Endurance Moto, The Oschersleben 8 hours, August 2016

Fifth Place Finish

Winners of the 24 Hours Motorcycles when the Endurance World Championship opened, the Kawasaki SRC Team didn’t end the 2016 season as well as hoped: Gilles Stafler’s team had to settle for fifth place overall.

Everything started off well for the Kawasaki SRC team and the ZX-10RR of the trio formed by Grégory Leblanc, Matthew Lagrive and Fabien Foret. In April, Gilles Stafler’s team outclassed their opponents on the Le Mans circuit. With the bonus included in the win, the #11 left the 24 Hours Motorcycles having chalked up sixty points, with good reason to hope for a world title later in the season. Unfortunately, the last race of the championship held in Germany on the Oschersleben circuit was no more successful for Gilles Stafler’s crew than the previous two.

In Portugal in June, the Kawasaki SRC team was forced to retire due to a mechanical problem caused by an overheating engine. In Japan, a month later, it was a rear axle that forced the Greens to give up. In Germany last weekend, it was a piston rod that destroyed Grégory Leblanc’s last hopes just as he began his first stint. Although fifth on the starting grid, the #11 Kawasaki didn’t make it to the finish of the last race of the season. As a result, the Kawasaki SRC team had to settle for fifth place in a championship finally won by the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) managed by Dominique Méliand.

Fortunately Gilles Stafler’s team will not have to wait long to turn the page, since the first race of the 2016/2017 season, the Bol d’Or, will be held on September 17 and 18 next on the Paul Ricard circuit.

MotoGP World Championship, Grand Prix of the Czech Republic, August 2016

Marquez ringing in the rain

Álex Márquez chalked up his best result of the season by finishing fifth in the Czech Republic leg of the Moto2 World Championship. Franco Morbidelli and Tito Rabat also made it back to the top ten while Jack Miller was forced to withdraw after arriving in Brno.

The Races

Although he was pleased to have withstood the deluge that the heavens had reserved for the Czech Grand Prix to score his best result of the season, Álex Márquez had to admit he was a little disappointed at the finish. The day before, the Spanish rider had managed to make it to the front row of the starting grid.

“If it hadn’t rained, I could have hoped to finish on the podium,” he felt. “But I don’t have quite the same feeling on a wet track with my bike.”

After his sixth place in Spielberg, however, Márquez confirmed his return to form. Struggling during the practice test sessions with the settings of his Kalex chassis, Franco Morbidelli finished eighth, hot on the heels of Danny Kent. In MotoGP, Tito Rabat was the only representative of the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS on the track last weekend. Miller having withdrawn, the Spaniard had trouble in tuning his Honda RC213. Twentieth on the starting grid, however, the former Moto2 world champion made the best of a good choice of tyres to earn a well-deserved tenth place.

Total Competition Moto GP Grand Prix de la République Tchèque
PSP / Mateusz Jagielski www.photoPSP.com

The Championship

Forced to rest, Jack Miller has slipped back to fourteenth place in the MotoGP championship. With the six points he scored on Brno, Rabat has moved up a place, and is now nineteenth. In Moto2, Márquez is continuing to rise in the standings. He has gained another four places and is now fifteenth. No change in contrast  for Morbidelli who remains in sixth position.

The Background

Jack Miller has hit a streak of bad luck. Injured in January while training in motocross, the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider has ridden almost the entire first half of the championship with an injured ankle. After a return to form in June, the young Australian rider shone in Assen, scoring his first MotoGP win. Hoping to surf the season on that promising result, a new injury stopped him in his tracks. Hurting his back and wrist in Austria, Jack had to give up racing in the Czech Republic.

“He would have liked to ride and even the doctors gave the green light,”

said Michael Bartholemy, his team manager.

“But in agreement with Honda we preferred to force him to take a rest. With three vertebrae fractured, even slightly, he would have been taking a big risk if he fell again. We preferred to give his fractures time to set before the next race in England in early September.”

 

MotoGP World Championship, Austrian Grand Prix, August 2016

Morbidelli Rings In

Franco Morbidelli obtained the best result of his career in Spielberg by finishing second in the Austrian Moto2 Grand Prix. Jack Miller was less lucky, being injured in the warm-up and not being able to make it to the start of the MotoGP race.

The Races

After a month-long summer break, the time has come for the riders in the MotoGP championship to get back in the saddle. With the Austrian Grand Prix, the teams began the second half of the season. In Moto2, the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS got off to a flying start. Franco Morbidelli obtained the best result of his Grand Prix career by finishing second behind the reigning world champion Johann Zarco. In the lead for sixteen laps, Morbidelli had to fight it out against Lüthi and Rins in the last lap to win that second place. Starting on the second line, Álex Márquez also made a good start to the race by following the lead of his teammate. The Spaniard eventually finished sixth in less than ten seconds behind the winner. In MotoGP, Jack Miller was injured in the warm-up and had to abandon the race. Injuring a wrist and one of his vertebrae in the fall, the Australian will be given a new medical in Brno on Wednesday to decide whether he can take part in the next Grand Prix in the Czech Republic. Tito Rabat bagged two new points by finishing fourteenth, hot on the heels of Loris Baz. After a good start of the race, the Spaniard suffered in the last laps because of the loss of grip of his rear tyre.

The Championship

Although he had to abandon the race in Austria, Jack Miller remains in thirteenth position in the MotoGP championship standings. Despite the two points he pocketed in Spielberg, Tito Rabat stays in twentieth place. In Moto2, with his new place on the podium Morbidelli has moved up to sixth. The Italian is only six points behind the fifth-placed rider, Takaaki Nakagami. Marquez has moved up three places, and is now nineteenth.

The Background

A leg of the MotoGP championship was held in Austria again year. Renamed Red Bull Ring, the former A1-Ring in Zeltweg has been given a completely new look. Although the track has not changed, the infrastructures have been successfully modernized, and the surrounding countryside has lost none of its majesty. The home turf of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had not been on the calendar of the motorcycle speed championship for the last nineteen years. The first Austrian Grand Prix was held on the Salzburg circuit in 1971. The 500 race was won by Giacomo Agostini. In 1994, Mick Doohan, then riding for the Elf brand, won the last Grand Prix to be held on the Salzburg circuit. Deemed too dangerous, the Austrian track was then deregistered. As a result, the event disappeared from the Grand Prix calendar before returning in 1996 and 1997, this time on the A1-Ring.

Endurance Moto – Suzuka 8 Hours, July 2016

Podiums and Problems

If the SRC team did not achieve the success it hoped for in Japan, the Green team flew the Kawasaki flag high in the Suzuka Eight Hours, scoring a superb second place at the finish in the legendary race of the Endurance world championship.

No Kawasaki had made it to the podium of the Suzuka Eight Hours for the previous seven years. Ridden by Leon Haslam, Akira Yanagawa and Kazuki Watanabe, the ZX-10RR put an end to the Green team’s drought of wins in the best way possible. Staying for many hours in contact with the winning Yamaha factory bike, the Japanese team on their Kawasaki fought it out with the Yoshimura Suzuki ridden by the trio of Haga, Tsuda and Brookes right up until the chequered flag. Taking advantage of the endurance of the Bridgestone tires which always perform well on the tarmac at Suzuka, the Green team chalked up twenty points in the World Championship standings. And although they are only participating in their home event, the Japanese team is now placed in twelfth position.
After qualifying for 21st  position, the Kawasaki team also made a very good start to the race. Despite the Pirelli tyres degrading too quickly as always on the Japanese asphalt, the Kawasaki team that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans were hoping to pocket valuable points and retrieve their first place in the overall standings. Replacing Fabien Foret, suffering from phlebitis and absent at Suzuka, Jérémy Guarnoni proved himself to be on a par with his team mates. Fate unfortunately decided to put a premature end to the race of the team from the Var region of France. In Portimao in June, Grégory Leblanc, Fabien Foret and Matthieu Lagrive had to throw in the towel after a broken engine. At Suzuka it was a rear axle which had the better of the Kawasaki SRC, two hours from the finish. The withdrawal tasted even worse in that the ZX-RR 10 11 was in the top ten.

“It hit us even harder in that we’d managed the race very well, given our means. The only positive thing is that our rivals in the championship did no better. Our chances for the title remain intact.”

Gilles Stafler

Second overall, the Kawasaki SRC Team is now only eight points behind the Team April Moto Motors Events. With only seventeen points separating the top seven in the championship, the last race of the season held on August 27 in Germany will be crucial in deciding who wins the world champion title.