The pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on the Endurance World Championship calendar.
Immensely popular with the fans and fielded with a bevy of expert local teams, even the Japanese OEMs take the Suzuka 8 Hours very seriously — and are not above stacking their factory squads with the top riders from various national and international road racing series.
One such team at Suzuka is the Honda TT Legends crew, which as the name implies, is made up of legends from the Isle of Man TT: John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews. Backed by Honda Europe, McPint & crew are on some top machinery, but as they have already seen in qualifying, that’s only part of the battle.
With Rutter and Andrews having never ridden at Suzuka before, the team has a steep learning curve, though over the eight-hour race, we think they will have plenty of time to crawl back from their 29th spot qualifying, and into their Top 10 goal. Racing kicks off Sunday at 11:30am local (JST), but until then enjoy this on-board footage and witty banter from Mr. TT.
In case you missed the story last week, Kevin Schwantz is preparing to race in this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race. The blue ribbon event in Japanese motorcycle racing, a Suzuka 8-Hour win is perhaps the most covetted trophy to have if you are a Japanese motorcycle OEM.
The Japanese manufacturers take the Suzuka 8-Hour so seriously, it is not uncommon to see them stack their endurance teams with top-talent from other World and national series, like MotoGP, WSBK, BSB, and AMA Pro Racing. With rumors circulating about a very factory Yamaha team in the works, right now our attention however is on Team Kagayama.
Formed by Japanese rider Yukio Kagayama, who in addition to having raced in the MotoGP, World Superbike, and British Superbike Championships, is also a previous Suzuka 8-Hour winner with the Suzuki Endurance Race Team. Joining Kagayama and Schwatnz on the three-rider team is Noriyuki Haga, also of MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB fame.
Releasing a Q&A about his team’s Suzuka 8-Hour entry, Yukio Kagayama walks us through how the team came together, what equipment the riders will use, and his outlook on the team’s competitiveness. It’s a pretty interesting read.
Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz has certainly been in the news a bit these past few months, mostly for his involvement and falling out with the Circuit of the Americas and the Americas GP, but also more recently for his comments regarding Dani Pedrosa — we also sat down with Mr. Schwantz in Austin, and the Texan gave us some sobering insight into the future of American road racing.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Schwantz is making a return to two-wheeled racing, and has entered the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race with Team Kagayama. One of three riders on the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000, Schwantz will race with Noriyuki Haga and team owner Yukio Kagayama during the eight-hour event.
While our attentions may be on this weekend’s inaugural MotoGP round at the Circuit of the Americas in Ausin, Texas, the World Endurance Championship (EWC) season is also kicking off with the 2013 Bol d’Or. A 24-hour that now takes place at the in Magny-Cours circuit in France, the Bol d’Or is one of two 24-hour races on the EWC calendar, and is in its 77th running.
At the top of the heap for tomorrow’s grid is the SRC Kawasaki team (WSBK’s Loris Baz is one of the team’s riders, for trivia points), which won the Bol d’Or 24-hour racing last year, upsetting the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT). Despite the upset defeat, SERT went on to win the EWC title outright in 2012, and remains the favorite for the 2012 season.
Though SRC is the team to beat to the finish come Sunday, it goes without saying that you cannot count out SERT from a top-step finish with their Suzuki GSX-R1000 endurance race bike. Yamaha France’s GMT94 entry finishes out the top three spots, and is another strong contender, as is fourth-place starter BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent.
Despite Qualifying 9th in the EWC field (12th overall), the Honda TT Legends crew is upbeat about their pace, and tip their consistency as being a deciding factor come tomorrow’s race. Fastest on the team, Michael Dunlop will move from being the team’s back-up rider, and instead will replace Michael Rutter, who is still nursing his leg injury from pre-season testing.
McGuinness, Andrews, and Dunlop will be hunting a Top 5 finish over the 24 hours, with a podium being an outstanding result ofr the factory Honda squad.
While many of us are counting down the start to the second rounds of World Superbike and MotoGP, the season-opener for the FIM Endurance World Championship is just around the corner as well. Starting the season with the Bol d’Or 24 Heures at Magny-Cours on April 20th, the Honda TT Legends dream team was out in Albacete, Spain getting some last minute practice in with their Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.
Built around the relatively low-tech Honda CBR1000RR street bike, the TT Legends crew have fitted the CBR with a MoTeC ECU, which provides traction control, wheelie control, and other electronic rider aids. Though the system is not necessarily increasing the top lap times of riders John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Michael Dunlop, and Andrew Simon, the MoTeC ECU does allow for the riders to ride within a more comfortable margin of safety and use less energy while on the bike.
In the game of endurance racing, managing riders’ energy is just as crucial of a component as is keeping the bike out of the kitty litter. Addressing both those concerns with their modifications, the Honda TT Legends team should be better equipped to challenge for the podium in the four-round Championship, especially at the longer 24-hour races like the Bol d’Or and Le Mans.
Helping us gear-up for the incoming season, there is some dubstepped video goodness after the jump. Enjoy.
After years of being competitors, the FIM and TTXGP have finally come together to form a new cohesive series, and now they are finally ready to debut the name of their new lovechild, the eRoadRacing World Cup.
Premiering with six racing events, three in Europe, and three in the United States, the 2013 eRoadRacing provisional racing calendar primarily piggybacks off the FIM’s other Championship events, with the Indianapolis GP being the highlight addition to the schedule.
With American teams racing at two MotoGP Championship races (the other being Laguna Seca), and the Europeans racing in front of two World Endurance Championship crowds (Oschersleben & Le Mans), the exposure factor should be conducive to sponsors as well as teams for the 2013 season.
Additionally, the eRoadRacing calendar leaves a big enough hole open in its schedule for teams that want to race at the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Now isn’t that sporting? A still unset World Final is expected to be held in Asia, at the conclusion of the American and Europeans series. The provisional calendars for both series are after the jump.
With Cameron Donald and Honda TT Legends parting ways two weeks ago, and Michael Dunlop testing with the outfit’s World Endurance Championship squad in Albacete, Spain last week, the logical conclusion of those two events has occurred, with Dunlop singing on to ride with Honda TT Legend’s in the team’s two 24-hour races (the Bol d’Or 24 & the Le Mans 24-hour), riding alongside John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews.
Racing as well for the Honda TT Legends team in its road racing events at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200, Dunlop will also act as the reserve rider the HRC-backed squad at the Suzuka 8-hour race. For the young Irishman, it will be a bit of change from road circuits to proper race tracks, but the added exposure of another international series should certainly be a boon to his already promising racing career (Dunlop has three TT race wins under his belt already).
Isle of Man TT star and World Endurance Championship rider, Michael Rutter injured himself this week while training with the Honda TT Legends EWC squad in France. Crashing on his Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike, Rutter broke his leg at Dunlop’s Mireval test track, and was diagnosed with a crack at the base of his tibia.
“It didn’t feel too bad at first and I was walking around after the crash but we thought it was best to get an x-ray done just to be sure,” explained Rutter. “That revealed a crack at the base of my tibia near the ankle joint. I was given crutches and a temporary cast so I can get back to the UK and get it sorted out. Hopefully it won’t take too long to heal and I’ll be back on the bike as soon as possible.”
After announcing a “dream team” line-up for its 2013 season, Honda TT Legends has had to revise its rider-entry list, after coming to a mutual decision with Australian racer Cameron Donald, who will not not race with the Honda TT Legends World Endurance Championship squad this year.
Citing personal reasons, namely the desire to spend more time with his family, Donald’s absence from the Honda TT Legends team means that the HRC-backed squad will field a three-rider effort in this year’s four endurance rounds, leaving John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, and Simon Andrews to campaign on the Honda CBR1000RR endurance race bike.