Last Saturday, GMT 94 became the first European team to reach the podium of 8 Hours of Suzuka since 1984. The #94 R1 is the first Yamaha to accomplish that feat since 2003. Kenny Foray succeeds Alex Vieira and Dominique Sarron, last French riders to reach the podium at the 8 Hours of Suzuka, in 1990. As for David Checa, is now the second Spaniard, after brother Carlos, to hoist one of the coveted trophies at this prestigious race. With the big factories racing at home, the numerous Japanese riders for whom it is the ultimate goal, and the regular participation of Grand Prix riders, the “Eight Hours” is a special race indeed. The intense heat, the fast, technical course, longest on the world circuit, and its location in the middle of a large amusement park add a magical dimension to the atmosphere only found in Japan.
Due to the absence of teammate Matthieu Lagrive, recovering from elbow surgery, David Checa and Kenny Foray were prepared to take on the difficult challenge of completing the race with only two riders. After starting from the 15th spot on the grid, David got into a good rhythm early and quickly moved into to the 10. After a few laps, however, debris from another rider’s fall damaged the rear tire, forcing David to pit in early. Kenny reentered the race and 35th place. From that point on, the 94 Yamaha encountered no further difficulties.
After four hours of racing, our R1 had fought its way back to 7th place, and was battling with a group of three top teams for 5th place. Taking advantage of incidents with some of the leading bikes, we then found ourselves in a battle for 3rd place in the final stages of the race. David Checa was involved in a spectacular race to the finish against Ozamu Deguchi on the 01 bike, which kept the spectators on the edge of their seats. In the end, David and Kenny earned a well-deserved spot the podium alongside SBK and GP stars Jonathan Rea and Okada, among others.
David Checa: "With Yamaha and Christophe, I won Le Mans, the Bol d’Or and the world championship. This feels just as big. My team was fantastic. I always knew where we were on the track. I knew when to push it, when to manage the race. They were perfect. And many thanks to Michelin, my Yamaha R1, and Kenny without whom this result would not have been possible. Congratulations to Jonathan Rea and his team on their victory.”
Kenny Foray: "Today is one of the best days of my life. Our teammate Matthieu Lagrive couldn't be here because of injury and I had to work really hard to complete all my relays. I am very happy. Thanks to my team, Yamaha, Michelin and all our partners for their support. This is a crazy day. Thank you David for giving everything during the final relay. I don't know what else to say."
Christophe Guyot: "Today, we had luck on our side. Everything went well. But behind this podium, there is a real technical and human performance. The Yamaha R1 once again proved its great potential. Congratulations to Michelin for a well-deserved pole position record and podium. Thanks to the Japanese people for their hospitality, and Yamaha Japan for welcoming us like a factory team. With this feat today, David and Kenny are now part of Suzuka history, and even more so that of the world endurance championship. We now look forward to seeing Matthieu Lagrive soon and sharing this experience with him."