Nowland and Cudlin in good shape for 24-hour
With the Endurance World Championship's biggest event, the Suzuka 8 Hours, now over for another year, all the attention will now turn to Germany this weekend for the title's toughest gathering -- the 24-hour at Oschersleben.
The 24-hour, now in its seventh year, is the quintessence of "endurance", and places an absolute premium on machine preparation, pit work, concentration and skill, with just a little bit of luck thrown into the mix. And, just to add to this year's intrigue, the long-range weather forecast has factored in the possibility of thunderstorms!
Australians Warwick Nowland and Damian Cudlin and Britain's Andi Notman will compete at Oschersleben for the British-based Yamaha Phase One Endurance (YZF-R1). It's an event that Nowland, a two-time world endurance champion, loves competing in, especially since it's now the centerpiece of the German "Speedweek" festival.
"Not only is Speedweek a festival, it is the most important race in the 2005 Endurance World Championship," said Nowland. "I love coming to Oschersleben, but Phase One is here to do one thing - win the race.
"It has been a difficult year with very few races for the team to develop and improve our bike, but after our test here in June and our race at Suzuka, we are in pretty good shape."
Phase One, which finished second in the 2003 24-hour, the same year it won the last of its three world titles, is third in this year's standings on 37pts, behind Yamaha Austria Racing Team (Igor Jerman, Gwen Giabbani, Horst Saiger, 46) and Suzuki Castrol (Keiichi Kitagawa, Vincent Philippe, Matthieu Lagrive, 74).
Phase One jumped two championships spots at Suzuka, but now realises that the spectre of double points at Oschersleben must see them post a top-two position to keep its championship hopes alive.
"Our main goal this weekend is to gain maximum points and close the gap to Castrol Suzuki," said Nowland. "Yamaha Austria is also a big threat and will be hard to beat after being supported this season with technical and human resources from last year's world championship-winning team, GMT94 Yamaha.
"My goal is to improve our bike's traction. This is our biggest problem. We have been equal to, or better than, the other bikes in all areas except for drive of the corners. This also affects our tyre wear and makes life difficult after 10 or 12 laps. I spoke with Yamaha last weekend at the world Superbike round at Brands Hatch, and this is an area under revision for the 2006 model."
Since 2001, teams that have finished first or second at Oschersleben have gone on to win the world championship. Nowland was second in 2002, the year he won his second title on a Chinese-entered Suzuki.
Last year's 24-hour was won by the now-defunct GMT94 squad, ahead of two other Yamaha collaborations. In fact, the last non-Yamaha team to win was Suzuki in 2001, with Kawasaki victorious in the preceding two years.
This year's race will see 11 separate manufacturers in action, including entries from KTM (Super Duke), BMW (K1200 S and K1200 R), MZ (1000S), Triumph (Daytona 955) and Aprilia (RSV1000 and RSVR Tuono). The race starts at 3.00pm on Saturday.
For more information on the 2005 Endurance World Championship, visit www.worldendurance.co.uk/