EWC Bol d'Or Q&A: Gregg Black

2022-09-09T06:49:03+02:00September 8th, 2022|2022|

Part of the Suzuki-powered Yoshimura SERT Motul team that won the Bol d’Or in 2021 and currently heads the FIM Endurance World Championship standings, Great Britain-born French rider Gregg Black, 34, talks exceeding expectations at Suzuka, the absence of pressure, what it takes to win at Circuit Paul Ricard and more as the build-up to the 100th anniversary of this famous 24-hour race continues.

You start the Bol d’Or on the back of finishing third at Suzuka. A great result but one that exceeded expectations, perhaps?
“Definitely, a great result for the team and for me personally. Finishing on the podium as a European is always great there because we know it’s a really hard race with all the Japanese teams and Japanese riders who have spent a lot of time to be up there performing. It’s always hard to perform against them but we proved this year with Yoshimura, SERT and Bridgestone that we can be competitive. It was a hard week with no Sylvain [Guintoli] or Xavier [Siméon] so it ended up with just Kazuki [Watanabe] and me riding the bike, so the objective was clear: just score some points for the championship. But we ended up having pretty good pace and even if we’d finished fourth, which we were going to, it was already a great performance because we showed our pace in a race that was really hard. At the end of the day YART made a mistake and we finished third but that’s racing, it was a good result and we were really happy.”

Does the extra points scored and the bigger cushion that gives you take off some of the pressure?
“We haven’t actually had that much pressure since the start of the season, we’ve just continued to do our job which we know how to do with the team. It’s always about teamwork, effort, focusing on our work without looking at the others and that’s pretty much what makes us strong. If we were leading the championship by more points or behind in the championship we’d always start with the same goal, which is to win the championship.”

How do you transfer your Suzuka form to Paul Ricard and the EWC season finale
“The Bol d’Or has been good to us a lot of the time. The track goes well with the Suzuki. It’s smaller and tighter so it makes things more competitive, and we know we can win the race by being fastest on track. Our objective is to win the title and we will carry on doing our job. Another strong point for us is reliability, we’ve got a good, reliable bike and, in the past, other teams have had the issues. Hopefully it will be good for us and we’ll finish the race but we hope as many teams as possible finish the race because we had a big gap last year with all the retirements and it got a bit boring towards the end to be honest. Hopefully the race will stay alive until the end and we do a great race and hopefully win the race.”

At what point do you trade speed for preservation?
“The goal is to win the championship and we’ll score the points we need to score during the race. If we’re third in the race and that’s enough points to win the championship, we’ll finish third. If we need to finish second and we need to catch some guys in front, then we’ll push to win the championship. It just depends. We’re intelligent enough as riders and as a team to know how to manage the situation, we’ve managed it in the past. We just need to keep concentrating on our job. We were strong at Le Mans and we took that pace over to Spa and we showed we were competitive also in Suzuka and I’m sure we’ll be competitive at Paul Ricard. A top three finish is our main goal, if we can win the race without taking too many risks we’ll do that.”

How tough is Circuit Paul Ricard?
“It’s not a track that’s the most physical track of the year because there are quite a lot of fast, flowing turns, not many hard braking turns and a long, long straight. The main thing is not to do any mistakes because it’s quite a fast track so avoiding slow riders, incidents on the track, oil, you need to be really careful and remember that any situation can happen. And, of course, reliability, you need to know your bike well, know when to push it, when to save it and not use it too much because it can be really hard on the mechanicals.”

What role can the weather play?
“Generally we do get good weather during the Bol d’Or. We’ve had rain in the past and it can happen and rain can come at any time. Normally if it does rain it’s not that cold so there are less risks. But one thing that can be an issue is the wind. Some years we’ve had some really strong wind and that’s really hard for all riders with braking markers. Generally it’s quite hard to ride in the wind so you need to be careful and understand the situation step by step.”

Gregg Black is set to partner Sylvain Guintoli and Kazuki Watanabe on the #1 Suzuki GSX-R1000R run by Yoshimura SERT Motul on Bridgestone tyres when the 100th anniversary Bol d’Or takes place from 15-18 September as the deciding round of the 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship. Follow this link for the standings: https://www.fimewc.com/standings/