-- Honda men win Suzuka
-- HRC Report
Honda claimed a classic fourth win in a row at a tense and dramatic Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8-hour Endurance Road Race – finishing less than a lap ahead of their nearest rivals after building an ultimately unassailable lead before rain struck with barely 30 minutes remaining.
The MuSASHi RT HARC PRO Honda CBR1000RR ridden by Japan’s Takumi Takahashi, Briton Leon Haslam and Dutchman Michael van der Mark, had led the race after one hour, dropped to a close second after the second hour. They took over again as the race wore on, the three riders turning consistent fast lap times. Even so, as the final hour began, they were only seven seconds ahead. Takahashi took over for the final stint and, despite a rain shower with 30 minutes to go eased away from their rivals to win, in yet another close battle in the Japanese industry’s prestigious home race of the year.
It was the 36th running of the headline race at the magnificent Suzuka GP circuit, and Honda’s 26th win, taking the lions’ share of honours in a gruelling event that today combines a round of the FIM World Endurance Championship with Japan’s premier home event. There were 63 teams taking part, 19 riding Honda CBR1000RR machines, plus several international entries from World Endurance regulars.
Although Honda does not field an official entry, the company puts years of production-racing success into specially prepared Honda CBR1000RR Fireblades for the top teams.
A big crowd enjoyed dry weather until rain in the closing stages. The change in conditions was just another complication for riders to face, after more than seven hours of riding in shifts and into the darkness. Unlike a 24-hour endurance race, the Suzuka 8-hour is an extended flat-out sprint, each rider running for about 50 minutes at a time. Heat and humidity combine with intense concentration to make this an exhausting race.
For the MuSASHi RT HARC PRO team and for rider Takahashi, it was a second visit to the 8-hour winner’s circle: he was one of three riders who took the same team’s Honda to victory in 2010. It was the first time for Haslam and van der Mark – the latter had never ridden at the fast and technically complex figure-of-eight circuit before.
Triumph for the three riders contrasted with heartbreak for another top Honda team. The two-rider F.C.C. TSR squad fielded four-times winner Ryuichi Kiyonari and last year’s victor Jonathan Rea. The pair qualified fourth, one place behind the winning team, and had taken a lead of better than 20 seconds by the end of the second hour. Early in the third, Kiyonari crashed out of the lead, and the machine was too badly damaged to continue.
The winning team’s main challenge came from two Suzuki teams. At the finish the Yoshimura squad of Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki (both Japan) and Australian Josh Brooks finished second, 1m 51.996s behind the winners, the only runners still on the same lap. Team Kagayama riders Yukio Kagayama, Noriyuki Haga and former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz were third, one lap down. Schwantz was making a return to racing at the age of 49.
French riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Julien da Costa were fourth on the SERT Suzuki, top finishers from the regular World Endurance teams taking part and only seven seconds off the rostrum; with the rival Yamaha France team fifth, one lap behind.
Three more Honda teams made it into the top ten.
Next best, in sixth, was a strong performance from Malaysian rider Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman and Japan’s Yuki Takahashi in the Honda Team Asia squad, in spite of being without optimum talents of lead rider, Makoto Tamada. The former GP winner was injured in a crash in practice.
The team gained the position only in the last hour from “Mr 8-hour” Shinichi Itoh, riding with Tatsuya Yamaguchi and Kazuma Watanabe in the TOHO Racing with Moriwaki squad. Veteran former GP star Itoh has four wins and seven pole positions at the Suzuka 8-hour.
Ninth place went to the all-Japanese Honda Kumamoto Racing trio, Mitsuhiro Yoshida, Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuki Tokudome.
The favoured HONDA TT LEGENDS team of Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews and John McGuinness battled through to 22nd after losing more than half an hour in the second hour with a technical issue. They finished that hour in 49th place, and moved forward steadily to the end.
Honda Hamamatsu ESCARGOT&PGR&H-TEC) pairing Masao Kuboyama and Takahiro Nakatsuhara finished 14th and in the points, nine laps behind the leaders.
Eighteenth-placed Ryokuyoukai Kumamoto Racing Honda riders Makoto Kitaori, Yasuhiro Ohhashi and Kensuke Mori were another six laps down.
Other Honda finishers in the top 30 were Minoru Ohuchida, Tasuku Akimoto and Kuniharu Watase (DOGFISH O-TEC Suzuka) – 24th; Hiroshi Yamashita, Takahashi Ishizuka and Tasuku Oyama (Honda SAYAMA Racing&Hamamatsu&HI-TEC) – 29th;
MuSASHi RT HARC PRO Honda rider Takumi Takahashi – 1st
“In the last part of the race it started to rain, and it made it very difficult. But at the same time it meant I had to slow down, so it became a little easier in a way. My third stint was the hardest for me: I struggled to make the same lap time every lap. I wanted to continue riding without pitting for a tyre change, but it wasn’t possible. Finally I got the victory again, and I am truly happy for to be on the top of the podium.
MuSASHi RT HARC PRO Honda rider Leon Haslam – 1st
“For all three of us, our riding level was almost the same, so it was good to be in with the other two. I am happy to get this win, but with my leg injury my condition is not perfect, so I couldn’t show my maximum potential. I’d like to come back next year, to show how competitive I can be at Suzuka. For me, the hardest part of the race was watching Takumi defend our lead in the rain in the last half-hour.”
MuSASHi RT HARC PRO Honda rider Michael van der Mark – 1st
“Winning the Suzuki 8-Hour Endurance is an indescribable feeling. This is one of the most beautiful courses in the world and one of the most important races. I had never ridden the CBR1000RR in a race, and I had never seen the circuit before. Luckily I was able to learn very quickly. When we saw Kiyonari fall, we put on even more pressure to secure the win. It was unforgettable to stand on the podium and see the crowds beneath. I really want to come back to Suzuki. Big thanks to the team, to Honda and the officials.”
MuSASHi RT HARC PRO HONDA director Shikegi Honda – 1st
“After the disappointment of the crash last year, we were determined to win without fail this year. With Takahashi as the nucleus, our strategy made the most of the strength of the three riders. Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark both performed beyond expectations, and congratulations to them. We worked for a long time for this win, and now we can enjoy the feeling again.”
Honda Team Asia rider Yuki Takahashi – 6th
“I made a bad start … I stalled the engine and lost some time, which was a problem. Then I caught up little by little. I was thinking I would be pleased to keep the lap time in the 2’11 bracket, but then I found I could be even faster, at 2’10. I thought I was going well. I saw the ‘PIT IN’ sign twice, but I wanted to continue and felt confident to keep going, so I continued and in the rain we got up to sixth. At the moment I am struggling a bit in the Grand Prix series, so I am happy I could show my strength at Suzuka.”
TOHO Racing with Moriwaki Honda rider Shinichi Itoh – 7th
“We took part in this race with a standard bike, not a special machine as used by some of the other team. Considering that, our result of seventh is great! But I am not tired now. I feel relaxed and I could carry on racing for long – I would like to demonstrate my power more. Many thanks to all concerned in the team.”
TOHO Racing with Moriwaki Honda rider Tatsuya Yamaguchi – 7th
“During the race week we had several machine issues, so we couldn’t give perfect days to Itoh and Watanabi … but they did very well. They finished without any big interruptions, and they made it to the chequered flag. Thanks to them.
TOHO Racing with Moriwaki Honda rider Kazuma Watanabi – 7th
“To be honest I am not happy with finishing seventh … but I am very grateful to Yamaguchi, who gave me the chance to take part in this wonderful Suzuka 8-hour race, and thanks also to all the staff of Toho racing.”
F.C.C. TSR Honda Director Masao Takeda – Did Not Finish
“Kiyonari fell heavily when in a good lead. He managed to get back to the pit box, and we would have been able to fix the machine. But his ribs were broken and the doctor ordered him to stop the race. We had no option but to retire. We are full of regret – our riders did their best. We will come back and try again next year.”
RESULTS SUZUKA 8H, JAPAN - RESULTS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CLASS
Pos / Team / Riders / Bike / Time / Laps / Gap
1 / MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. / T.TAKAHASHI - L.HASLAM - M.van der MARK / H-CBR1000RR / 214 / 8:00'01.280
2 / YOSHIMURA SUZUKI RACING TEAM / T.TSUDA - N.AOKt - J.BROOKES / S-GSX-R 1000 / 214 / 8:01'53.276
3 / Team KAGAYAMA / Y.KAGAYAMA - K.SCHWANTZ - N.HAGA / S-GSX.R1000 / 213 / 8:01'52.258
4 / SUZUKI ENDURANCE RACING TEAM / V.PHILIPPE - A.DELHALLE - J.DA COSTA / S-GSX-R1000 / 213 / 8:01'59.054
5 / YAMAHA FRANCE GMT94 MICHELIN YAMALUBE / D.CHECA - K.FORAY - M.LAGRIVE / Y-YZF-R1 / 212 / 8:02'18.288
6 / Honda Team Asia / M.TAMADA - A.SHAH B.KAMARUZAMAN - Y.TAKAHASHI / H-CBR 1000RR / 211 / 8:01'14.788
7 / TOHO Racing with MORIWAKI / T.YAMAGUCHI - S.ITO - K.WATANABE / H-CBR1000RR / 211 / 8:01'31.797
8 / MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA -YART / K.NAKASUGA - B.PARKES - J.WATERS / Y-YZF-R1 / 210 / 8:01'33.226
9 / Honda Kumamoto Racing / M.YOSHIDA - K.KOJIMA - K.TOKUDOME / H-CBR1000RR / 208 / 8:00'52.695
10 / TEAM R2CL / G.GIABBANI - M.SHINJO - D.BUISSON / S-GSX-R1000 / 207 / 8:00'56.241
11 / BOLLIGER TEAM SWITZERLAND / H.SAIGER - R.STAMM - D.SUTTER / K-ZX-10R / 207 / 8:01'12.362
12 / EVA RT TEST TYPE-OlSynergyForceTRICKSTAR / T.SERIZAWA - O.DEGUCHI - H.IZUTSU / K-ZX-10R / 207 / 8:02'28.291
13 / RS-ITOH&ASIA / I.HIGASHIMURA - T.IWASAKI - M.MURAKAMI / K-ZX-10R / 206 / 8:02'19.216
14 / Honda Hamamatsu ESCARGOT&PGR&H-TEC(E) / M.KUBOYAMA - T.NAKATSUHARA / H-CBR1000RR / 205 / 8:01'31.558
15 / CONFIA H.M.F LunaSol Japan / S.SUMA - N.HASEGAWA - Y.TAKAMIYA / S-GSX-R1000 / 203 / 8:00'12.272
16 / Team38 PS-K / S.KARITA - D.KEYES - S.YAMASHITA / K-ZX-10R / 203 / 8:00'49.746
17 / TEAMJP DOGFIGHTR YAMAHA / T.FUJITA - Y.KIMURA - T.TAMURA / Y-YZF-R1 / 201 / 8:01'29.902
18 / Honda Ryokuyoukai Kumamoto Racing / M.KITAORI - Y.OHASHI - K.MORI / H-CBR1000RR / 199 / 8:00'38.553
19 / Moto Map SUPPLY / Y.KONNO - K.TERAMOTO - G.NAKAMOTO / S-GSX-R1000 / 199 / 8:00'52.144
20 / IWATA RACING FAMILY / T.UENO - M.SAWAMURA - K.NISHIMURA / Y-YZF-R1 / 199 / 8:00'54.018
21 / WINNER Z-TECH / T.KUNIMATSU - T.YOSHIDA / S-GSX-R1000 / 199 / 8:01'31.391
22 / HONDA TT LEGENDS / M.RUTTER - S.ANDREWS - J.McGUINNESS / H-CBR1000RR / 199 / 8:02'41.969
23 / HAMAMATSU TEAM TITAN / Y.SHIMIZU - T.INUKI - H.OHSHIRO / S-GSX-R1000 / 198 / 8:00'39.172
24 / DOGFISH O-TEC Suzuka / M.OUCHIDA - T.AKIMOTO - KWATASE / H-CBR 1000RR / 198 / 8:00'41.479
25 / RS GARAGE HARADA HIMEJI / H.HARADA - M.OKAMURA - S.TANAKA / K-ZX-10R / 198 / 8:02'00.688
26 / DOG HOUSE & Higuchi legal office / K.HIGUCHI - K.IWATANI / S-GSX-R1000K9 / 198 / 8:02'44.765
27 / TEAM FLEMBBO LEADER TEAM / O.NISHIJIMA - J.PROSENIK - X.DEMAREY / K-ZX-10R / 197 / 8:01'59.054
28 / B-SQUARE RACING&OSAKA SAM-RT / M.OHTA - J.TANAKA - T.SATO / K-ZX-10R / 197 / 8:02'13.732
29 / Honda SAYAMA Racing&Hamamatsu&H-TEC(E) / H.YAMASHITA - T.ISHIZUKA - T.OHYAMA / H-CBR1000RR / 195 / 8:00'08.300
30 / BANNER RACING H•K-C / T.KANEDA - K.DAN - T.ASAHINA / D-1199Panigale / 195 / 8:00'11.839
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CLASS POSITIONS TO DATE:
1 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team 49
2 Monster Energy Yamaha YART 46
3 Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube 42
4 SRC Kawasaki 40
5 Musashi RT Harc Pro 35
6 Team R2CL 32
7 Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team 29
8 Team Kagayama 25
9 Team Bolliger Switzerland 23
10 National Motos 19
11 Maco Racing Team 17
12 Honda Team Asia 16
13 RAC 41 Yam Avenue Ipone 15
14 Toho Racing with Moriwaki 14
15 Honda Kumamoto Racing 12
NEXT EVENT: ROUND03, AUG 18 OSCHERSLEBEN 8H, GERMANY.
-- Suzuki Report
Yoshimura Suzuki's Takuya Tsuda, Nobu Aoki and Josh Brookes finished second in the Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship race in Japan on Sunday, despite a crash and a 30-second time penalty; as Team Kagayama - former World 500cc GP Champion Kevin Schwantz, Nori Haga and Yukio Kagayama - put its GSX-R1000 on the third step of the podium.
And making it three Suzuki GSX-R1000s in the top four of Japan's most-prestigious motorcycle event - won by Musashi RT HARC PRO's Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and young 20-year-old Dutchman Michael van der Mark - was reigning World Endurance Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) with Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Julien Da Costa taking the championship lead after two rounds.
Yoshimura Suzuki finished on the same 214th lap as the winners and also set the second-fastest race lap-time of 2'09.144. The fastest race lap of 2'08.827 was set by FCC TSR Honda's Ryuichi Kiyonari, who crashed just before the half-way stage.
Team Kagayama finished-up just one lap behind on 213, with SERT on 213, Yamaha France GMT94 on 212 and Honda Team Asia on 211 laps.
A huge crowd of 61,000 flocked into the circuit at Suzuka to see Japan's finest riders mix-it with some of the top riders from World Endurance, World Superbike and domestic championships, plus Suzuki's 1993 World 500cc GP Champion Schwantz, who proved, at the age of 49, he can still put-in fast and consistent lap-times.
Yoshimura Suzuki's Tsuda, who started from second place on the grid, took the lead from the start from pole-setter Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Monster Energy YART) in the 36th Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8-Hours race; and set the early pace until Nakasuga took over; and then Musashi's first rider on track, Takahashi, shortly afterwards.
After the first hour, Yoshimura Suzuki held third position with Team Kagayama fourth and SERT seventh. Three hours in, Team Kagayama moved into second position as Aoki was given a stop-go penalty for allegedly infringing pit-lane speed; and then Brookes suffered a get-off. But the Australian held onto the bike, kept it running while picking it up ; and finished his full stint (one of four) - a move that earned him even more respect from the team and his new team-mates.
Yoshimura then fought its way back into second place ahead of Team Kagayama at the four-hour stage ; a position the team held until the flag; and as the rain started to fall and darkness closed-in, Yoshimura Suzuki stayed-out on track with its original tyres and chose not to 'Pit' to change to Wets - as several other teams chose to.
Takuya Tsuda: "I went into the race as a first rider and I know this first hour is very important for the result. Luckily I grabbed the holeshot but I was passed by Takumi Takahashi after about 40 minutes. Our bike, developed by Nobu Aoki mainly and myself with set-ups, was good and the Bridgestone tyres were also good, but I couldn't use the hard tyre for high track temperatures. I feel very frustrated to not able to win, but I also feel happy to be in second place for our team and our staff. I understand my weak points from the race and I would like to be a faster rider and return to the Suzuka 8-Hour next year!"
Nobuatsu Aoki: "I am very sorry that I was given a penalty for speeding in the pit-lane. It gave Takuya and Josh a lot of pressure. When I jumped onto the bike, I didn't touch the speed limiter switch. It is stupid mistake! Especially for Josh, who managed to catch-up with the front runners again and was pushing hard, which is maybe why he crashed."
Josh Brookes: "It's a great feeling, but I'm a little disappointing for my mistake in the race, because I know the Suzuka 8 Hours is great race and very important in all aspects for the manufacturers, sponsors and fans. When I crashed, I didn't let-go of the handlebars; I was dragged by the bike. It was like a trophy you don't want to let go of! I tried so hard, it is a great honour to be here as part of the team; and I'd like to come back again. Thank you to everyone at Yoshimura for this. The bike was perfect and I know we could have won had it not been for a mistake."
Yukio Kagayama: "I am very happy for we got on the podium! The Dunlop tyres worked perfectly and the Suzuki GSX-R1000, powered by the Yoshimura engine, gave an awesome performance. Plus, our team-staff made no mistakes in endurance pit-work. Our team was supported by many small sponsors, so I really appreciate them and would like to thank them. I'm very happy to have Kevin-san on the podium and Nori has supported me a great deal! I think so many people came to Suzuka because of Kevin and that Nori was riding our Suzuki. I hope that Suzuki, Honda Yamaha and Kawasaki - all manufacturers - put power into motorsports again like in the 1990's. It feels unbelievable to be on the podium with my hero Kevin Schwantz!"
Kevin Schwantz: "I know this race is not easy to win. But this time Yukio made a very good team. This was the only condition that I asked of him coming to Japan to enter this race again. He has changed his Japanese Superbike team to a World Endurance top contender. Yukio's effort was great! I tested so many tyres and set-ups for bike and we found a lot of potential. In the race, I only did one stint but I really enjoyed racing with the young Japanese riders. We got third place for the race and thank you to every one of our team staff. Yukio said to me 'You are my idol!,' but I would like to say to Yukio ' You are a Superstar!"
-- Pata Honda Report
Haslam and van der Mark victorious at Suzuka
Pata Honda riders Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark have won the Suzuka 8-hours race in Japan following an incident-packed race earlier today.
Teamed with experienced Japanese rider Takumi Takahashi, the trio’s Musashi HARC-Pro outfit had led the early stages of the gruelling race before they were methodically hunted down by Pata Honda World Superbike team-mate Jonathan Rea.
The 26-year-old won the prestigious event last season and was one of the favourites for this year’s race but was unable to finish after his FCC TSR Honda team-mate, Ryuichi Kiyonari, crashed in the third hour of the race. The damage sustained by the team’s CBR1000RR was too heavy to continue.
The Musashi team inherited the lead, which they extended to one lap over their nearest rivals and held it to the chequered flag, despite rain falling at Suzuka during the final, nerve-wracking 40 minutes.
Haslam, 30, whose father Ron was runner-up in the 1979 running of the 8-hours race, becomes the second British rider to win the Suzuka 8-hours in as many years after Rea’s victory last season.
Twenty-year-old Van der Mark, meanwhile, is the first Dutch rider to win the event, doing so on his first attempt and in his first competitive ride on a Superbike machine and his debut on Bridgestone tyres. Today’s victory, Honda’s 26th, is the fourth consecutive win for the CBR1000RR Fireblade at Suzuka and its fifth in the last six years.
All three Pata Honda riders will be back in action on their own CBRs next weekend (2-4 August) at the Silverstone circuit in the UK – Haslam and Rea in the World Superbike championship and van der Mark on a CBR600RR in World Supersport.
Leon Haslam - "This means so much after the tough season I’ve had. The leg held up pretty well during my stints but I just want to say thanks to the whole Musashi HARC-Pro team. They did a great job and also Mickey and Takahashi-san rode really well. I feel sorry for Jonathan and Kiyo [Ryuichi Kiyonari] but it’s a long tough race and anything can happen. I’m just glad that we managed to hold on to the lead until the end. It’s a really magical feeling."
Michael van der Mark - "I’m just so excited! What a fantastic day it’s been – I can’t really believe yet what’s happened! We won the 8-hours!! We had a really strong team and the bike was working so, SO good! And the teamwork during the pitstops was perfect. It was amazing to watch. I am so thankful to everybody that helped me and allowed me to be a part of this incredible experience."
Jonathan Rea - "Unfortunately, today we were not able to repeat our win from last year after Kiyo crashed out during his second stint and injured his chest. I enjoyed riding though, especially hunting down the leaders and then giving the bike to Kiyo with a comfortable gap. I did everything I could but this year it was just not meant to be. I must congratulate my two Pata Honda team-mates on winning the race, though – they did a great job."
-- Honda TT Legends Report
Honda TT Legends complete Suzuka 8 Hours
After 198 laps and over 1,000kms of racing, the Honda TT Legends today completed the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance World Championship race in 22nd place.
The race began at 11.30am local time in 36°C heat, with Suzuka novice Michael Rutter taking part in the running start from 29th on the grid. He brought the bike back safely having battled to 16th place, passing the baton to team-mate and fellow Suzuka newcomer Simon Andrews.
Around halfway through his stint, Andrews made an unscheduled pit stop with clutch issues. The ever-efficient Honda TT Legends crew performed a clutch change within 14 minutes, returning the CBR1000RR Fireblade to the race with John McGuinness on board.
For the next five hours, the team fought its way back up the timesheet with consistent laps from all three riders. Despite a rear puncture just before the halfway stage, the team lay in 25th place by the end of the penultimate stint. With just half an hour to go, it began to rain and McGuinness was forced to pit and switch to wets. He rejoined and completed the race safely, crossing the line in 22nd place.
Despite the efforts of the riders and crew throughout what was a difficult and eventful race for all teams, the Honda TT Legends leave the iconic Japanese circuit without scoring championship points. The next outing for the team will be the Oschersleben 8 Hour in August.
We’re all disappointed as a team to be honest. This is not the result we wanted to come away with from Suzuka. We had a few issues throughout the race that held us back and to leave without points is frustrating. We’ll go back and analyse what went wrong so we can head to Oschersleben with the clear aim of improving our performance.
I’m really disappointed for everybody because so much time, so much effort, so much hard work goes into these races. We had a good fuel strategy and we were looking good for seven stops but we had a few issues – the clutch and the flat tyre – that meant we gave minutes away that it was impossible to get back. We went from 50-odd to 22nd so we clawed our way back but I feel like we deserve more as a team. The clutches on these Hondas are bullet-proof so I don’t know what happened. On the plus side, this is my third Suzuka 8 Hour but it’s the first time I’ve done the final stint and that was pretty special. The atmosphere here really is fantastic and the Japanese fans are great.
I’ve wanted to do the Suzuka 8 Hour for so long that I can’t believe I’ve done it really. It’s a real shame we had the issues but we pulled back to a half decent result having lost about eight laps after the clutch problem. I’m glad I’ve done it, it’s a real achievement so thanks to the team for making that happen.
We had a few issues but the team overcame them well. That’s endurance racing. You need to be able to finish and we did finish, we just had a few mishaps along the way. To come from 53rd to the 22nd is pretty good. It was hard work in the heat in the daytime, particularly the second stint, but the final one in the evening was a lot easier. I’m pretty happy, its been a great trip and a great experience. I love riding this track and it’s a tick off my bucket list.
-- BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent
The hard work of BMW Motorrad HP RaceSupport and BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent was not rewarded at this weekend’s “8 Hours of Suzuka” race in Japan. The specialists from Munich and the French-Belgian team had travelled to the second round of the 2013 FIM Endurance World Championship full of confidence, but they experienced difficult days at the Japanese race track. After showing impressive performances in the Suzuka pre-test and in the qualifying, the team was denied to finish the prestigious race.
In Japan, regular riders Erwan Nigon (FRA) and Damian Cudlin (AUS) were joined by American Jason Pridmore, who was drafted in at the last minute as a replacement for the injured Sylvain Barrier (FRA). Their target was to ride the #99 BMW S 1000 RR to a top result at Suzuka, but they suffered a first set-back in the free practice. Cudlin crashed and sustained a fractured left tibia, forcing him to withdraw from the rest of the weekend. His team-mates Nigon and Pridmore then showed strong performances in the qualifying to secure fifth place on the grid for the race.
Nigon lost places at the start, but pushed hard in the opening laps to work his way back up the field and run comfortably in the top five. After the first pit stop, the Frenchman unfortunately crashed when he lost the front in one of the slow corners and was forced back to the pit box. The mechanics got the bike repaired and back out on track with little delay, only to receive a stop and go penalty that lost the team even more valuable time. Pridmore then took over and was able to match the lap times of the leading European riders, before he too lost the front in one of the slower turns and crashed. The American managed to ride back to the pit box, where the bike was inspected and deemed too damaged to continue safely. As a consequence, the team had to retire halfway through the race. The 36th edition of the “Suzuka 8 Hours” was won by the Honda trio Takumi Takahashi (JPN), Leon Haslam (GBR) and Michael van der Mark (NED).
BMW Motorrad HP RaceSupport and BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent will now start with their preparation for the next round of the 2013 Endurance World Championship, the “8 Hours of Oschersleben” (GER), which takes place in just three weeks’ time.
“We’ve had a disappointing end to a very tough week, but I can’t fault the team, as they’ve done a good job in very difficult circumstances”, explained Team Principal Michael Bartholemy. “After qualifying an impressive fifth, Erwan and Jason were confident going into race day. From the start, Erwan was straight into the top five and looked set to remain there until he crashed. The additional stop and go penalty lost us even more time, but the team pushed on and Jason did a good job matching the pace of the regular EWC riders, until he also lost the front and went down. The bike was deemed too badly damaged to continue. This makes the next race at Oschersleben even more important for us. We need to go there and finish on the podium, as we did last season.”
“I didn’t get the best of starts, but I pushed as hard as I could, got past two competitors and was able to match the pace of the leaders”, reported Nigon. “I was losing out a little on acceleration out of the turns, but was able to use the top speed advantage we have with the BMW S 1000 RR to close again on the straights. The bike felt planted in the faster corners, but the feeling from the front wasn’t so good in the slower turns, which is where both Jason and I crashed. It’s disappointing not to finish the race after such a good qualifying performance, but we knew it was going to be tough once we were down to just two riders. The heat and humidity make riding here at Suzuka extremely demanding and, for me, it’s too much for only two riders. On the positive side, we’ve made some big steps with the bike. This bike is really fast now and we saw the benefit of that in both qualifying and the early part of the race.”
“Of course we are disappointed that after our hard work we did not get the rewards on race day”, said Berthold Hauser, General Manager BMW Motorrad HP RaceSupport. “It was a tough weekend, and I have to say that the team and the riders did a good job under difficult circumstances so it is a shame that they were denied to finish the race. But this is endurance racing. We have to put this behind us and focus on the next round, which is our home race at Oschersleben. We have proved at Suzuka that our RR is competitive and fast, so a top result is within reach if we can ensure we have a smooth and trouble-free weekend.”
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