The 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship was decided today as the Suzuka 8 Hours played host to the grand finale of the series. Competition has been high all weekend with permanent EWC teams looking to finish their season on a high, mixed with Japanese local teams wanting to be the Suzuka 8 Hour winners.
The 40th Suzuka 8 Hours marked the end of a mixed season for Honda Endurance Racing, who finished the season overall in 13th place. With highs and lows experienced throughout the season, the team fought hard throughout, and in Slovakia claimed a podium finish in third place.
Honda’s endurance specialists Freddy Foray, Julien Da Costa and Sébastien Gimbert have been in the mix with their ten-permanent EWC rivals all weekend at Suzuka and as the race got underway at 1330 local time, a strong finish was looking positive for the team.
It was Foray who launched the all-new Fireblade from the start line in 26th place and it wasn’t long until the team had broken into the top-20 in 19th place – ahead of the main EWC challenger SERT (22nd). It was Da Costa’s turn after the first pit stop, but his stint didn’t go quite to plan. After being held at the end of pitlane while the safety car was deployed for an incident on track, Da Costa joined a lap down.
On cold tyres after the safety car Da Costa suffered a highside, crashing out of the race. Heroically remounting and riding the Fireblade back to the garage, it was over to the super-speedy Honda crew to get the team back on track. After just two minutes in the garage repairing the damage, Gimbert returned to the race.
With the team now down in 53rd place and Da Costa ruled out for the remainder of the race after knocking his coccyx after the fall, it was down to Foray and Gimbert to bring the Honda Endurance Racing team home. In the next pit stop a headlight had to be changed after getting damaged in the crash and both riders pushed hard moving the team into 41st place.
Disaster struck around the mid-way point as Gimbert returned to the garage unscheduled with a mechanical issue. After 20 minutes in the box the Honda team were away again, but with lost places to recover. Battling through the heat and with only two riders, the Honda team eventually crossed the line in 43rd place after eight hours racing and having completed 193 laps.
The 40th Suzuka 8 Hours saw 68 teams taking part and only ten of which are permanent EWC teams, including Honda Endurance Racing.
The 2018-2019 FIM Endurance World Championship kicks off in September (15th-17th) when all eyes will be on the 24-hour Bol d’Or at Paul Ricard in the South of France.