With the dust barely settled on the 2016 Endurance season, reigning World Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) begins its defence this weekend in the new-look 2016-2017 series at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France.
Just three weeks after claiming their 15th EWC title at Oschersleben in Germany on August 28th, GSX-R1000-mounted Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson take to the track later this afternoon for the opening practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s 80th Anniversary Bol d’Or 24-Hour Race; and the first of six rounds in the Eurosport-promoted FIM championship that sees the finale take place at Suzuka Circuit in Japan on July 30th, 2017.
SERT, fresh from its recent test at the Castellet circuit, heads a list of 60 teams, including other major protagonists GMT94 Yamaha – who finished just one point behind the French Suzuki squad in the 2016 series – and Team April Moto Motors Events aboard their privateer GSX-R1000: The team had led the series until the final round but suffered some technical issues and a crash that saw them finish down in 11th, but rewarded them with third overall in the series. This year sees Gregg Black and Gregory Fastre joined by former SRC Kawasaki rider Matthieu Lagrive.
The Bol d’Or will see 10 countries represented, including two new full-time EWC teams from Japan, plus new faces including former MotoGP and Suzuki test rider Randy de Puniet on the #11 Kawasaki and former MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Josh Hayes (YART).
Following today’s opening practice sessions, tomorrow (Friday) sees the final qualifying to determine the grid for Saturday’s race, that gets underway at 14:30hrs local time.
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