BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent achieved one of its main goals at the “Suzuka 8 Hours” but leaves Japan with mixed emotions. The prestigious race marked the third round of the 2012 FIM Endurance World Championship. The BMW Motorrad HP RaceSupport backed squad was determined to reduce the gap to the Championship leaders and fulfilled this mission. However, lady luck deserted the team and riders Sébastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon (both FRA) and Damian Cudlin (AUS) in the closing stages of the race, meaning that they were denied a much bigger success, namely the historic first podium finish for a European manufacturer at Suzuka and the overall lead in the Endurance World Championship.
The “Suzuka 8 Hours” is the most important motorcycle race in Japan. The competition is extremely strong, as the Japanese manufacturers field full factory machines and prominent international rider line-ups in order to claim this prestigious victory. Last year, BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent impressed with a sensational fourth place in this strong field of competitors. This year, an even bigger success was within reach for the French-Belgian squad.
Starting from 11th on the grid, the #99 BMW S1000RR improved position by position. When the race entered the final hour, the BMW Team took over second place behind the leading Honda and looked certain to secure a podium and take the lead in the championship standings as a result. But with 40 minutes to go, the #99 RR had to pit with an electrical issue, which the team did not have time to remedy in the time remaining. Instead, Sébastien Gimbert had to do his best and fight hard in the closing stages on a bike that was now 20 seconds off the pace of the leaders. He managed to hold on to ninth place until the finish. With this result, the team closed the gap on Championship leaders SERT to 13 points with two more races to come. Round four of the 2012 Endurance World Championship, the “8 Hours of Oschersleben” (GER) will take place from August 9-12.
“Once again we are reminded that racing has its highs, but it also has its lows,” Team Principal Michael Bartholemy commented. “We came so close to a remarkable result, but it just wasn’t to be. All three riders and everyone in the team did an outstanding job this weekend and, had we not had some bad luck right at the end of the race, we’d have been celebrating a historic podium here. I want to say thank you to every single one of the team, to BMW and to Michelin, for all their hard work and commitment this weekend. We closed the gap on the leaders. Next time out at Oschersleben, I hope we can close the gap further with a win for BMW at home.”
“I have experienced the biggest disappointment of my career so far,” said Erwan Nigon. “To finish second at Suzuka behind a full factory bike, ridden by the likes of Jonathan Rea, Kosuke Akiyoshi and Tadayuki Okada, would be like a victory for us, but it wasn’t to be. The team did a great job and we rode a near perfect race for seven-and-a-half hours, only to lose out to a minor electrical problem within sight of the checkered flag. Unbelievable. Sébastien did a brave ride at the end to salvage ninth position and the all-important championship points.”
“A podium finish at Suzuka is something that you dream about as a rider, something that you’ll be boring your kids with for years, so I’m devastated to have got close enough to taste it only to miss out in the last 40 minutes,” Damian Cudlin added. “We rode a textbook race, made no mistakes and we were in sight of the podium when I came in to hand over to Seb for the final run. We knew there was something wrong as soon as he started the bike and he was straight back in after one lap. There wasn’t time to start pulling the bike apart, so he went back out. However, he brought it home in the top 10, when I was convinced we weren’t even going to finish.”
“It is not easy to find the right words after a race like that,” said Berthold Hauser, Head of BMW Motorrad HP RaceSupport. “The team was so close to pulling off the great sensation in Suzuka. The fact that they were denied by a minor issue, which had never occurred before, is a bitter pill to say the least. The team fought bravely and the 12 points they scored are important. We must now look ahead. We still have two important races in this season’s World Championship, which the team will tackle with our assistance. Every single person will do their very best. The battle for the title is still on and the team is due its share of good luck.”