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Learn More About EWC “World Endurance Championship Series”

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The endurance race was started to ascertain the durability of commercial vehicles.

EWC stands for Endurance World Championship and refers to the FIM World Endurance Championship Series hosted by FIM (International Motorcycling Federation). It is an endurance race for road racing that motorcycles raced together competing for speed, and it comprises a series of 5 races a year.

The World Endurance Championship began in 1980. Its history is very old as a motorsport, and the 24 Hours of Bol d’Or race that is the most famous in EWC has been been holding in France since 1922. In particular, motorization was born in Europe at that time, and many motorcycles had been created at places that could be referred to as “small factory in town”. The “race”, which also serves as a test of the durability of the machine, can be said to be the origin of EWC.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans race has a long history as the car race, and motorcycle race has been started in there since 1978. In the same year, the Suzuka 8 Hours was held for the first time in Japan. In 2016, the EWC was held on a cross-year schedule, and Suzuka 8 Hours in Japan is the final race of the series.

EWC and Suzuka 8 Hours

It is not an exaggeration to say that “the most major motorcycle road race in Japan” is Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race, commonly known as Suzuka 8 Hours. Suzuka 8 Hours was first held in 1978, and it has been incorporated as one of the EWC race since 1980.

In the 1980s and early 1990s when it was called the motorcycle boom in Japan, “160,000” visitors were recorded in the final only. The number of visitors was large, and the traffic around the Suzuka circuit was very congested. Many young riders visited to their dreamed place with their motorcycles, and it was so popular that it could be said to be in a jubilant mood at that time. It is still a big event attracting more than 100,000 motorsports fans in the race week.

In 1981, Wayne Michael Gardner, who was discovered the talent by MORIWAKI and got the pole position at the Suzuka 8 Hours, won the ticket to the World. The many riders such as Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Magee also could take to the world stage by successes in Suzuka 8 Hours.

Along with the popularity of the race, four Japanese manufacturers produced machines for endurance race to bet prestige, introduced two or three teams, they colled riders who were active in the World Grand Prix 500cc (now MotoGP) and the Superbike World Championship to win the Suzuka 8 Hours.


▲ The YAMAHA Factory Team fought with a reprint of the YAMAHA TECH21 Team at the 2018-2019 Suzuka 8 Hours.

In 1985, YAMAHA introduced the works machine to the Suzuka 8 Hours race for the first time. Kenny Roberts, who won 3 times world titles and the title of “KING”, and Tadahiko Taira, who had been active in Japan, joined the pair and appeared in the spotlight after receiving sponsorship from a cosmetics manufacturer. It is also new in the memory that YAMAHA works has appeared in the 2018-2019 season Suzuka 8 Hours in a reprint color.

Many Japanese Riders Play an Active Part in EWC

Speaking of the first Japanese rider who won the EWC race, Shigeo Iijima / Shinji Hagiwara, who won the Suzuka 8 Hours, hit directly in 1982 by a typhoon, has marked a name in its history. In addition, Masaki Tokuno, who was paired with Gardner in 1985, Tadahiko Taira, who teamed up with Eddie Lawson in 1990, and Noriyuki Haga, who teamed up with Colin Edwards in 1996, have won the Championship as Japanese riders.

When it comes to the Japanese pairs, Shinichi Ito/Toru Ukawa won the championship in 1997, they played 2 consecutive matches in 1998, and Ukawa won the Championship 3 times after that and became the record holder of Suzuka 8 Hours by a total of 5 wins. Since then, many Japanese riders such as Tadayuki Okada, Daijiro Kato, Kosuke Akiyoshi, Ryuichi Kiyonari, and Katsuyuki Nakasuga got the top of the podium.


▲ In the 2018-2019 season Suzuka 8 Hours intense battle between Nakasuga (front) and Takahashi (back)

In other endurance races, Kiyoichi Tada / Shoichi Tsukamoto / Takahiro Sowa got the 3rd place at Le Mans 24 hours in 1989, and Yasutomo Nagai won the race in 1994 with Christian Salon and Dominic Salon.

In the 2000s, Keiichi Kitagawa won the Le Mans 24 hours in 2004 and the Bol d’Or 24 hours, then joined EWC full participation from 2005 and won the EWC series championship in 2005-2006. This was the first achievement of a Japanese rider. About 6 years later, Yukio Kagayama won the series championship in 2012.


▲ Kagayama with the YOSHIMURA SUZUKI machine at Suzuka 8 Hours in the 2018-2019 season

“Endurance Machine” Testing Manufacturer’s Technical Skills

It is a competition by machines that is modified to endurance race specifications based on supersport marketed by Japan’s KAWASAKI, SUZUKI, YAMAHA, HONDA, German BMW, Italian DUCATI, APRILIA, etc. Most machines are equipped with a 4-stroke 1000cc 4-cylinder engine, and its power is around 200hp.

Durability is required to fight through the tough endurance race, the technical strength of each manufacturer will be proven here (endurance race).


▲ Keep on Riding for 8 Hours or 24 hours. Of course, because it runs at night also, machines have headlights, just like a market model.

In the regulation, there are 2 classes of “EWC class” and “SST class”, the modification range is narrower for SST, so SST machine has a closer spec to the market model. The appearance of the machine is unique to the EWC, and there are lights such as “headlight” that cannot be seen in sprint races.

Customizing unique to endurance races that run at night has also been been making, such as a light-emitting number seal display has been tried in recent years.

Hold Circuit

The 2019-2020 season is scheduled to play in all 5 matches. The opening round: Bol d’or 24 hours, France, September 21, 2019; 2nd round: Sepang 8 Hours, Malaysia, December 14, 2019; 3rd round: Le Mans 24 hours, France, April 18-19, 2020; 4th round: Oschersleben 8 Hours, Germany, June 6, 2020; the final round: Suzuka 8 Hours, Japan, July 19, 2020.

The Malaysian Sepang Circuit, which is familiar by MotoGP, will be held for the first time, and will also serve as one of the tryouts for the Suzuka 8 Hours, and many Japanese teams are expected to participate.

In addition, Spa Francolchamp 24 Hours in Belgium was newly added to schedule in 2021-2020 season.

EWC 2019-2020 season opens! Featuring of the holding circuit!

How Endurance Racing Differs from MotoGP

First of all, the difference between endurance racing and “sprint racing” such as MotoGP and the All Japan Road Race is the starting method.
The sprint race starts from a dummy grid in which 3 machines are arranged in 1 row, while the endurance race arranges machines in 1 row, and when a signal of the start is given, the rider runs over to the machine from the opposite side of the course, and start the engine. This method is called “Le Mans style start”.


▲ In the traditional “Le Mans style start”, the riders had to run to their machine, ride, start the engine and begin the race.

▲ The sprint race such as MotoGP is the method to start after aligning while straddling on the motorcycle.

Since the race time is long, refueling is essential, and tires are also changed accordingly. Moreover, a quick release mechanism (EWC class only; SST class not available) has been installed for a quick tire replacement.

The fuel capacity is also determined with maximum 24 liters, and the fuel port is also decided to have a maximum until 2 ports. In the near future, it will be unified to 1 port, but so far 2 port has become the mainstream.
Gasoline is refueled by a special instrument that allows 24 liters of gasoline to be refuel in less than 3 seconds. It is surprising how fast it is if you imagine refueling at a gas station. Of course, the fuel tank is also devised for filling gasoline faster, and it is very different from the tank structure of the OEM fuel tank.

It is designed in various parts to finish the pit work as soon as one second and send out the rider.


▲ The silver cylinder that the mechanic has is designed to supply fuel at once.

In the sprint race, only one rider is allowed, but in the Endurance Race, 2 to 3 riders alternate to ride 1 motorcycle and aim for the goal of 8 hours or 24 hours ahead. The 3 riders’ way of riding, the preference of the machine set, and the compatibility of positions such as handlebar and footpeg are also important factors, and one of the highlights will be the so-called “total team power clashing” that the team crew members support the rider.

The longer the race, the more often the weather changes. “When will the tires be replaced?”, “When should I refuel?”, “How much is the gap (time difference) between the rival team?”, “How much is the speed difference between the 3 riders?”…

There is also a scene where the safety car enters if there is an accident. How do you judge the pit on various occasions? The decision of the team as a team director is also questioned. It is an endurance race in which various elements intertwine rather than sprint races. Please pay attention to the EWC with its intense appeal!

Webike staff

Webike staff

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Webike Moto News Editor

Our mission is to look for unique and valuable news that are from Japan and Asia related to motorcycles and publish to the world. "Webike staff" is name of a team who edit, translate and draft the articles we publish that are brought from all our branches around the world. Not all of our employees ride motorcycle, but find worth living to bring reader say "wow".
 

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