Niccolò explains how the endurance championship has grown in terms of its competitiveness: "Riders coming from SBK and the world championship are raising the bar in a series that is no longer reserved to specialists"
Niccolò Canepa is very good at managing all his roles, as different but complementary as they are. The 32-year old Italian is a Yamaha test rider, works as a coach for the SBK team riders and, as we know, successfully competes in Endurance, flying the Iwata flag of course.
A chat soon turned into an interview, Nic always willing and careful to explain every concept: “WorldSBK and Endurance are both challenging, though different in terms of concept. With the first, the bike are prepared according to basic specifications, the minimum necessary for speed races, almost sprint races if compared to the endurance racing. Razgatlioglu and Locatelli’s R1 bikes are personalised to Toprak and Andrea with their dedicated seat, footpeg and semi-handlebar position. The team YART R1 on the other hand must suit three team-mates who often different in terms of height, weight and measurements. So you have to find a compromise”.
So you adapt basically.
“Yes, it’s not a massive problem, but you have to get used to it. The R1s also differ in terms of certain technical details. Like, with the tank, the radiator, and then the Endurance version has lights of course, seeing as the racing also goes on in the dark. When the SBK races in Qatar, it does so under the floodlights, which make night seem like day".
Have you ever been scared in the dark?
“Scared no, but you need to... pay attention. Sometimes you only realise how fast you’re going when you look at the data on the dash, otherwise it’s like being in a cocoon, unreal. Unless you’re passing a much slower bike. The strips of light that intersect are lethal and so you become aware of your speed, both on the straight and through the turns".
Which is more competitive, SBK or Endurance?
Canepa’s probably been asked this question many times before, but we ask it anyway: “You can’t really compare them – the Italian muses. Both are very high-level championships. The riders of course, but also the teams. The squads competing in endurance are in no way inferior to top SBK teams, quite the contrary. Some Endurance teams, especially the Japanese teams competing in the Suzuka 8 Hours, have everything a motorsport team could ask for. Anyway, the Endurance level has risen in recent years, and the lap times back this up”.
Why is that?
“I think it’s ‘thanks’, if we can say that, to track riders. In recent seasons, Endurance has welcomed riders from Superbike, Supersport and the world championship. Each of them had to adapt of course, but the competition has raised the bar more than once. Remember the likes of Rea, Van Der Mark, Alex Lowes, Pol Espargarò, Roberto Rolfo and... me. Given our motivation and background, I think we help raise the value of the Endurance, a championship that always fields very strong specialists".