-- Cudlin's 24-Hour Journey
Australia’s Alex Cudlin made his race debut for legendary World Endurance
Championship outfit Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) at the weekend’s Le Mans
24 Hour alongside regular team riders Vincent Philippe and Julien Da Costa.
Cudlin signed at the start of the year as reserve rider for current world
champions SERT, and was again looking likely to spend the 24 Hour on the
sidelines until full-time rider Anthony Dehalle suffered a broken tibia and
fibula in a practice crash on Tuesday.
Cudlin acquitted himself well to the task, helping SERT to pole position as they
tried to retain their World Endurance Championship title for a 13th time.
It all started well for SERT with team rider Vincent Phillipe shooting into the
lead off the start. But their joy was short-lived with Phillipe crashing early
in his stint and badly damaging the #1 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Frantic repairs in the pits followed in which the team only lost an amazing two
laps, however the crash had caused a stone to become jammed between the swingarm
and the engine, and two laps later had worked its way through the cases and
caused a severe oil leak. Again the world championship-leading GSX-R was back in
the pits, and again the team repaired the damage.
What later became known was the oil leak caused the engine to overheat, which in
turn warped the cylinder head. Incredibly, the team decided to completely
dismantle the engine - while it was still boiling hot - and rebuild it from top
to bottom including new cylinder head losing 79 laps in the repairs. with just
22 hours to go, SERT was back in the race.
The championship looked gone at this stage. But no one told SERT this, and for
the rest of the race not only did no more problems fall their way, but they
picked off the teams in front one by one to eventually finish 12th in class and
collect eight points, enough to seal their 13th World Endurance Championship.
Alex Cudlin: What an amazing race. Physically it was ok - as much as a 24 hour
race can be - but the stresses of the crashes and the resulting problems made
the event very tough.I was first out on the bike after the cylinder head swap,
so that was a bit nerve wracking, but the team was so inspirational in that they
simply refused to give up, so we just got on with the job.
I was extremely honoured to be asked to ride the final stint to take the
chequered flag - crossing the line, knowing the team were again world champions
and knowing I played an integral role in that outcome rates as one of the top
highlights of my career - it's a moment to tell the grandkids about.” Said
Team Manager Dominique Méliand was also full of praise - "We are happy and
disappointed because I wanted it all. I wanted to win the title and the race! I
started out in Endurance in 1969 and I have learned that you must never give up.
The crew were just great. When I said we would have to take the engine out to
fix a cylinder head seal, no one said a thing even though we weren't sure it
would work. But it held for over 22 hours!. Once the bikes were repaired, my 3
riders just rode faultlessly. Calculated and fast with no mistake. It was
perfect. I’m so happy to win our 13th World Championship!" Said Meliand
Cudlin also has his eye on staying with the team in 2014 - “I'm so pleased to be
able to ride for SERT - they are so professional, so dedicated to winning and I
would love to continue with them into the future.
"I will have my 2014 race plans finalised in the coming weeks, and I hope to
stay a part of the SERT family.” Said Cudlin