The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team put on a masterful display of consistency, control and machine reliability to win the opening round of the new 2016-2017 Endurance World Championship, the 80th Anniversary Bol d’Or 24-Hour Race, at Paul Ricard Circuit in France by nine laps.

SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson crossed the finish line with their GSX-R1000 Suzuki this afternoon with a total of 687 laps completed from runners-up SRC Kawasaki in a gruelling and challenging event.

The team led all but four of the race-laps (the other two by SRC Kawasaki and also Penz 13 com BMW early on Saturday afternoon), pushing hard from the start to build its lead before then controlling the race from the front, calculating exactly when the 26 pit-stops were needed – and in which they pitted the fastest (41.092 minutes spent in total) – before slightly backing-off the pace in the second half of the race.

It was a masterpiece of skill and strategy from Dominique Meliand’s 15-time World Champions and showcased the reliability and durability of the team’s GSX-R1000 Suzuki that performed faultlessly throughout.

From the start, and under ideal 22 degree air/ 30 degree track temperatures, Delhalle sprinted into a top-four position in the opening corners, but it was Team April Moto Motors Events Suzuki rider Greg Black who took an early lead from 10th position on the grid. The 2016 Endurance World Championship EWC-class bronze medallists were in the hunt during the opening stages, but an unfortunate series of events put-paid to the independent team’s hopes for the podium: Firstly, Black ran out of fuel after 47 minutes and had to sprint back to the pits to refill the GSX-R1000. And then the team suffered a series of recurring gearbox issues that forced them to retire after just 56 laps.

ewc17sert1As darkness and temperatures dropped on the 5,791 km circuit in southern France, SERT continued to keep on the pressure and monitor fuel usage – much higher than usual due to the very long, flat-out 332kph main straight that caused several engine blow-ups to other competitors during the race, where 23 teams fell-out of the running with crashes and other technical issues.

Then as temperatures rose throughout Sunday morning, SERT’s three riders continued to rotate their stints with precision, kept pace to around the 2:02-minute mark from its initial ‘short-circuit’ pace in the 1:59s – and then handed over the final stint to Masson, who also took this honour bringing home the GSX-R1000 for SERT’s 15th World Championship victory at Oschersleben in Germany on August 28th.

As leaders at strategic stages throughout the race, SERT was awarded maximum extra points, dictated by FIM 24-Hour race regulations, and came away a total of 60 points. This sees them hold a 10-point lead in the series over SRC and 16 points over third-placed – and new EWC series regulars – EVA TRICK STAR Racing.

EWC 2016-2017 now takes a six-month break until March 18th, 2017 when round two of the six-round series commences in Portugal for the Portimao 12-Hour race