Étienne Masson’s return to Suzuki power in the FIM Endurance World Championship was a case of what might have been for the French ace.
Having been part of the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (now Yoshimura SERT Motul) line-up that won the EWC title in 2015, 2016 and 2019-20, Masson is back in Suzuki colours for 2023 with the 24 Heures Motos marking his competitive return to the brand alongside Gregg Black and Sylvain Guintoli.
Despite Black putting the #12 GSX-R1000R on pole for the EWC season opener, a heavy crash for the UK-born French rider following contact with Josh Hook on the approach to the Dunlop Chicane wrecked any victory hopes that Masson and his team-mates had.
“Of course we are disappointed,” Masson said afterwards. “After Gregg's crash, we had to regain our motivation quite quickly in order to move up in the standings. The bike needed a few adjustments after it was repaired but then we were able to find our rhythm very quickly. The progress was constant until the next day at noon when bad luck hit us again. We still managed to score some points in the championship. That's what we have to remember and the fact that we had the pace to fight for victory. Now we have to focus on Spa.”
Yoshimura SERT Motul Team Director Yohei Kato said: “It was an extremely difficult race and this is not the result we wanted. We really wanted to win here at Le Mans, however, our challenge for a third consecutive 24 Heures Motos win unfortunately ended on the first corner of the first lap. The crash was caused by contact with another rider but that's part of racing. Our GSX-R1000R was really badly damaged but our crews showed tremendous teamwork and were able to repair the bike in 17 minutes.
“The whole team remained highly motivated and we pushed our way up to seventh place. The points for that position, together with the five points from pole position in qualifying, means we have gained 23 points. The championship has just started and we want to retake the win this year. The whole team is focused on trying to make up the lost points with the Yoshimura-tuned Suzuki GSX-R1000R.
“I would like to thank to our sponsors, riders, all my crew members, helpers and fans who supported us. We got so many warm messages even during the race, which helped us a lot.”