Guy Martin and Pete Boast raced the Team Classic Suzuki Katana to a hard-earned seventh placed finish at Spa Francorchamps for the second round of the European Classic Endurance Championship, the pairing completing 56 laps in four hours of racing in inclement weather around the iconic 4.4mile Belgian circuit.
It was the first time Martin had ridden at the circuit, and the first time Boast had ridden the bike, and as such practice and qualifying was spent getting both riders comfortable, experimenting with different setups including different gearing and suspension settings, and altering the fuelling.
As the rain that had been falling all day continued to soak the circuit, the team were lined up to start from 12th on the grid. Martin ran across the track for the opening stint, and after just a handful of laps he was up to third. He started to drop back in the latter stages of his first run, and was in seventh place as he pitted for the first time and Boast took the reigns.
The former British and European flat track champion’s opening run wasn’t without its problems, and with his helmet already damp from the earlier warmup session he struggled with his visor fogging up. However, he pressed on with his 40-minute run, posting consistent and competitive lap times, holding eighth place at the second pit-stop.
As night fell the team continued to circulate well inside the top-10, and with the help of efficient pit-stops and refuelling, they were able to settle into seventh place, holding the position for most of the final hour.
Any hopes of catching sixth were dashed when the safety car came out half an hour before midnight, with oil down along the back straight. The race was eventually red-flagged with 20 minutes to go, just as Boast was preparing for his final stint, and the team were credited with seventh place.
Guy Martin, “The red flag was the only decision. Lots of oil down, a lot of oil down. I nearly came off on it, and on a wet track, how were they going to clean that? Really good fun though.
“It’s been one big learning process, from everyone’s side; for me, for the team, for Pete. We had to learn how the stops were going to work, how the bike works in the wet, and when the dark came we struggled a bit with the lights, so there are lessons learnt there. The hardest part was probably knowing how hard to push, and where the limit is. You don’t get any warnings in those sorts of conditions and it’s a long way back to the pits from some parts of this track if you go down.
“But I’m happy. You always think you could have done better and I made a few daft mistakes, but no one crashed, we finished, and the team did a mega job. It’s been really good craic.”
Pete Boast, “We were going into the unknown really, with those conditions, and it was the first time the bike had done that sort of distance and first time it’d been out at night.
“I was pleased Guy did the start and he did an absolute sterling job. He just knuckled down, typical Guy Martin – if the bloke can ride 24 hours on a push bike you know he’ll dig in. He got us in a really good place early on and when I got the bike I felt a little bit of pressure, but I turned in some good laps. I had a bit of a problem with my visor but Guy went back out and did another top job, and then it started to get dark and we did struggle with the lights. But as I say, this has all been new for the team and we know where we need to improve.
“We came into this thinking if we could qualify in the top-20 we’d be happy, and if we finished in the top-10 we’d be made up, and we’re seventh, and when you look at some of the teams out there, we’ve got to be happy with that.”
Suzuki GB’s Tim Davies, “What an excellent event and a brilliant race. We can’t praise Guy, Pete, or the team enough; they did a fantastic job out there and in some pretty terrible conditions.
“We came here to have a good race and give the Katana a proper run-out, and to go on to finish in the top-1o is a great achievement and something we’re really pleased with. But more importantly we came here to enjoy the event and soak up the atmosphere. There are some stunning bikes here and we’ve raced against some great teams and good people, and despite the weather everyone was out watching the racing and cheering the riders on from the grandstands. It’s been superb, and I also need to thank Pete from B&B Motorcycles for his support with the event, too.
“We’ve learned a lot this weekend about endurance racing, and we’d very much like to come back next year and have another go.”