While the 5.821km Suzuka circuit itself was opened in the September of 1962, the Suzuka 8 Hour first came about in 1978.
It quickly became the most important race for production based bikes in the world.
American duo Wes Cooley and Mike Baldwin won that inaugural duel on July 30, 1978, on a Yoshimura backed GS1000 Suzuki.
Australia planted its flag at Suzuka in 1979 when a Team Honda Australia squad consisting of Tony Hatton and Mick Cole rode a CB900 to victory.
New Zealand took their first top step on the rostrum the following year when Kiwi Graeme Crosby partnered with American Wes Cooley to win the race on a Yoshimura GS1000 Suzuki.
While the race was a Japanese affair largely contested between Nippon manufacturers, it was not untiul 1982 that Japanese riders themselves tasted the champagne. That year the race was reduced to six hours due to an incoming typhoon and standing atop the podium were Shigeo Iijima and Shinji Hagiwara.
Wayne Gardner won the first of his quartet of Suzuka 8 Hour victories in 1985 while sharing the riding duties on the RVF750 Honda with Masaki Tokuno. Gardner went on to win again the next year, 1986, while partnered with Dominique Sarron.
1987 was the first time Yamaha took top honours and it came thanks to the talents of Kevin Magee, who became the fourth Australian to win a Suzuka 8 Hour. Magee won in partnership with German Martin Wimmer in 1987, the following year, 1988, the Horsham Hurricane’s victory was taken in conjunction with a then 28-year-old Wayne Rainey. The American also won his first 500cc GP race victory that year.
Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan won in 1991 on an RVF750 Honda.
Daryl Beattie then shared the victory podium with Gardner in 1992 on the Oki Honda Racing Team RVF750.
New Zealand’s Aaron Slight then won three on the trot with a different partner each time. The first victory in 1993 coming on a Kawasaki with Scott Russell, followed by two wins on the RC45, the first with Doug Polen and the second with Tadayuki Okada.
1993 also signalled the change from F1 or TT style motorcycles as the premier category at the Suzuka 8 Hour to ‘Superbikes’.
Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga put Yamaha back on top in 1996 before Honda then went on a ten-year winning streak that stretched all the way from 1997 through to 2006.
The first three of that decade long Honda winning streak were won on RC45s, the next four on VTR-SP twins, including Valentino Rossi’s 2001 victory with Colin Edwards on the Cabin Honda VTR-SP1, while the Fireblade took top honours in 2004/05/06.
Yukio Kagayama and Kousuke Akiyoshi broke Suzuki’s 24-year drought in 2007.
Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari put the Fireblade back on top in 2008.
2009 saw the introduction of three-rider teams and another all-Japanese victory for Yoshimura Suzuki.
2010 saw Honda’s Fireblade kicked off another winning streak that carried right through to 2014.
Winners for Honda in this period included Leon Haslam, Takumi Takahashi, Jonathan Rea, Takaaki Nakagami, Tadayuki Okada and Michael Van der Mark.
2015 marked a new era of domination by the Yamaha Factory Racing Team and the YZF-R1M.
Japanese hotshot Katsuyuki Nakasuga has been part of all those victories while Pol Espargaro (2015/16) helped him to two, as did Alex Lowes (2016/17), while Bradley Smith (2015) and Michael Van der Mark (2017) played their parts in Yamaha’s recent string of success also.
In 2018, Nakasuga again partnered with Alex Lowes and Michael Van der Mark and the trio went on to claim Yamaha’s fourth successive victory.
Suzuka 8 Hour Most Successful Riders
Only five riders have taken four victories at the prestigious race. Wayne Gardner (1985-1986-1991-1992), Ryuichi Kiyonari (2005-2008-2010-2011), Shinichi Itoh (1997-1998-2006-2011), Katsuyuki Nakasuga (2015-2016-2017-2018), and Michael Van der Mark (2013-2014-2017-2018).
The most successful rider at the Suzuka 8 Hour is Tohru Ukawa. The Japanese rider has five victories to his name (1997-1998-2000-2004-2005). All five were won on Honda machinery, two on the RC45, one on the VTR1000 and two more on Fireblades.
Suzuka 8 Hour Most Successful Manufacturers
Honda are the leading manufacturer with 27 wins. Next best is Yamaha with eight victories while Suzuki have five wins.
Until 2019, Kawasaki had only ever won the prestigious event once and that was some 26 years before when Aaron Slight and Scott Russell piloted a ZXR750R to victory.
After a confused delay to the results in the 42nd edition of the Suzuka 8 Hour in 2019 though, Kawasaki were once again announced as victorious as Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam piloted the KRT ZX-10RR to victory. The third member of the team, Toprak Razgatlioglu, did not ride at the event but was still part of the winning team.
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