four falls during the weekend, we’re leaving Suzuka with two wrecks,” groaned the SRC Kawasaki team manager. “It’s really annoying because we were never been able to use the bike, because our Pirelli tires are totally unsuitable for this track. There were no tests organized upstream, so we had to make with what we had. We tried everything, even very soft fork springs to make the bike less reactive, but nothing worked. You can have the best bike and the fastest riders in the world, if you don’t have the right tires there’s nothing you can do. We’re going to have to react before the next race in Germany.”