Suzuka

EWC: Kawasaki wins dramatic Suzuka 8H race

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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.

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Endurance racing – Yamaha’s dream team claims Suzuka pole

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The Yamaha Factory Racing Team blew away the competition at Suzuka with a stunning 2’06.000 lap on the YZF-R1 to claim a superb pole position for the 38th “Coca-Cola Zero” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race.

Hot and sweaty weather and a slippery track set the scene for qualifying at the legendary eight hours endurance race weekend. Riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith looked competitive during the morning Free Practice session, setting the second fastest time with a 2’08.074s, but didn’t take any risks as the real challenge was yet to come.

The chosen riders for the pole position shoot-out, Nakasuga and Espargaró, stunned the Suzuka crowd in the afternoon’s 8H Top10 Trial. During this session two riders per team are allowed to ride one flying lap each around the technically challenging 5807m Suzuka Circuit to fight for pole position.

Espargaró was the first YFRT rider to hit the clear track and set a hot lap. The Spaniard pushed to the absolute limit, using all his MotoGP experience to set a stunning 2’06.000 lap for provisional pole, which at the time was 1.697s faster than anyone so far.

Then it was local Yamaha hero Nakasuga’s turn to step aboard the YZF-R1. The experienced Japanese rider rode smoothly and aggressively through the twisty section, taking full advantage of the performance of Yamaha’s class leading Superbike to finish with an impressive lap just 0.059s off his teammate.

As none of the competitors were able to drop under the 2’06.2 mark, Espargaró’s incredible 2’06.000 becomes the new Endurance fastest lap at Suzuka, more than six-tenths of a second faster than the previous Endurance Pole Record, as Yamaha looks to end a 19-year drought.

Polesetter Espagaro said: “I feel very happy, because this was a challenge for me and I did not expect this result. We did just one test with Bradley and Nakasuga in the preseason on the dry and we didn’t ride a lot on this track. Bradley was also fast this weekend, his pace was very similar and the same with Nakasuga, he was also very fast.

“Tomorrow we have the big show and it will be difficult, because anything can happen, but we are confident. When I saw my lap time I was a bit surprised because I never tested the softer rear tyre during the tests or this weekend and I never rode in Superpole before with only one lap. Here today we had just one shot and in your mind you’re always checking the lap and thinking of where you could improve something. Maybe I could have improved in the last sector, because I relaxed a little bit and was wary of making a mistake in the chicane.

“When I saw the time I said “come on!”, because it would be difficult for someone to beat it, but when I saw the lap time of Nakasuga-san I was a bit scared, he was also very fast, but I was lucky that I was fast in T1 and this gave me a chance, but Nagasuga was very strong in T4 and I was worried again. I’m happy because I did a good lap time, but Nakasuga was also under the record and Bradley showed good potential over the whole weekend. Our pace is really similar and this is more important than the pole.”