Team SRC Kawasaki France chasing first title at Suzuka
Gilles Stafler’s team arrive in Suzuka at the top of the championship standings. Team SRC Kawasaki France are targeting their first world title at the 2018-2019 FIM EWC grand finale in Japan.
There is only a five-point gap between standings leader Team SRC Kawasaki France and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team. The two French teams will wage a thrilling battle for the title at Suzuka, but they will also have to reckon with the highly determined Japanese team F.C.C. TSR Honda France, reigning champions and currently 23 points behind the Kawasaki.
With two weeks to go to the Suzuka 8 Hours grand finale, Gilles Stafler, the Team SRC Kawasaki France boss, seems relatively unruffled and is ready with his race strategy.
“There’s a race to finish and we’ll have to stay on the bike, but I’d rather be chased than give chase. We’re going to get out there and race, but we’ll also have to keep checking our progress against Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and F.C.C. TSR Honda France. By my reckoning, if Dominique (Meliand, team manager of SERT) is ahead of us, I’ll have to finish no further than three places behind him if he’s not in the top 5. F.C.C. TSR Honda France would be a real danger if they were to win the race. In that case, we would have to finish in the Top 6.”
Team SRC Kawasaki France were on the starting grid of the 2015 and 2016 Suzuka 8 Hours, but had to retire both times – after a crash in 2015 when the Kawasaki #11 was lapping in 6th place, and with a seized wheel axle in 2016. In 2019, Team SRC Kawasaki France are much better prepared and, above all, solidly backed by Pirelli’s tyre development.
“For the past two years Pirelli have had an engineer based in Japan working on tyre development with the Honda Moriwaki team,” says Gilles Stafler. “So there have been significant improvements since 2016. In testing at Oschersleben, where it was very hot, we tested a new tyre that handles very well in high temperatures. They also have some effective new wet tyres and we still have our intermediate tyres, which we rely on in mixed weather conditions.”
A winner of a Kawasaki ZX-10R
In Gilles Stafler’s view, the ZX-10R’s development is Team SRC Kawasaki France’s major advantage over their rivals.
“It’s the first time we’re going to Suzuka with a really excellent bike. All we do now is make minor adjustments at each race to get great performance and versatility out of the machine. The Suter swingarm we’ve been using since the 2019 24 Heures Motos has given us a few pluses in terms of managing tyre wear and the way the bike behaves overall. We now have a good bike for Suzuka.”
More on Wednesday 24 July from the first practice sessions of the Suzuka 8 Hours Grand Finale.