Professional rider on closed course competition.

SERT SUZUKI RACE TO 2ND FROM 49TH

April 22, 2006

Reigning World Endurance Champions Suzuki Castrol clawed back from a heavy crash in the first hour to finish runners-up at the Le Mans 24-hour second round in France that finished this afternoon.

The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) of Keiichi Kitagawa, Mathieu Lagrive and Vincent Philippe were only two laps behind winners, National Motors Honda, after 817 laps of racing.

Kitagawa put the GSX-R1000 to the front early on, closely pursued by Suzuki Castrol’s second team, but shortly after his first fuel stop he fell heavily, causing the safety car to be brought out which allowed the Suzuki 2 squad to take the lead.

Suzuki No.1 then began their long climb back through the field from 49th position as the front-running Yamaha Austria team fell behind and then retired from the race with cylinder head problems.

The order remained the same for much of Saturday with Suzuki No.2, Yamaha GMT94 and National Motos Honda filling the top three places until late into the night when GMT94 pitted with an electrical problem. This let the Honda through to second and Suzuki No.1 – who had now climbed to third – ahead of GMT94 and Kawasaki Bolliger.

The order of the race leaders remained static through the night, but dramas continued behind them: Kawasaki Diablo retired with a broken gearbox, Yamaha Phase One with a blown cylinder head gasket, and Suzuki Innodrom with a broken gearbox.

But with just four hours to go, any thoughts of a comfortable run to victory were dashed for Suzuki No.2; they pitted after a crash and eventually retired with machine damage. While Suzuki No.2 were in the pits trying to diagnose the problem, Gary McCoy crashed the GMT94 Yamaha heavily: He managed to limp the bike back to the pits but National Motos Honda took the lead and Suzuki Castrol No.1 moved to second place before GMT94 could rejoin the race.

Said Lagrive: "For me the race was not very easy. With my injured hand I could manage 20 laps ok, but 30 laps was very difficult. This morning I had no sensation in the left hand; it's not possible to ride the bike well with just one hand, but I stayed fast."

SERT Team Manager Dominique Meliand, added: "I didn't worry that the No.1 bike would have the same problem as the other Suzukis; on the No.72 it was a head gasket and for No.72 the problem was changing the forks. For the No.1 bike it was necessary to score the maximum points rather than just having outright speed and going for the win. For No.2 it was different, it was win or nothing."

Provisional Top Ten Finishing Positions:

1: National Motos Honda - FRA - Honda CBR1000RR - Protat, Four, Ribalta - 817 laps
2: Suzuki Castrol - FRA - Suzuki GSX-R1000 - Philippe, Kitagawa, Lagrive - 815 laps
3: Yamaha GMT94 - FRA - Yamaha YZF-R1 - Gimbert, Checa, McCoy - 804 laps
4: Kawasaki Bolliger - SUI - Kawasaki ZX10R - Muff, Saiger, Morillon - 799 laps
5: Infini Team Suzuki - FRA - Suzuki GSX-R1000 - Michel, Tangre, Bocquiet - 793 laps (1st SPR)
6: Suzuki No Limits & RT - ITA - Suzuki GSX-R1000 - Ruozi, Monot, Jond - 789 laps
7: Kawasaki Maccio Racing - FRA - De Rosa, Fremy, Moisin - 788 laps (1st STK)
8: Suzuki Fagersjo-el.se - SWE - Suzuki GSX-R1000 - Hanson, Andersson, Carlberg - 787 laps
9: Suzuki Endurance Moto45 - FRA - Perrerau, Duprez, Briere - 786 laps
10: RMT21 Racing Honda - GER - Honda CBR1000RR - Mizera, Chevre, Steuer - +1.21.018

Information sourced from www.worldendurance.com

For more stories about Keiichi Kitagawa, click here . For photos, click here .
For more stories about Mathieu Lagrive, click here . For photos, click here
For more stories about Vincent Philippe, click here . For photos, click here

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