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 we were busy filing our taxes last week, HRC was busy at the Suzuka circuit shaking out its yet-to-be-named 2012 MotoGP race bike. Details are a bit sparse, but motogp.com is reporting that HRC test riders Kousuke Akiyoshi and Tady Okada were at the helm of the new bike, and the website shows a solitary photo that craftily doesn’t give away too much about the machine. The private test is a prelude to Honda’s factory riders hopping on the machine to likely greater media fanfare, which will most likely happen at the MotoGP test scheduled after the Mugello round.
Honda has announced that it will be restarting motorcycle production at its Kumamoto factory as of Monday, March 28th. Initially closing all its facilities in Japan after the devastation caused by the Sendai earthquake, Kumamoto will be one of Honda’s first facilities to re-open in almost two weeks’ time.
While the company’s Sayama, Saitama, and Suzuka facilities will remain closed through April 3rd, Honda will make a decision on when to restart production at those locations as that date becomes closer. Honda will continue to make decisions on its operations from this date forth, keeping a close eye on its supply chain and the good of the country as whole as the situation in Japan continues to change and evolve.
There’s a lot of pressure on Kawasaki for 2011. Team Green has exited MotoGP, and is completely un-competitive with its ZX-10R in World Superbike and World Superstock 1000. Looking to rectify the situation, Kawasaki has gone back to the drawing board with it’s liter bike offering, and have been testing the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R at Suzuka for the last two days this week.
With test riders Hidemichi Takahashi & Akira Yanagawa on-board, we get our first glimpse at the rumored 190hp/190kg Superbike taking laps. Video confirms that a normal firing order is inside the four-cylinder motor (sorry, no cross-plane here), but traction control is rumored to come as a standard option. Photos and video after the jump.
Japanese tuner Moriwaki track tested its Moto2 MD600 at Suzuka, Japan for the first time last week as it prepares to sell kits to racing teams. The tests come just a week before teams have to submit their intent to join the Moto2 series at MotoGP’s stop at Mugello. The MD600 completed 40 shake down laps at the Japanese circuit with rider Shogo Moriwaki at the helm, with initial reports looking good.
Yesterday, Honda announced that they would be cutting back on their motorcycle racing program, most notably withdrawing their factory team from the Suzuka 8 Hour race. Additionally, motocross and other off-road events will be dropped in order to cut costs, but we’ll miss Suzuka the most. The 8 Hour Suzuka race is a big deal for the Japanese Four. Each year Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki rope in their top riders from around the world to compete in the prestigious race, much to the chagrin of the riders who are usually enjoying their off-season time. Last year the race was won by Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari.
Honda’s withdrawal does not mean that there will be a lack of Hondas on the grid. Only the factory team won’t race this year, but the Honda spokeswoman told the press that they would still help the remaining Honda privateers.
The one piece of good news from the announcement was confirmation of Honda’s commitment to MotoGP. Honda “won’t quit the MotoGP,” she said, adding that though Honda would be scaling back its support for motorcycle racing in general, the one series this would not affect would be MotoGP.
Source: MotoGP Matters