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.
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).
Our riding brethren across the pond have all the luck, as we learn of another cool motorcycle production that will be hitting the British airwaves: TT Legends. An eight-part documentary series that will cover the Honda TT Legends team throughout the 2012 season, TT Legends looks like a cracking good watch, if the trailer (after the jump) is any indication.
Following John McGuinness, Cameron Donald, and Simon Andrews behind the scenes at six events, we get a unique perspective at some of the World Endurance Championship’s best venues like the Bol d’Or, Suzuka 8-Hour, and Le Mans, as well at the Isle of Man TT and North West 200. In addition to the racing footage, TT Legends also shows the stories off the track, as the riders prepare themselves physically, and mentally for the racing season.
With the 30-minute premiere showing on ITV4 at 8.30pm on Monday, February 4th, there is no word if the documentary will find its way into North America, though we imagine the internet might help in that regard. Check out the trailer after the jump.
Josh Waters will continue to race for Yoshimura Suzuki in 2011, wild carding at the Miller Motorsports Park World Superbike round, and also making an appearance at the Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race. “Josh showed he has the potential,” explained team owner Fujio Yoshimura, “I have told him we’d like him to ride again in America at Miller Motorsports Park. It’s a good start for the team and Josh and we will both get better.”
With Yoshimura indicating that Waters would be a member of the Yoshimura entry contesting the endurance race at the Suzuka circuit on July 31, that date would obviously rule out a wildcard WSBK entry at Silverstone, though the team is interested in entering Waters in other rounds later in the season.