Endurance racing

EWC: Kawasaki wins dramatic Suzuka 8H race


The Factory Kawasaki team has been classified as the winner of the incident-packed 2019 Suzuka 8H race.

Team Green had a stranglehold on the race as it entered the dying stages, with WSBK riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam putting in strong rides to build up a healthy lead over the Factory Yamaha #21 Yamaha bike and Factory Honda #33 machines.

With minutes to go, Rea was riding the final stint when the rain began to come down, adding more tension to an already close race. And then all hell broke loose as the the #2 SERT Suzuki let go of its engine heading into Turn 3. Instead of leaving the track and pulling off, the Suzuki rider instead chose to stay on the racing line, cruising round the circuit and depositing oil on track, which Rea hit and crashed with just two minutes left on the clock.

The race was red-flagged and Rea was unable to remount, leaving Alex Lowes on the #21 Yamaha to cross the line.

The crash meant nobody knew who had won. TV declared that the #21 Yamaha of Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga had won, yet the official timing at the circuit announced the win had gone to the #10 Kawasaki team of Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu (who did not complete a stint during the race).

After a lengthy wait Race Direction declared that the #21 Yamaha team were the winners as Rea had failed to make it back to parc ferme within the required five-minute window, with #33 Honda second and the #1 FCC TSR Honda squad promoted to third.

However, Kawasaki immediately appealed against the result, arguing that the result should be taken from the last completed lap in the instance of a red flag being shown for a clean-up operation. As Race Direction had declared the result based on those who had made it back to pitlane within the five-minute window, a regulation which doesn’t exist in EWC racing as it does in WSBK and MotoGP, Kawasaki argued that that the result should have been declared based on the finishing order from the last completed lap and the five-minute rule disregarded.

After heated discussions, Race Direction upheld the appeal and the #10 team of Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu (who did not complete a stint during the race) were declared the winners, claiming victory by 18.720 seconds and handing Kawasaki its first Suzuka success since 1993.

Racing – Yamaha enters Factory team in Suzuka 8 Hour race


Yamaha has announced it that it will field a Factory team in this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race, with the Tech 3 duo of Pol Espagaro and Bradley Smith joining Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

This will be the first time since 2002 that Yamaha has fielded a factory team for this prestigious event and the team will ride a factory machine based on the new YZF-R1 and specially developed for competition in the Suzuka 8 Hours.

The news brings an end to the rumours circulating in the paddock that Valentino Rossi was set to compete in the event for Yamaha. It also shows the increasing importance the factories are placing on the race, which has been in the doldrums in recent years.

Pol Espagaro said: ““I am really happy that Yamaha has chosen me to represent them at one of the most famous motorsport events, which is the Suzuka 8 Hour race. I am under no illusion that it will be easy as I have never raced in an endurance event before and I don‘t know the YZF-R1, even though a lot of people speak very highly about it. In addition, the MotoGP calendar is very demanding and we will have to work through the training for the event, in between the races. Therefore, we need to work as much as possible in order to be prepared for the race, but I‘m very excited to get this opportunity. Moreover, it will be nice to work with Bradley as a partner where we will fight together, instead of against each other. I think we will complement each other very well and have a great time. The only thing is that neither of us know the Suzuka track, so I hope Nakasuga-san can help us with everything, which includes the circuit, the bike and the correct strategies that we need to have a successful eight hour race. It will be special and we will do our best to reward the faith that Yamaha has put in us.”

Bradley Smith was equally excited. He said: “I‘m looking forward to trying a new form of motorcycle racing and even more so along with my MotoGP teammate Pol and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who has a strong record at this special race. I think it will be an unforgettable event and it will add another chapter to my life with Yamaha. I‘m also very excited to try the new Yamaha YZF-R1, which I have heard a lot about and it will be really great to finally get the opportunity to ride it. Of course, I will take this event very seriously as we are going to be part of the official Factory Team effort, so I will head to Japan with the full intention of getting a high scoring result for Yamaha.”