Once upon a time, the Suzuka 8 Hour race was a big deal. A very big deal. It was the race the Japanese factories sent their very best riders to compete in, the event often being written into the contracts of the top Grand Prix and World Superbike riders as part of their factory deals.
The list of big names to win the race is impressive. Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Daryl Beattie, Aaron Slight, Doug Polen, Scott Russell, Noriyuki Haga, Colin Edwards, Daijiro Kato, Alex Barros, Shinichi Itoh, Tohru Ukawa, Taddy Okada. And of course Valentino Rossi.
There, they faced the very best of the Japanese Superbike riders, as well as the regulars from the World Endurance Championship, of which it forms a part.
It may have been an honor to have been asked to do the race, but the GP riders were far from keen. Held in July, the race fell right in the middle of the Grand Prix season.
Racing in the event meant multiple flights to Japan for testing and practice, then the grueling race itself in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Japanese summer. It meant doing the equivalent of four Grand Prix in the space of eight hours, then rushing home to get ready for the next race.
The best case scenario meant they started the next Grand Prix event tired and aching from Suzuka. The worst case was a crash and an injury that either kept them off the bike or left them riding hurt.
The only benefit was that it kept the factories happy, and marginally increased a rider’s chances of extending his contract with the manufacturer for a following season.
You may have already heard that Casey Stoner crashed out of the Suzuka 8-Hour this weekend, while leading the race no less. The result of which was a broken scaphoid and fractured left tibia/ankle for the 29-year-old Australian, who had finally found himself back in motorcycle racing.
Ultimately, the throttle on the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda CBR1000RR was to blame, with it getting stuck open at 26º of full throttle.
For fans that have been waiting the return of Casey Stoner, a rider we tip as likely the most talented ever to race on two wheels, this is a disappointing end to what could have been a fairytale weekend.
Time will tell if Stoner mounts another racing motorcycle, though we imagine this weekend’s events don’t help the realization of that pipe dream.
Click after the jump, for the carnage…and note why many riders consider Suzuka too dangerous a venue for motorcycles.
In Japan, the Suzuka 8-Hour is a huge deal, but for the rest of the world, it ranks on par with the rest of the FIM Endurance World Championship.
That’s kind of a shame, really, as the Endurance World Championship is the only motorcycle championship where we still see different tire manufacturers competing against each other, the bikes are beautifully technical in their own special way, and in the case of Suzuka, there are often heavy-hitters at play.
This year was no different, with Yamaha fielding its “Yamaha Factory Racing Team” with two MotoGP stars, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, along with factory test rider and MotoGP podium-finisher Katsuaki Nakasuga.
If you will pardon the pun, it’s a tough break for Casey Stoner and his Suzuka 8-Hour debut, as the two-time MotoGP World Champion broke his right scapula & left tibia today in crash that occurred while he was leading the famous iconic endurance race.
Stoner, along with his teammates Takumi Takahashi and Michael van der Mark, took the factory-backed Honda team of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO to a third-place qualifying position, after the Top 10 team qualifying shootout.
With Stoner at the helm of #634 for his first stint of the day, the Honda team took over the leading position, when the Yamaha Factory Racing Team pitted.
Subsequently, the Australian lost control of the Honda CBR1000RR because the throttle got stuck open, which then caused him to crash into the hairpin turn of Turn 11, which is appropriately enough called “Hairpin”.
No name means domination more in the FIM Endurance World Championship than the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, and SERT is currently living up to that hyperbole as the team to beat in the 2015 championship race.
Winning this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, SERT makes its tally 11 wins out of the last 15 races at the historical French track, with riders Anthony Delalle, Vincent Philippe, & Etienne Masson on the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
So strong was Suzuki’s performance, that the squad’s “junior team” took fourth overall, winning the Superstock class at Le Mans in the process. Helping commemorate that feat, SERT put together a little video for its victories at Le Mans. Enjoy it and the bevy of hi-res photos from the event.
The line up for the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race looks to be the strongest for years. Today, Yamaha confirmed that Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro are to race for the factory entry at Suzuka, alongside Yamaha test rider and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
Smith and Espargaro will face Casey Stoner and Michael van der Mark, who will be racing for the Honda factory team.
Rumors that Yamaha were taking their entry for the race very seriously first emerged at Jerez, where paddock gossip had Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo entering the race in the factory team.
If there is one team name that is synonymous with winning the FIM Endurance World Championship, it has to be SERT. The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team has won 13 EWC titles in the past three decades, by far the winningest squad on the motorcycle endurance circuit.
Last-year’s runner-up, Suzuki is looking to be back on top for the 2015 season, despite having the oldest racing platform on the starting line — a statement that perhaps highlights the consistency and teamwork that makes SERT a cut above the rest of the World Endurance teams.
Continuing that tradition in 2015 will be riders Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle, who will be joined by their new teammate Etienne Masson.
SERT will test their mettle April 18th, at the 2015 Bol d’Or 24-hour race, but we’ve got a few high-resolution photos of the beautiful EWC-spec 2015 Suzuki GSX-R1000 race bike right here, after the jump.
At first it seemed the only way to watch the Daytona 200 was to be there in-person, but DMG has been able to swing a last-minute deal with FansChoice.tv to bring the internet live streaming of the historic race.
Sanctioned now by the American SportBike Racing Association (ASRA), it is not clear at this time what ASRA’s coverage will include, but the green flag drops at 1pm Eastern Time, Saturday, March 14th — commentary, or not.
After releasing initially a five-round provisional calendar, with a sixth round yet to be confirmed, the FIM Endurance World Championship will actually go back to a four-round schedule for 2015.
The announcement coincides with Eurosport Events being named as the series’ promoter, and presumably Eurosport Events didn’t see the advantage of adding a 24-Hour Magny-Cours round to the schedule, along with one of three possibilities in Portual (Estoril), Belgium (Zolder), or Slovakia (Slovakia Ring).