In what will surely go down in history as the most frantic and confusing conclusion to the Suzuka 8-Hours ever recorded, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team won its fifth straight victory at the iconic Japanese endurance race.
The result, which wasn’t clear until moments before the podium ceremony, sees the Red Bull Honda team on the second step, followed by the F.C.C. TSR Honda squad, which also finished second in the FIM EWC standings.
Just a handful of laps before the finish though, the final result seemed far, far different. With Honda seemingly misjudging its pit stop strategy, and Jonathan Rea holding a comfortable lead over Alex Lowes, the Kawasaki seemed destined for its first Suzuka win since 1993.
But, endurance racing is a cruel mistress. A lap before the finale, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team blew its motor, dumping oil on the track and dashing the French team’s chance at clinching the FIM Endurance World Championship.
A huge blow to the EWC standings in its own right, the oil on the track would seemingly catch Rea by surprise as well, aided by the drizzling rain the arrived on the circuit with just half an hour remaining.
Crueling causing the race-leader to crash, Rea was unable to return his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR to the pits within the five minutes alloted by the EWC rules, which left the WorldSBK-based team considered a non-finisher in the results.
This handed the win to Yamaha, who had closely fought the race over its entire eight hours, but had fallen off towards the end of the final stint. The result also promoted the factory-backed Red Bull Honda squad, which had controlled most of the Suzuka 8-Hours race, despite only running two of its three riders (a strategy also adopted by Kawasaki, with Rea and Haslam).
An unfair result for such a close battle for the Suzuka 8-Hours, must of which saw the top three teams spread by only a handful of seconds, we will surely be talking about this race for a while still to come, and it will prove to be an interesting point of note in Yamaha’s record-setting five victory streak at Suzuka.
Source: FIM EWC; Photo: © 2019 Steve English – All Rights Reserved
*As one would expect, the results of the 2019 Suzuka 8-Hours are being protested by the factory Kawasaki team, giving some question to the finality of this result. Stay tuned for more news.
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