Suzuka EWC podium unexpected, admits Yoshimura SERT star Black

2022-08-13T12:54:18+02:00August 13th, 2022|2022|

Gregg Black reckons Yoshimura SERT Motul’s capture of third place in the 43rd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race last weekend was “unexpected” following a fraught build-up to round three of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

Black only travelled to Japan to perform team captaincy duties after his place alongside Sylvain Guintoli and Xavier Siméon was taken by Suzuki’s homegrown star Kazuki Watanabe. But with Guintoli forced out through injury and Siméon unable to compete after he tested positive for COVID-19, Black was called up to race with Watanabe as a two-rider-only line-up.

Despite this handicap and starting 22nd on the packed Suzuka grid, the reigning EWC champion team briefly held the lead thanks to a spectacular opening stint from Black, who completed a staggering 15 overtakes on the opening lap alone.

After taking over the Bridgestone-equipped GSX-R1000R from Black, Watanabe used his expert circuit knowledge to maintain a strong pace.

Even in the intense heat and faced with the physical disadvantage of not having a third rider to call upon, Yoshimura SERT Motul maintained its push for a podium finish and was rewarded with one hour remaining when the third-placed YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC dropped back following a collision with a backmarker.

“What an incredible race with a result that was a bit unexpected given the conditions,” UK-born Frenchman Black said. “I came here as a team leader. I finally took part in the practice and the race. We were originally aiming for victory, but the withdrawal of Xavier and Sylvain forced us to change our plans. The goal was to save as many points as possible. From the beginning of the race, it went well for us. The two leading machines had a very high pace, but these teams are not competing for the championship. Their goals are different from ours. It is always difficult to fight against them on a regular basis but we defended ourselves well. We also took advantage of a race in the last hour. This third place is a very good result because the race was physical, and it was complicated to stay focused until the end. The team and the bike were perfect here. In endurance racing, you have to believe in yourself and not give up. That’s what we did and the result proves that.”