On Sunday, July 28 11:30am local time the 42nd edition of the 8 hours of Suzuka began - even in the face of a predicted typhoon. No less than sixty six machines set off from the grid ready for a World Championship final which promised to be thrilling throughout.
A dry track start for this most physical event of the year saw Erwan Nigon achieve an excellent start and hold a promising 9th place. A short-lived performance because after only 18 minutes of racing the safety car was on track between the team’s chief rival for the title and the famous #11 Ninja machine. The second incident for the #11 in the first phase of the race was the unfortunate fall of Nigon at the chicane when he temporarily lost front grip.
At half race the three riders were proving strong and competitive amongst illustrious company . No major issues were reported for David Checa, Erwan Nigon and Jérémy Guarnoni who performed their allotted tasks perfectly. Whilst at the mercy of refueling stops the #11 oscillated between 17th and 14th position.
For Suzuka, the customary retirements and stoppages did not feature as much this year making the SRC Kawasaki France riders’ opportunity catch up to the top ranking very challenging indeed. Endurance can be cruel to some when it delivers unexpected - or unasked for - good fortune to others. Likewise, in a surprising final once again, the French based team captured the 2019 World title due to the engine failure of their main rival….. at 7:55 race time – just 5 minutes from the finish!
The team of Gilles Stafler were then “virtually world champions”, yet with a handful of minutes left the scene was of nervous anguish. David Checa piloting the bike redoubled his efforts focusing on avoiding any last second issues; hard as there was not just overnight rain left on the track surface but oil from a rivals blown engine. The last moments of the race seemed like an eternity for the friendly Calatalan rider. However, it did liltle to disrupt the very experienced pilot of the #11 Ninja ZX-10RR who burst into tears of emotion after the checkered flag had been waved to signify race end.
David Checa: "This finish is indescribable, what a sensation! I tried to contain my tears but sorry, I can not do it. The emotions were too intense, my joy is all the stronger as I went through moments of doubt lately but tonight with my teammates Jeremy and Erwan, we are world champions! I cannot thank enough Kawasaki and Gilles Stafler for this unforgettable season!"
Understandably there is real pride among the team for whom this title could not be won without the considerable investment of Kawasaki Motors France and all the sponsor partners who can never be thanked enough.
The SRC Kawasaki France team are now 2018/2019 Endurance World Champions. And, somewhat appropriately, the #11 finishes at position number 11 just 1 lap from the top 10 after 8 grueling yet ultimately glorious hours.