Suzuka 8hr

Endurance racing – Yamaha Factory Racing Team writes history with third consecutive Suzuka victory


The Yamaha Factory Racing Team wrote an incredible page in the endurance racing history after taking their third consecutive win at the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours.

It was a double celebration for the manufacturer as the The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team secured the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship title after a strategic race performance.

The race itself saw lead rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga initially swallowed by the lead pack into Turn One as the race got underway, but the experienced test rider quickly began fighting his way back to the front to sit just behind the #634 bike going into the second lap. Never more than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds behind, the hunt ran on until Lap 16 when the local hero took the lead briefly before hitting heavy traffic with backmarkers and some light rain on parts of the track.The first hour was soon up and Nakasuga returned to the pits to hand the YZF-R1 over to teammate Alex Lowes.

The British rider was quick to get up to pace and was soon leading a highly competitive pack by a little over a second. Hard work saw that build to nearly four seconds before it was time to hand over to the team’s third rider, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman put his head down and was working hard to maintain the lead built by Lowes when disaster struck for the chasing #634 bike, giving the Yamaha Factory Racing Team a big time gap at the front.

From then on, the trio were never troubled by the competition, keeping up their dominant weekend-long pace and building up to a lap clear of the rest of the pack by the end of the race. Lowes took the honour of the last hour’s ride, slightly calmer than his previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 2:07.943 with a 2:07.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 2:06.932 lap.The factory YZF-R1 crossed the line in first to the delight of the thousands of Japanese race fans present, writing a historic page in the endurance racing book with the second ever consecutive triple race win by one team in the history of the race. Nakasuga added to the honours by becoming the first Japanese rider to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row.

Alex Lowes said: “I’m really happy to win the Suzuka 8 Hours again, it’s a fantastic event. I was a little bit nervous in the last hour; because these two guys did a fantastic job, we had a little bit of a lead which makes you a little bit more nervous because it’s easy to lose your concentration. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team did a fantastic job, I really enjoyed the bike, I enjoyed the experience again and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to do it again!”

The GMT94 Official EWC Team started the eight-hour race from 15th on the grid with Niccolò Canepa lining up for the Le Mans dash to the #94 YZF-R1. The Italian started climbing through the order just 30 minutes into the race despite the less-than-ideal conditions with intermittent rain falling in sections of Suzuka Circuit’s west course.

The Italian then came in for the first pit stop, passing the bike to his veteran teammate David Checa, who kept up the pace set in the first hour.As the hours wound down, the French team were able to reel off consistent laps in the 2’10s as they focused not on winning the race, but on controlling the point difference to their championship title rivals.Third team rider Mike Di Meglio made a strong impression on his Suzuka debut in the Endurance World Championship, bringing the team as high as eighth before a 30-second stop-and-go penalty relegated them back to 11th.

This was still well ahead of their main title rivals, however, and the team carried on with their strategy and focused on maintaining their pace. As evening fell on the track, Checa went out for the final stint, coming in for a brief pit stop before taking the checkered flag and clinching the Endurance World Championship title, the third one to the team’s name.


Racing – Haslam to ride for ‘Team Green’ at Suzuka 8 Hour


Two time Suzuka 8 Hour winner Leon Haslam will be spearheading Kawasaki’s assault on the prestigious title, joining Akira Yanagawa and Kazuki Watanabe to form a formidable line-up in Kawasaki’s Official ‘Team Green’ World Endurance line-up for the historic race.

Haslam will take a break from fighting for the BSB title to travel to Japan for the race in July (Friday 29th – Sunday 31st) and will take part in three official tests in Japan leading up to the race aboard the Ninja ZX-10R.

Haslam, who won the iconic race in both 2013 and 2014, is delighted to be competing again this year, and said: “I’m very pleased to have been selected to race in the three-man Kawasaki team and I’m really looking forward to the race and going back to Suzuka.

“I’ve been comfortable on the ZX-10R since I started testing for the BSB season on it and I will have raced on it at six British Superbike rounds by the time Suzuka arrives so I’ll have had plenty of time aboard the machine.”

After seven consecutive years in WSBK for Honda, BMW and Aprilia, Haslam has returned to the British Superbike Championship to ride for Kawasaki UK’s Official British Superbike team, JG Speedfit Kawasaki.

Ross Burridge, Kawasaki UK senior racing and marketing co-ordinator, said: “It is great to see a call up from the Official Kawasaki Suzuka team for one of our British Superbike riders, it shows the pedigree of racing we currently have in the UK domestic series. After the recent success for Leon at this race, it makes perfect sense for him to try and achieve a hat-trick of wins. I, along with everyone else at Kawasaki Motors UK, wish him the best of luck.”

The first Suzuka 8 Hour race ran in July 1978; this year celebrates the 39th 8 Hour event.

Suzuka 8hr – Yamaha ends 19 year drought


The Yamaha Factory Racing Team went above and beyond all expectations at the Suzuka Circuit, riding the new YZF-R1 to a phenomenal victory at the 38th Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race.

Riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith gave an outstanding performance in the hottest and most challenging conditions of the weekend, earning Yamaha its first victory in this event in 19 years and its fifth in the race’s history.

Losing a couple of positions from pole, first rider Nakasuga was quick to carve his way to the front as he chased down the race leaders. By lap three he had climbed up to sixth and kept the pressure on. He made his move as one by one the competitors went into the pits, showing the incredible potential of the YZF-R1 when he dropped a stunning 2’08.496s on his sixth lap, the fastest laptime of the race. Nakasuga was scheduled to come in after 25 laps but completed an extra two before heading in as the race leader and handing the YZF-R1 to Smith.

The British rider re-entered in third position, but soon moved up when the race leader crashed out of the race. Smith then had to deal with two separate safety car stints before finally taking the front a little more than two hours into the race.

It was then Espargarò’s turn to shine. The Spaniard had been consistently fast all weekend and didn’t disappoint, and both he and Nakasuga created a comfortable margin before it was time for Smith to ride again.

He was only able to complete a few laps before being called in for a 30 second ‘Stop and Go’ penalty for Espargaró having passed under a yellow flag.

The penalty cost them a position but it wasn’t long before Smith was back in first place and building a healthy gap before handing the bike over to Espargaró for a second time.

He and Nakasuga gave their all in their final riding stints before handing over to Smith for the last leg. The Brit’s final ride of the race was far from simple as a third safety car caused some last-minute tension. Smith was again able to manage the situation perfectly and rode his factory Yamaha YZF-R1 through the last corner to the deafening sound of cheering from the many thousand race fans as he took the chequered flag with a 1’17.411s advantage.

Smith was ecstatic to have guided the R1 to the top step of the podium. He said: “Since Tuesday night I went back to my hotel room and felt loaded up with pressure . We stood in front of all the Yamaha staff and mister Kimura and everyone who works inside the factory. We stood on the stage in Iwata and promised that we would come back and give our best and we promised them a first place and we definitely to potentially fail, but we had a great bike and teammates.

“We had only one small mistake during the race, which in the end was no problem at all. With the speed and the pace that my teammates were able to do, we were able to overcome it. It’s very special, the 60th anniversary for Yamaha, they are leading the MotoGP championship, but second to that was a focus to on the Suzuka8H and I’m glad that we were able to show the true potential of this bike and give them that victory after 19 years that they very well deserve.”

Racing – Stoner to make sensational Suzuka 8hr race return?


It seems that 2015 could be the year of the comeback with rumours gaining momentum that former MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner is set to sensationally come out of retirement and ride for Honda in this year’s Suzuka 8hr race.

The move would mark a stunning U-turn for Stoner who turned his back on racing and hung up his leathers at the end of the 2012 season after growing increasingly disillusioned with the direction MotoGP was heading. However, since retiring Stoner has continued to enjoy good relations with Honda and is HRC’s official MotoGP tester.

And now reports have surfaced in Italy claiming that Stoner has expressed an interest in making a one-off race appearance at Japan’s showcase event.

The move begins to make sense when you consider that many of Honda’s key Suzuka riders have defected in recent years – Rea, Haslam and Kiyonari – and the fact that Stoner has already tested this year’s Suzuka CBR1000 Fireblade package during Honda’s private MotoGP test in Sepang adds substantial fuel to the fire.

Watch this space…