The daunting Suzuka Circuit in Ino was the site for the popular annual 8hr endurance motorcycle race and one of the most anticipated events on the Japanese calendar last weekend. Dancing through the fast kinks and curves of the historic layout was some glitterati of the international bike-racing scene with Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Pol Espargaro again heading a cast that also included Yamaha WorldSBK’s Alex Lowes and national Champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga; the Yamaha team as reigning champions again by conquering a sweltering test over 218 laps into the oriental night.
Also clipping curbs in Suzuka was JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam; the Brit taking time away from winning British Superbike races to finish second as part of the Kawasaki ‘Team Green’ squad and less than two minutes and twenty seconds away from the R1-mounted crew.
The Suzuka 8hr counts on almost forty years of history and has surged and dipped in acclaim and appeal during that time without losing any of its prestige, especially for the Japanese motorcycle brands that see the Endurance run as the ultimate test for their Superbike technology.
It was Nakasuga who put the polesitters ahead during the first riding stint and in temperatures over thirty degrees. The recognisable blue machine of the defending winners from 2015 then stretched their advantage when Lowes (new to the line-up and replacing Bradley Smith) climbed onboard, and further still when Espargaro took the first of his two sessions. The works crew also excelled with their pitstop timing. It was Lowes who guided the motorcycle into the dark and created that blur of headlights so distinctive and special of endurance racing.
"Today was the hottest day of the week and it was really hard to ride for everyone,” said Nakasuga who also set the best lap on the R1. “Yamaha did a fantastic job here in the 8 Hours and the bike is brilliant.”
“We really deserved it,” enthused MotoGP star Espargaro. “After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I'm sure Alex will complete the second one next year! I just want to say thanks to Yamaha, to all the people that support this fantastic team.”
“This is the first time I've won this event,” said Lowes. “The whole week for me has been fantastic, it's a totally different experience to my normal racing championship and the atmosphere we have in the team and the relationship we have has been really enjoyable, both on the track and off the track. The feeling you get when you win is fantastic and it's been a couple of years since I've felt that so I'm happy!”
Endurance specialists with world championship pedigree - YART Yamaha EWC - took fourth place with seventy thousand fans looking on and satisfied with their fix of road racing until MotoGP comes to Motegi in October.