The Yoshimura SERT Motul team, comprising Sylvain Guintoli, Gregg Black, and Xavier Simeon, has won the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hour last weekend, the result giving the Suzuki team back-to-back wins at the prestigious event. Gregg Black took the opening stint on the number one Suzuki GSX-R1000, going from second on the grid to the victory. We sat down after the finish with Gregg Black to chat about the victorious event.
Gregg, another victory for the books, although you predicted before the race that this year would be harder. Why did you think that?
Yes, I said that at the press conference. The bike proved to be very reliable. The team is fast on the track, we have a very high pace. We knew the Honda TSR was also very fast on this track, therefore the heat was on, and the battle was intense. We needed to push. Right after the start we pushed for three or four stints and, suddenly, we saw nobody behind us. After a while we led by eight to nine laps, and we focused on our own race. Some people say we’re lucky as the SERT is so reliable, and that’s why we win. But there is more needed for that.
You’re saying everybody is expecting you to win as it was taken for granted?
Well, it takes more than just a reliable bike to win. You also need to perform as a rider and a team. People tend to forget we have excellent riders on the bike, we’ve got a good and reliable bike, but above all a fast one! When we need to go fast, we can push. During the race we really had to push on certain moments to prove we’re fast and to keep the lead in the game. It’s about pushing at the right moments and being stable during the rest of the race.
You were really performing strong, putting steady and fast lap times compared to the other teams, and creating a time gap. Can you speed the bike up and down as if it was a volume button?
This comes with my experience: I know when to pace myself. Last year we just needed to finish to win the championship. You learn over the years, and you know the objectives of the team. Clearly, when the objectives are keeping the pace and not doing any mistakes, you respect the team’s goals. This year we respected the given lap times, so 1:37 was our base time for the laps, and then we had to watch the competition. We knew from the test day’s 1:37 was feasible. But you must be relaxed, and feel good in the team, to perform this strong. It’s a combination of many factors that must work together and I feel comfortable in this team.
I noticed you also have a lot of fun…
It’s needed. As the concentration on the track is immense, therefore we need to decompress, and we laugh a lot. That’s also our strength. We all come from different backgrounds and countries, yet we form a real team and collaborate. Of course, we’re opponents as we all want to be the best, but if Xavier has the best lap time of the day, it benefits the team, and I don’t care. That’s the big difference between endurance and superbike racing. There is less ego involved but you do need to push at the right moments.
How much sleep did you get during the last 24 hours and does that affect your focus?
Probably around 40 minutes, divided in 10-minute blocks. We train a lot to be able to do this and we were all very fast this weekend. I made no mistakes, not missing any apexes. Focus is important if you want to win. The same goes for lap times: a few tenths of a second every lap does make a difference in a 24-hour race.
This is the second year of the new Yoshimura Motul SERT team. You have the most experience on this bike. What kind of evolution did you notice since the new partners joined?
The bike came out in 2017 and it was already a great bike coming right out of the crate. We experienced some technical issues, which is normal with a new bike, but step by step we improved the bike. Since Yoshimura and Motul joined, the speed of implementing technical improvements and the parts development went faster. It’s nice to work so close with your technical partners. They think in a different way, approaching problems with a fresh eye. SERT has years of experience to share with us. It’s a very fruitful collaboration between SERT, Yoshimura and Motul. We all listen and learn from each other, which makes it a winning combination.
Motul’s racing oil is lubricating the heart of this GSX-1000R that you are putting all your confidence in. How do you find this partnership?
We need the best products and premium partners to get good results. Motul is a great partner for the team as they make the engines so reliable. The development has been done with the same oils we race with. I spoke to the engine mechanic, and we know the Motul oil is good. It is one of the critical points for us. Besides the technical support they also communicate a lot on the team and the partnership. It’s the combination of support, technical engineering and communication that makes them a such strong partner.