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Suzuka 8 hour 2018 at Japan
NEWS

Yamaha create history at prestigious Suzuka endurance race

Jul 302018

The 41st Suzuka 8 hours is again growing as a dramatic and unique spectacle and the frantic dash around one of Japan’s most epic race circuits from 11.30am Sunday until the early hours of the evening produced more fantastic scenes from some of the biggest stars in the game.

Although Suzuka forms part of the FIM Endurance World Championship it is also internationally recognised as the most famous stop on the slate; where the Japanese factories tussle for spoils, bragging rights and honour on the Honda-owned motorsport stage. Resources, effort and notable names are pulled from across the world to tackle the riding shifts around the fast layout. The 2018 edition again counted on a boosted entry from reigning champions Yamaha (WorldSBK’s Alex Lowes and Michael Van Der Mark along with Katsuyuki Nakasuga), the most successful WorldSBK athlete ever in Jonathan Rea (teaming up early with 2019 KRT recruit, friend and British Superbike star Leon Haslam) and young hotshots like BSB starlet Bradley Ray (Suzuki). As well as other names like MotoGP’s Taka Nakagami and U.S. SBK racer PJ Jacobsen.

Heat, humidity and the proximity of a typhoon(!) meant the conditions were not easy, particularly for Europe’s Superbike campaigners who were able to consider the Suzuka challenge thanks to a six-week break in the SBK calendar.

Come Sunday and the 8hr could not have been more of a mixed bag. Bouts of rainfall meant difficult stages of grip and long stints with the safety car on track also disrupted the flow of the race. Kawasaki experienced a fuel pump problem – technical issues being one of the constant obstacles of an event that is well over eight times longer than a traditional SBK chase run at the same pace – and Rea also had a slow speed crash as he tried to round the last stages of a particularly wet Suzuka lap on slicks.

“It was a very, very difficult race we had so many different conditions thrown at us and things we were not prepared for,” #1 said.

Against the odds it was the R1 Yamaha mounted team that again prevailed. Lowes and ‘VDM’ soldiered through and kept consistent to set their fourth consecutive milestone on Japanese soil: a record.

 

“I really enjoy coming here, the atmosphere we have in the team is really great,” said 3-times victor Lowes. “It was nice to have a strong fast bike; it made it easier to overtake in the race, so a massive thank you to Yamaha for giving it to us. Obviously the race was quite stressful at times, lots of safety cars and lots of difficult weather conditions but it all seemed to fall into place when Michael was riding the bike. I certainly had an easier race than him, so a massive thank you to him for his effort. In the second half of the race we just had to be smart and get the bike to the finish. For me to win three in a row is fantastic, it’s four for the team and three for me so I‘m really happy.”

 

“It‘s was a really tough race today, it started yesterday when we knew that Nakasuga was unfortunately not fit to ride, then I was told I was going to start the race, that was a bit stressful!” smiled Dutchman Van Der Mark. “I think it has been my most difficult Suzuka 8 Hours with all the conditions, it kept changing so quickly. At the end we managed a nice gap and Alex finished it off really well. I‘m really happy with the weekend, the team had a plan and they never changed it. Even though some other bikes looked stronger at times we always kept doing our thing and the results are clear.”

A late push from Honda meant Kawasaki had to continue the search for lap-times and eventually finished on the podium for the second year in a row. “I am really happy and I gave a big effort and myself, Leon, Kazuma and the all the team fell short; the chips just did not fall our way this year and congratulations to Yamaha and Honda,” said Rea. “It just didn’t happen for us but we proved our speed which I am really happy about. I just want to thank my team mates, they did a really good job in a difficult race”.

 

All the work and worry around the 2018 Suzuka 8hr now subsides and world championship obligations occupy the focus of the main protagonists once more. Again the spectacle has gathered eyeballs and raised curiosity and it won’t be long before more flagship names of the motorcycle racing community will be signing up for ’19.

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