The Yamaha Factory Racing Team wrote an incredible page in the endurance racing history books on the weekend, taking their third consecutive win at the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours.
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team was also celebrating, having secured the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship title after a strategic race performance.
The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team pushed to the teams maximum potential to finish in fifth at the line and secure third in the World Championship.
Lead rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was initially swallowed by the lead pack into turn one as the race got underway, but 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 young 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 teams 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 hours ride, slightly calmer than his previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 207.943 with a 207.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 206.932 lap. The factory YZF-R1 crossed the line in 1st 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.
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 Circuits 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 210s 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 8th 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 teams name.
The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team have consistently remained the top performers outside of the top five teams this weekend, and todays race proved no exception. Broc Parkes was the first man on track, initially dropping to 9th in the first hour. Nozane then took over, and from there the team took turns to fight back, upping the pace until they were able to hold 5th position. A last minute technical issue with a chain adjuster cost a place but Nozane was able to bring it back to fifth and ensure that YART secured third place in the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championsip.
Katsuyuki Nakasuga – Yamaha Factory Racing Team – 1st
“Its the 40th anniversary of the Suzuka 8 Hours and I think we got a result befitting of the occasion. My teammates were great and really helped me do my best. The track conditions for my first stint were difficult. I wanted to go faster but I knew that I had to hold it in, keep calm and bring the bike back to my teammates. It was easier for me ride because I knew that even if I fell behind a bit, they would definitely be able to make up the difference. We made eight pit stops and the strategy worked very well to bring us the win. I’m also very happy that I was able to set a new record as the first Japanese rider to win the race three consecutive times.”
Alex Lowes – Yamaha Factory Racing Team – 1st
“Im really happy to win the Suzuka 8 Hours again, its 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 its 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 Im looking forward to coming back next year to do it again!”
Michael van der Mark – Yamaha Factory Racing Team – 1st
“I’m really happy to be here with a different manufacturer and also win the Suzuka 8 Hours. I had two incredible years the first years I came here and two really difficult ones. This year to win with Yamaha is really special and even though the conditions today were not like usual, it was quite a lot cooler than normal so we were able to be faster! Alex and Nakasuga-san had a great pace and I also felt really good on the bike. We had a fantastic team, all three good on the bike with good pace. Yamaha did an amazing job to prepare the bike and team for this event so I will be really happy to come back next year again!”
Wataru Yoshikawa – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“It is the best feeling, the best! To be honest it was 50/50, as our competitors were very strong. I am really proud to have achieved three consecutive wins with Yamaha, which is an incredible feeling! Now we must look forward and try to build on this. Getting three consecutive wins was a lot of pressure for me, but now I feel that that chapter is closed, so now maybe we can go for four wins in row!”
David Checa – GMT94 Official Yamaha EWC Team
“First of all, I want to say thank you to my teammates and the whole team because endurance is all about sharing, and when you get to share in victory, it is perfect! We did a really good job together and the result is the championship. We didn’t believe that we could win after the Bol D’or because we were 47 points behind, so to win three races in a row is a dream! Winning the championship here at the Suzuka and getting to stand on the podium with all the fans here is an incredible atmosphere. I was lucky to be on the podium before here and that was great, but getting to stand here today as World Champions is much better!”
Niccolò Canepa – GMT94 Official Yamaha EWC Team
“It is unbelievable! Last year was my first season in the EWC and we lost out on the championship by just one point. This season we won the championship and we won three races in a row! My teammates are amazing and the bike is, honestly, incredible! The team did such an amazing job, it is fantastic and something I will never forget. To celebrate here in Suzuka like this in front of, I don’t know how many people, is really something that I will never forget. I want to say thanks to everybody, from the team, to Dunlop, Yamaha, and to my teammates. They did an amazing job all season, we didn’t make a mistake and this is something that doesn’t happen all the time! I hope to do the same next year!”
Mike Di Meglio – GMT94 Official Yamaha EWC Team
“It has been an amazing season! This is my first year in the EWC, and we won three races and are World Champions! The race here was a fantastic race for us as we had trouble with the electronics, we didn’t have traction control or anti-wheelie and yet we were still fast! It was fantastic! I am very happy; I want to say thanks to Yamaha and GMT94 for giving me this opportunity. Now, we need to continue like this. We are already thinking of the Bol D’or and next season. We want more victories and world titles!”
Christophe Guyot – GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
“This result is absolutely fantastic, we are so happy. Of course first of all congratulations to the #21 team who were in another world today. Then Im very proud because the level of the championship is very high; today it was not possible to battle with our permanent rivals because the title was too important. The only focus was to check on them so we did a safe race. We had some little problems with the electronics but that is racing and we are lucky because we didn’t have any problems before today, apart from a little stop and go penalty! We have the World Championship title in our pocket and after three consecutive race wins I think we did well. All the Yamaha bikes did an amazing race, but the most amazing has to be the number 21!”
Broc Parkes – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“We have to be happy, the four works bikes were the only bikes in front of us in the end. I think we all rode very well, we were very consistent, the times were very good and we couldn’t have hoped for any more at this race. Unfortunately, we missed out on 2nd in the championship by one position today. In general, I think we have to be positive for the season. It’s a brand-new team, with Marvin and Kohta coming in, we also had new tyres, so I think next year we will be even stronger. I think this year we were the strongest team in most races, so hopefully we can eliminate the problems and be stronger for next year. From this race, we could not have achieved anything more.”
Marvin Fritz – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“I feel really good. Fifth place was the best we could achieve and we made a really good race. Broc did three great stints and that was great. The start was really good and in my first stint I was a bit nervous, but I made good lap times, was consistent and didnt make a mistake. In my second stint when we had the small problem I showed the mechanic who was standing on the pit wall, so that when I came in they could fix it very quickly. That was really good and we didn’t lose the position with Kohta fighting really hard at the end. That was the maximum we could do. When you look at the season, we were the strongest team for most races, but we didn’t have the luck to put everything together. It was a good first season for me in endurance racing and with Bridgestones, and the fact it was only Kohta’s first season as well makes us confident for next season.”
Kohta Nozane – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
“Both my teammates Broc and Marvin did a very good job today and were very competitive. I felt my pace was ok in the race but I am a little disappointed as I felt before that I could have been a little quicker this weekend, but this is something to work towards. In the end I am very happy for the result for the team, and I want to thank YART and Yamaha for giving me this opportunity and my teammates for their hard work. Of course, I also want to congratulate Yamaha and also the Yamaha Factory Racing Team for their important third consecutive victory, and Nakasuga-san for his record of three consecutive wins for a Japanese rider.”
Mandy Kainz – YART Yamaha Official EWC Team Manager
“To be honest, I am really happy this season is finished because we have been one of the strongest teams and so we think we can win next year! I hope we left all the bad luck in this season. The performances have been there, we have just been unlucky. Anyway, here we couldnt really do much for the championship, as GMT94 didn’t make any mistakes, so even though we were quicker here, we had no chance to catch them in the championship unless they made a mistake. They deserved the title. I am very happy for Yamaha and Christophe Guyot. Next year I think we are one of the hottest contenders for the title!”
Eric De Seynes – Chief Operating Officer – Yamaha Motor Europe N.V
“It’s absolutely a great result. As usual everything possible was done to achieve it, but you never know and the competition was very strong this year. Finally it was great because each bike did the race they had to do. 21 to lead the race, 7 to make the pressure on the leading group and 94 to secure the championship, whilst managing the rival Suzuki No.1 bike. All of these three Yamaha teams did exactly the strategy they had to do. In the end a great result, but also a strong demonstration about how we try to manage races to get the correct results with all the talents we have with us.”
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