A 16th title for Suzuki Endurance Racing Team
The factory Suzuki team have won their 16th FIM Endurance World Championship title. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team claimed the 2019-2020 crown in Portugal at the end of a very strange season.
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team are the squad with the most titles in the FIM Endurance World Championship. Founded by Dominique Méliand in 1980, SERT won their first world title in 1983. For over 40 years now, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team have been one of the most feared teams in endurance racing. They claimed their last title in 2016 with a gap of just one point to GMT94 after an epic final at Oschersleben. Dominique Méliand’s team claimed their last win at the 2016 Bol d’Or with Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson in the saddle.
The tragic accident that cost Anthony Delhalle his life in March 2017 pitched the SERT family into confusion. The arrival of a brand-new Suzuki GSX-R 1000 also threw the team’s well-oiled routine out of whack, as they had to get comfortable with the new bike and transform it into the ultimate endurance machine.
New chapter in the team’s history
The outlook for the 2019-2020 season was far from rosy. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team got a new boss during the summer of 2019. Dominique Méliand handed over the reins, and the squad had to regroup and work with their new manager Damien Saulnier, previously team manager of Junior Team Suzuki for a number of years. Meanwhile, Vincent Philippe announced he would be running his last race at the end of 2019.
But right from the season opener, the 2019 Bol d’Or, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team swept away any doubts by winning the race with riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team were back on top, Vincent Philippe hung up his leathers in style, and Damien Saulnier earned his stripes as new team manager.
After a 5th-place finish at the 8 Hours of Sepang and the lengthy forced hiatus due to the global health crisis, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team made a podium comeback with their new line-up. Etienne Masson, Gregg Black and Xavier Simeon finished 3rd at the 24 Heures Motos and achieved their goal – the title – at the 12 Hours of Estoril. They held on grimly to their 4th place behind two of their main rivals, YART Yamaha and F.C.C. TSR Honda France, and managed to claim the 2019-2020 FIM EWC title.
The team’s success in his very first season as manager took even Damien Saulnier by surprise. “It’s crazy. It was a huge challenge to take over from Dominique. All of this is also thanks to the existing team. We’d never have pulled this off without them. We won the Bol straight off, finished 5th at Sepang, 3rd at Le Mans, 4th at Estoril and took the title on top of it all. I’d never have thought we could get this far! We’ve worked hard over the past year to put this project together. Building our new premises, rebuilding the team, recruiting Xavier to replace Vincent – that was a lot to handle, even before Covid happened. I’m thrilled, frankly, and really proud of the whole team. Our success has a lot to do with the good chemistry within the team, technical support from Yoshimura, SERT’s proven experience and the team having the same mindset and passion the boss fostered 40 years ago.”