Endurance

Damian Cudlin and BMW Motorrad France Team fall 30 seconds short of World Championship!

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Damian Cudlin and his BMW Motorrad France Team came painfully close to being crowned World Champions for the first time at the final round of the Endurance World Championship in Qatar last weekend but were forced to watch the title slip from their grasp and into the hands of reigning champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.

The season's finale was billed as a title showdown between these two teams and that's exactly what occurred when the pair went head to head in the Qatari desert. Fans witnessed one of the most nail biting endurance races in recent history, where the title of champion remained undecided until the very last lap.

The betting money had been on BMW Motorrad France's line up of Damian Cudlin, Sebastian Gimbert and Erwan Nigon, who completely dominated the weekend's proceedings, topping every practice and qualifying session on their way to a convincing pole position time that shattered the previous record. SERT however looked noticeably shaky in the lead up to the race, losing Japanese rider Daisaku Sakai to injury, then suffering another hard crash from Vincent Phillipe on their way to qualifying a distant 4th.

As the race began in hot and humid conditions, Frenchman Gimbert rode the opening laps cautiously before picking off his rivals with relative ease and moving to an early lead. Gimbert proceeded to pull away from title rivals SERT, however the Yamaha Austria Racing Team substitute Katsuyuki Nakasuga began making the BMW Team nervous as he clung desperately to Gimbert's rear wheel.

The deepest fear of the BMW Motorrad France Team became a reality on lap 12 when the YART rider attempted a desperate overtaking manoeuvre, crashing in the process and taking the innocent Gimbert with him as the pair tumbled into the gravel trap. The BMW box erupted with emotions directly after the incident as Gimbert returned to the pits for substantial repairs.

The crew worked frantically on the #99 machine, as the sums were immediately crunched by the BMW tactical crew. While all hopes of the title seemed to be dashed, the team returned to the track in last position and 3 laps behind new leaders, SERT.

What occurred next shocked most of the EWC paddock, as the BMW trio put on a powerful display of speed and consistency, lapping faster than anyone else for the remainder of the race. The team made an astounding comeback and with just an hour of the race remaining, the "would be champions" caught and passed title rivals SERT and took over 2nd place. It was still not enough though, as they needed to win the race, with SERT 3rd to claim the title, which meant catching race leadersGMT Yamaha, still a full lap ahead. Charged with the final rotor, Nigon put in an incredible performance, shattering the lap record and fighting with every ounce of energy left.

In the end, it just wasn't enough, and the GMTYamaha claimed victory by just 30 seconds. The BMW Motorrad France Team of Gimbert, Nigon and Cudlin finished a close 2nd to the applause of the entire EWC paddock. SERT claimed the final step on the podium and with it the 2011 Endurance World Championship.

"It's obviously disappointing. I don't think anyone could understand what it's like to lose like this unless they've been through it themselves" Cudlin admitted. "We were so close. We did everything right this weekend; we just suffered cruel luck when Nakasuga crashed into us. There are lots of moments that make up a season, but there's no question that Nakasuga's error cost us the world championship. Something like this is pretty hard to take for all of us."

The BMW Motorrad France Team finished just 4 points behind reigning champions SERT who claimed the Endurance World Championship for a record 11th time.

"Even though we're all disappointed right now, I'd like to thank the entire BMW Motorrad France Team for their huge effort this year. My team mates Sebastian and Erwan are the best team mates I could ever ask for, and Michelin have provided us with the best tyres available to anyone. Challenging for the title in our first full season is a great achievement and I think we should be proud of ourselves. I also want to congratulate SERT for claiming the title for the 11th time which is just amazing. I just hope they don't get too attached to the trophy though, coz next year it's ours!" Cudlin grinned.

It's been a busy year for the Aussie which included a full IDM Superbike season, GP development and of course, his MotoGP debut. Looking forward to a well earned break, Cudlin will return home to Taree, Australianext week for the "off season" before returning toEuropeat the end of January for the 2012 racing season.

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