Team Suzuki Press Office – December 23.

Yoshimura SERT Motul Team Director Yohei Kato provides an insight into the team’s incredible EWC World Championship-winning 2021 season.

The 2021 World Endurance Championship was the first year for the new team collaboration between Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) and Yoshimura Japan. The partnership proved to be a winning formula.

Yoshimura was asked by SMC to deliver a project that would continue Suzuki’s dominance of the Endurance World Championship. Yoshimura then chose the 16-time EWC champion SERT as its team management partner. Motul also decided to support the project.

The focus was to build the strongest team in the history of the FIM Endurance World Championship, and there was just one objective … to win!

Team Suzuki Racing (TSR): What did it mean to Yoshimura, at the very beginning, to be such an integral part of the Suzuki Factory team?

Yohei Kato (YK): The relationship between Suzuki and Yoshimura is almost 46 years (since 1976) and it is a big honour that Suzuki has such trust in our racing activities. This year has been the first opportunity for Yoshimura to race in the World Championship series, and we are proud of the fact that we were able to participate as a Suzuki Factory Team.

TSR: How did you and Damien (Saulnier) set about working together?

YK: Damien organised the racing team and the set-up of each race. This included the team member composition and machine maintenance. He always creates a good atmosphere and makes us all feel positive. It’s like being with a family. Everyone has a comfortable feeling and it’s good to spend time together. This was essential for our teamwork.

From our Japanese side, we concentrated on technical matters such as machine development, strategy and settings. I was able to focus on the development because of Damien’s responsibility at his end.

TSR: How did you and your engineers set about fine-tuning an already great Suzuki package?

YK: We tuned the engine to make it more powerful while keeping the chassis smooth. It was very important to make the engine durable for 24-hour races. Furthermore, it was important to consider the workability as well, in case of any trouble.

TSR: How did you feel when you had your first testing session with the team?

YK: Yoshimura has worked with SERT since Bol d'Or 24H in 2019. Everyone welcomed Yoshimura to work with SERT and it was nice to work with them from the beginning of this season.

Regarding the technical side, we had huge confidence when we were able to validate the performance of our Japanese-spec GSX-R1000R at the European circuit. It was competitive enough without big changes.

TSR: How did you feel when Yoshimura SERT Motul won the 24 Heures Motos?

YK: This was my first important race – when the chequered flag was waved, ‘relieved’ is the most suitable word! Everyone in the team was so excited to win it and I realised again how important it was for the EWC team. Media attention was far bigger than I expected – I learnt how valuable it was to win the 24 Heures Motos in France.

TSR: How did you and the whole crew keep positive after Estoril?

YK: We knew we had the speed and performance, so we did not worry so much after the Estoril race. We concentrated on learning from mistakes and confirmed it would not happen again. Team crews are always positive, and it was good that the machine damage was minimal and the riders weren’t injured.

TSR: How did you feel when the team completely dominated the Bol d’Or.

YK: Since the Pre-Test at Bol d'Or, we had confidence. Of course, there was a pressure but again we had a confidence. We knew we were able to win if we didn’t make mistakes, so I strongly felt ‘achieved’ after the race. We got full points from the event, and it really was a perfect result for us.

TSR: How were your stress levels approaching Most?

YK: We understood we would be able to get the championship title if we completed the race. However, it made me nervous, and it was the biggest pressure of the season. Our competitors knew the racetrack, but nobody from YSM, even the three riders, knew the track. We had to learn such things as setting gear ratios and had to study the strategy at this track.

The World Championship was in front of us, and we had to grab it. That is why I was so nervous in the approach to the Most 6 Hour.

TSR: What did it mean to you to win the 2021 EWC title in your first year as full partner with Suzuki.

YK: It was really great that YSM, the Suzuki Factory team was able to show the strong performance of the GSX-R1000R. I was happy to have Suzuki's expectation and trust, and to be able to achieve the best results for the project I was entrusted with.

TSR: What next for the team and Suzuki GSX-R1000R?

YK: Everyone at Yoshimura SERT Motul did a really good job throughout the season. All four riders were brilliant, and their relationship is so good. It would be nice if the whole team could work together again in the 2022 season.

I am sure the championship level will be raised for 2022, however, through our Yoshimura SERT Motul GSX-R1000R development in Japan; we are ready!

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