A heavy downpour of rain just before the scheduled race start meant the start of the 37th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hour was delayed until 1235 local time, resulting in a shortened race duration of six hours and fifty-five minutes. As the rain fell, the riders lined up for the traditional ‘Le Mans’ style start and after a typically manic start, it was F.C.C. TSR Honda’s Kousuke Akiyoshi who led the field as the first lap we completed.
In a cruel blow, for a second consecutive year the F.C.C. TSR team was hit with tragedy when Akiyoshi crashed at the 130R corner while leading the race early on in proceedings. Despite breaking his leg, Akiyoshi bravely managed to get his bike back to his pit box by which time, the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team took over the race lead and Yoshimura Suzuki Shell ADVANCE team of Takuya Tsuda, Randy de Puniet and Josh Waters moved into second place, a position they would hold until the chequered flag. Incidents throughout the second half of the race resulted in the Safety Car being required numerous times, but in the final two stints Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi held their nerve to secure glory for their team for the second year in succession. On their way to victory, the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO also set the fastest lap of the race – 2’08.620 – courtesy of their number three rider, van der Mark.
Leon Haslam (1st) – “Usually I enjoy my riding but for this time I felt pressure not to crash or not to make any mistakes. The team did a fantastic job and the pit-stops were very neat and quick. Michael was super-fast and Takumi was Mr. Consistent in his stints! I was really nervous watching him at the end, but he made it for our second win in a row.”
Michael van der Mark (1st) – “Amazing feeling! I was ready for the third hour but it start raining and team decided to go with Takumi in the rain because he has more experience. The fourth hour was for me and I got faster and faster with a steady pace and rhythm. The bike worked perfect, the team did an amazing job. My last stint was at a really good pace and I could ride quite easily. To be here again in my second year is amazing feeling. We did it all together.”
Josh Waters (2nd): “It was really crazy weather conditions; sunny and then heavy rain. It was totally unpredictable throughout the race, lots of Safety Cars but I am sure we did our best today.”
Rounding out the podium a lap down was the Team Kagayama & Verity Suzuki squad (Yukio Kagayama – Noriyuki Haga – Dominique Aegerter) narrowly holding out the Monster Energy Yamaha with YSP trio (Katsuyuki Nakasuga – Broc Parkes – Josh Brookes). The top finishing Yamaha entrant being cost time once again this year with a repeat of the quick-shifter problems that struck the team in 2013.
Honda Team Asia (Josh Hook – Indonesian rider Dimas Ekky Pratama, Malaysian Zamri Baba) performed above expectactions to finish seventh just ahead of SERT (Damian Cudlin – Anthony Delhalle – Erwan Nigon). SERT were the highest finishing regular World Endurance Team.
Damian Cudlin 8th): “This has been a very good experience for me to be in this world championship team. It’s my first race for the team and I’ve gained a lot more confidence with the bike and the team and got faster, so if they need me again, I am ready.”
Monster Energy Yamaha YART (Wayne Maxwell – Rick Olson – Tommy Bridewell ) completed the top ten four laps down.
Gareth Jones and the Team R2CL Suzuki entry finished 19th.
Troy Herfoss, partnered with Jamie Stauffer and Chojun Kamey saw their Dream RT Sakurai Honda suffer problems during the race and at race end were in 64th position, 54 laps down on the winners. Jamie Stauffer was riding with a fractured ankle sustained during qualifying.
Due to heavy rain that delayed the start of the event the race was shortened to just under seven hours.
This was the 37th running of the Suzuka 8 Hour event and Honda’s 27th win, the first of which was taken by the Australian pairing of Tony Hatton and Michael Cole in 1979 on a CB900. This year also marked the ninth consecutive Bridgestone victory at the much heralded event. And the fifth year in a row for Honda’s Fireblade.
The last non Honda win was taken in 2009 with Daisaku Sakai, Kazuki Tokudome and Nobuatsu Aoki on a Suzuki GSX-R1000. Aoki crashed heavily this year putting the Legend of Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance (Aoki – Schwantz – Tsujimoto) team out of the event early on in proceedings.
Suzuka 8 Hour Results
1 / EWC / MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO / T.TAKAHASHI – L.HASLAM – M.van der MARK / H-CBR1000RR / 172 / 6:56’13.056 / 144.33km / h
9 Team Kagayama / Verity 17 JPN Suzuki GSX-R1000 25
10 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team 1 FRA Suzuki GSX-R1000 23
Honda extended its reign at the all-important Coca Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours race today, when the three-rider MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team conquered intermittently dire conditions to claim its own second victory in succession, and the fifth in a row for the all-conquering Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade.
A fierce storm shortly before the scheduled start meant a delay of just over one hour for the Japanese industry’s historic and most prestigious home race of the year. It was still raining at the delayed start, the first wet start in 17 years. While dry spells followed, crashes and further storms brought out the safety car four times. With the finish time set inflexibly at 19:30, the 37th running of Japan’s premier motorcycle event last just six hours and 55 minutes.
They were packed with drama, and a dose of heartbreak for the 2012 winning team, F.C.C. TSR Honda, when a crash ended their hopes after building up a significant lead, for the second year in succession.
It was Honda’s 27th victory in 37 iterations of the headline race at the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit. Honda has won every race but two since 1997, 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 race. There were 71 teams taking part, 22 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.
The winning team’s riders were as last year – Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark; and it was Japanese star Takahashi on board the Honda CBR1000RR when it crossed the line, more than a minute ahead of its nearest competitor. Takahashi also started the race, then British World Superbike star Haslam took over.
But van der Mark was no reserve rider, taking over to make the crucial move to capture what was then second place from race runners up Takuya Tsuda, Josh Waters and Randy de Puniet (Suzuki). He set fastest lap of the race in the process.
When Kosuke Akiyoshi crashed out of a massive lead of better than one lap after 107 laps and almost four-and-a-half hours, van der Mark inherited first place and built up a gap his rivals were unable to bridge.
The tension never let up, however, particularly after the third of four Safety Car spells broke badly for the Dutchman, when he was behind the car, giving his rivals the chance to close up again. In the end, the experienced team’s slick pit work and the strength of the rider line-up prevailed.
Takahashi maintained fast but safe lap times in his final stint to keep Australian Waters comfortably at bay by just over a minute. The Japanese ace has stood on the winner’s step for three out of five of Honda’s quintet of successive victories.
There were three more Honda teams in the top seven.
The Honda Suzuka Racing Team (Takahashi Yasuda, Daijiro Hiura, Taketsuna Morii) took fifth, behind one more Suzuki and the fourth-placed Yamaha. Sixth went to Tatsuya Yamaguchi, Hiromichi Kunikawa, Ryuta Kobayashi (TOHO Racing with MORIWAKI).
A strong effort by Honda Team Asia, in its second visit to Suzuka, saw Indonesian rider Dimas Ekky Pratama, Malaysian Zamri Baba and Australian Josh Hook take seventh place.
The next-best Honda to finish was 11th-placed Honda Kumamoto Racing squad, with Mitsuhiro Yoshida, Kazuhiro Kojima and Kazuki Tokudome.
Masao Kuboyama and Takahiro Nakatsuhara’s CBR1000RR, entered by Honda ESCARGOT&PGR&H-TEC(E), also claimed a good finish, taking 16th place; and Takeshi Kohara, Masayuki Yamanaka, Motoyuki Ando (Honda QCT MEIWA Racing) were 20th.
Other Honda teams in the top 30 out of 54 finishers were Honda SAYAMA Racing&Hammamatsu&H-TEC(E) (Takahashi Ishizuka, Atsushi Kawaguchi, Keita Endo) in 23rd; 26th-placed Minoru Ouchida, Tatsuya Yoshimichi, Kuniharu Watase (DOGFISH O-TEC Suzuka); Honda Technical College team (Motoki Furusawa, Yuta Kodama, Koji Kitaguchi) – 28th; and All JAPAN Honda DREAM CENTRAL BL RT (Shingo Suzuki, Naomichi Nakai, Takaomi Takahashi) – 30th.
Others of the 22-strong CBR1000RR line-up were spaced out through the field, after a variety of vicissitudes.
Hardest hit were the erstwhile runaway leaders. In spite of suffering a fractured femur in a freakish high-speed tumble, Akiyoshi managed to get the F.C.C. TSR Honda back to the pits, and his team-mates Jonathan Rea and Lorenzo Zanetti rejoined in 50th place, pushing through to 40th at the finish.
Veteran former Suzuka multi-winner Shinichi Ito, teamed with Kazuma Watanabe and Tetta Nagashima in the au&Teluru・Kohara RT squad, struggled from the start after a technical issue forced a pit-lane start.
MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO rider Takumi Takahashi – 1st – “I am very happy to win the race. To be honest, I am not good at riding in the rain so I felt relieved riding safely in my first stint. For the third stint, I was not supposed to ride at first, but team decided on me going because I have the most experience. I’ve had enough of rain! I hope to ride in dry condition next time.”
Leon Haslam – “Usually I enjoy my riding but for this time I felt pressure not to crash or not to make any mistakes. The team did a fantastic job and the pit-stops were very neat and quick. Michael was super-fast and Takumi was Mr. Consistent in his stints! I was really nervous watching him at the end, but he made it for our second win in a row.”
Michael van der Mark – “Amazing feeling! I was ready for the third hour but it start raining and team decided to go with Takumi in the rain because he has more experience. The fourth hour was for me and I got faster and faster with a steady pace and rhythm. The bike worked perfect, the team did an amazing job. My last stint was at a really good pace and I could ride quite easily. To be here again in my second year is amazing feeling. We did it all together.”
Yoshimura Suzuki and Team Kagayama raced their GSX-R1000s to second and third places at today’s drama-packed Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship second round at Suzuka in Japan.
The #34 Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance team of Takuya Tsuda, Randy De Puniet and Josh Waters closed to within 60 seconds of victory in a delayed 37th running of the Coca-Cola Zero-sponsored event that was plagued by intermittent rain, forcing extra pit stops to change tyres; along with several Safety Car situations following crashes.
In what was a mirror of the 2013 Suzuka 8-Hour podium, Team Kagayama – Nori Haga, Yukio Kagayama and young Swiss newcomer Dominique Aegerter – finished a lap behind Yoshimura Suzuki and winners Musashi Harc-Pro’s Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and Michael Van Der Mark; the top-two teams on the same number of 172 laps.
In the ‘Sprint Start,’ Aegerter led Tsuda with the #12 Legend of Yoshimura team rider Nobuatsu Aoki fourth. Aoki, who was teamed with former World 500cc Champion Kevin Schwantz and former All Japan Superbike Champion Satoshi Tsujimoto, caught-up with Tsuda on lap six to challenge for second place, but crashed-out heavily as he tried to go inside to make a pass, ending the team’s Suzuka challenge early.
Tsuda too suffered a crash two laps later, but remounted to start a climb back through the field and into fourth position, as reigning World Endurance Champions SERT – with Erwan Nigon taking the first rider stint – circulating in 14th initially before eventually climbing to eighth place at the flag; and the best of the permanent EWC teams in the race. Nigon pitted on lap 24 as the track dried-out and slicks were fitted. The other Suzuki teams came in a lap later.
With Kagayama in the seat, the Team Kagayama GSX-R1000 was back-up to fourth position by lap 34 – after slipping back to seventh – and then after a pit-stop to change tyres, climbed into second place. SERT also pitted for different tyres as rain fell again, handing-over to Damian Cudlin, who put the team into ninth position during his stint.
De Puniet took over the Yoshimura Suzuki on lap 76 and the Frenchman got up into second position – putting in the fastest lap of the race to that point of 2’09.426 as the conditions dried again – but the following laps saw the Safety Car out following crashes; including early leaders TSR Honda, allowing the pack to bunch-up again.
The closing stages also saw more drama with crashes and Safety Car situations – one lasting 18 minutes – then as Waters took his last stint on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R as night fell, there was an issue with the headlight not working; which would have caused the team to be excluded. However crisis was averted as the headlight finally switched on and Waters tried his hardest to hunt-down new race leaders Musashi Harc-Pro in the final laps, closing the gap to 59.844 seconds.
Josh Waters: “It was really crazy weather conditions; sunny and then heavy rain. It was totally unpredictable throughout the race, lots of Safety Cars but I am sure we did our best today.”
Randy De Puniet: “It was really difficult conditions today; but this is my first time racing at the Suzuka 8-Hours and it’s been a very good experience. My team-mates and the Yoshimura team staff all did their best and kept the battle going until the finish line. It is really a precious experience for me and I hope to be back here next year to race again.”
Takuya Tsuda: “I know we all did our best but I’m not satisfied with the result. I will do my best again though next year to win.”
Yukio Kagayama: “I am really happy with the great support from the fans we’ve had today and I would like to say thank you to the organisers for all their hard work and arrangement of safety cars to keep a high-level of safety for the sport. I planned to take Noriyuki (Haga) to the podium and Dominique did a great job his first race here, and I’m pleased we invited him to join us. Thanks also to our great staff!”
Noriyuki Haga: “Before the race, I was told I’d only race one stint, so was a little disappointed, but it meant I could fully concentrate on my stint. I am very happy with my team mates’ effort and that we got the podium. The atmosphere in the team is very nice, I really enjoyed it, so thanks to everyone.”
Dominique Aegerter: “This is my first race at Suzuka and I have learnt a lot. Despite the delay, wet conditions, dry conditions, pits stops; it all good experience for me and I hope I can come back again to ride with the team.”
Anthony Delhalle: “The Suzuka 8-Hour was unusual with the weather conditions and the tyre choices, but our team has a lot of experience, so it was ok. The race was good and the GSX-R was perfect, but I’m not satisfied with eighth as we wanted to win or finish on the podium. But it’s difficult at Suzuka as there’s lots of the Japanese factory riders who have a lot of experience here. But a top-10 finish is not so bad.”
Erwan Nigon: “The start was little bit strange, but the GSX-R was good and I was confident with the settings we’d found in practice. Our team has confidence in us and has a lot of experience in various weather conditions, so we could keep a good consistent pace.”
Damian Cudlin: “This has been a very good experience for me to be in this world championship team. It’s my first race for the team and I’ve gained a lot more confidence with the bike and the team and got faster, so if they need me again, I am ready.”
Yamaha Endurance Report
The Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube Team have today stepped into the lead of the FIM World Endurance Championship following the drama filled Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan. The 37th edition of the race was tense from the off with the start delayed by heavy rains on the Suzuka circuit and then reduced to just under seven hours to comply with local restrictions.
GMT94’s David Checa endured a less than perfect opening ride on his Yamaha YZF-R1, dropping three laps behind the lead in the first two hours before handing over to teammate Kenny Foray on a dry track in 27th position. Foray then began the hard work of regaining ground, and third rider Mathieu Gines was also on the pace, allowing the No.94 bike to cut through the pack and take a respectable ninth place at the line. The finish was enough to put the French team into the lead in the world standings as they return to Europe for the next round, the 8 Hours of Oschersleben on 23rd August.
The Monster Energy Yamaha Austria Racing Team’s YSP No.07 bike finished the Suzuka race just off the podium in fourth position. Local hero and All Japan Superbike star Katsuyuki Nakasuga worked hard alongside Australian riders Broc Parkes and Joshua Brookes. Having started from 2nd the riders had lost several places due to a technical issue and were outside the top ten before climbing back up to try and challenge for the last spot on the podium. The last two hours saw them step closer and closer however after several safety car appearances for crashes not connected to them the team had to settle for fourth.
The second YART bike, No.7 made great progress from their qualifying position of 22nd. Riders Wayne Maxwell, Rick Olson and Tommy Bridewell put in a strong fight, rising 12 positions to bring their R1 home just behind the GMT bike in tenth position.
Kenny Foray – “We are now leading the World Endurance Championship and this is what we wanted, so the goal is reached. I’m also happy because I understood how to be fast on this difficult track. I had a lot of fun and I’m happy that the team enjoyed it as well.”
David Checa – “The start was so tough, I thought that I was going to crash at every corner of the race. I was so scared of not being able to bring the bike back. I’m happy that I didn’t crash in the end! After this, the race was amazing. I found my good feelings back with the Yamaha and catching up with the others was exhilarating.”
Mathieu Gines – “I love Suzuka. I would like to thank the team who gave me the opportunity to get there. I learned a lot and now I’m looking forward to Oschersleben, that is a track that I like a lot also. For now, we can breathe and enjoy the fact that we took the lead of the Championship!”
Honda Endurance Racing Team
Having qualified as the only permanent Endurance World Championship team in the top ten and beginning the race with high hopes, the Honda Racing EWC squad left the Suzuka 8 Hours disappointed today after finishing outside the points in 33rd place.
The race was shortened to six hours and 55 minutes after heavy rain delayed the 11.30am start to 12.35pm. Julien Da Costa began the race for the team in very wet conditions, but by the end of his stint the track had dried out and Sebastien Gimbert took over on slick tyres to take the team to ninth place.
It was during the third hour of the race that Freddy Foray was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop with a suspected electrical fault on the bike. The Honda Racing crew got to work to rectify the issue and had the Fireblade back on track within 30 minutes, but the team had dropped to 61st place.
An impressive push from all three riders saw Honda Racing make up 28 places to finish 33rd, but this was not enough to score any championship points and the team leaves Japan empty-handed.
The race was won by the MuSashi RT Harc-Pro team, with Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark in the line-up. The win is Honda’s fifth consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory and its 27th in total.
The 2014 Endurance World Championship will continue with the Oschersleben 8-hour on 21/22/23 August.
Neil Tuxworth team manager – “After being so successful in qualifying, we’re incredibly disappointed to finish the race in 33rd place. Unfortunately we experienced an issue with the machine that meant we were unable to achieve what we came here to do. The riders did a great job to bring us back up from 61st and I want to thank them for that. Next up is Oschersleben and we’ll be aiming to come back fighting. “
Julien Da Costa – “We pushed really hard today after the problems with the bike but we couldn’t do enough to get a result. It’s frustrating for everybody as we are fast and we know we can do it. The results here and at the Bol d’Or make it very difficult for us to try and get the championship title this year but there is still a chance so we’ll work hard to get there.”
Freddy Foray – “It is always important to finish a race but we must do it with points, which we didn’t get today so it’s disappointing and a shame for everybody. We have a lot of work to do at the next two races and we have to get very good results to be in with any chance of winning the title. We’ll take it race-by-race and see what happens. Never give up!”
Sebastien Gimbert – “It was a hard race today and it’s so disappointing for the team. The mechanics work so hard, the bike is fast and in qualifying we’re the top EWC team, but we just don’t seem to get the results. I pushed as hard as I could in this race to recover after the problem but we couldn’t get any points. After the last two races it is now very difficult to get the title, but it’s not impossible, so I’ll look forward to Oschersleben.”
Syu Ishibashi – Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Responsible for Group Global Marketing Strategy, Bridgestone Corporation – “I would like to congratulate all members of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO on their victory. This was a great race which attracted a dedicated audience of fans despite the unstable weather. I am really glad that we could contribute to the winning team’s victory by supplying Bridgestone tyre which offered excellent performance in the challenging conditions. Also, I am very impressed by F.C.C TSR Honda successfully completing the race through hard work and determination, and overcoming their incident in the middle of the race. Our ninth successive victory as a tyre supplier at the Suzuka 8 Hour is a great source of pride for me and Bridgestone will continue to fully support this event and make an active effort to keep beating our own record for consecutive wins.”
Shinichi Yamashita – General Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department – “Congratulations to MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO for their second-straight win at the 8 Hour, the variable weather conditions made it very challenging for all the riders. The alternating periods of sunshine and rain created every type of track condition, so I am pleased that both our slick and wet tyres gave the riders the ability to lap quickly and consistently. This year we developed tyres specifically to cater for the new FIM regulations which dictate less slick tyres can be used in the Suzuka 8 Hour than in previous years and these new prototype tyres equipped the top-two teams on the podium. Once again we have proved that Bridgestone tyres perform excellently over a wide range of conditions and with the tyre supply regulations for next year’s Suzuka 8 Hour allowing even fewer slick tyres, we will continue our development to improve durability and consistent performance at this event.”
Shigeki Honda – MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda representative – Race Winner – “We are very happy to have won the race for a second consecutive year. On behalf of all team and riders I would like to say thank you to Bridgestone for their support and delivering tyres with superior performance that our riders used them to their full capability to help secure victory. I believe the performance of the tyres in all conditions is major contributor to our victory today and we are very proud to share this success with Bridgestone.”
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