In all our coverage of the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, the name Suzuki has woefully not been in much of the conversation.
This isn’t to say that the brand from Hamamatsu wasn’t present at this prestigious event, but its level of involvement and readiness certainly wasn’t on par with the other three Japanese brands.
Fielding the Yoshimura Suzuki factory-backed team yet again, this year saw a big milestone take place, as Suzuki’s endurance efforts are now being conducted on the current-generation superbike.
This has caused some issues in the paddock, most notably in the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), which is Suzuki’s factory-backed team in the FIM World Endurance Championship.
The winningest team in the FIM EWC – by a considerable amount – SERT struggled during the 2017/2018 season, finishing 6th overall in the championship. Surely as they sort out the new GSX-R1000R, SERT will once again be on top of the game.
In the hunt at Suzuka, it was the Yoshimura Suzuki team that was carrying the banner for Suzuki, finishing 10th – of note, behind the Suzuki team of S-Pulse Dream Racing – IAI, which finished 4th.
A man on a mission, Steve was able to get a bunch of shots of the Yoshimura Suzuki bike before it took to the track. You should check them out, and if you haven’t already, you should see his captures of the Suzuka race bikes from Red Bull Honda, Yamaha Factory Racing Team, and Kawasaki Team Green.
Episode 78 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Steve English and Jensen Beeler on the mics, as they discuss both this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.
Perhaps the most important race to the Japanese manufacturers, the Suzuka 8-Hours is seeing a return to its former glory, with several manufacturers putting together truly factory teams.
The show covers this new dawn for the Suzuka 8-Hours race, as well as the action on the track, of which there was plenty. It may have been eight-hours long, but this was a proper sprint race, with only 30 seconds separating first and second place.
On the show we are also joined by Jonathan Rea and Michael Laverty, who shed a ton of insight into what it’s like riding the Suzuka Specials, the differences in tires at the Japanese track, and what it takes to win this iconic race. You won’t want to miss those conversations.
All in all, we think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the Suzuka paddock.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
The race-winner that could have been. Kawasaki Team Green was the Suzuka 8-Hours favorite coming out of Saturday’s Top 10 qualifying session, and the factory-backed Kawasaki team traded corners with Yamaha during the opening laps of Sunday’s endurance race.
What looked like an upset in the making, turned out to be a fizzle, largely because of a poor fueling and pit stop strategy, which saw Jonathan Rea first run out of gas, and then stay out on slicks during a rain storm.
As he tumbled down the asphalt, you have to wonder if the World Superbike champion saw his Suzuka fortunes tumbling with him.
The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race was the biggest effort that we have seen from Kawasaki, which enlisted the help of its future WorldSBK team (Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, and part of the KRT pit box), to join the Japanese engineers and All Japan Superbike rider Kazuma Watanabe.
Part of the effort involved honing the specially prepared Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR race bike for the Suzuka 8-Hours, and this included a considerable amount of pre-event testing, with WorldSBK crew chief Pere Ribe overseeing the bike’s development.
The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the books, and it was one to remember. In a lot of ways, this was Suzuka back in its heyday. Factory bikes, world-class riders, and a flat-out sprint race between the best of the best.
It was a shame that the weather interrupted what had looked set to be a classic 8-Hours. With Jonathan Rea hitting the deck in the treacherous conditions, it took a potential race-winner out of contention, and ended three and a half hours of toe-to-toe, bar-to-bar between Kawasaki and Yamaha.
For the first time since 2015, Yamaha was challenged, but Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark weren’t rattled.
Prior to the race Van der Mark joked that “I don’t get scared on a bike, I scare the others!” and on Sunday the two-time WorldSBK race-winner certainly wasn’t scared of the reputation that Rea brings as a three-time world champion.
The Dutchman’s opening stint was superb, and his fight with Rea was something unlike any seen we have at the 8-Hours in recent years. When they pitted, it was up to Lowes and Leon Haslam to continue the fight and that’s exactly what happened.
Over the course of those opening hours, we were treated to the full spectacle of motorcycle racing, and it was everything it should be. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest talking points of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours.
With the Suzuka 8-Hours completed, it is time to crown a winner in the FIM Endurance World Championship, and that winner is the F.C.C. TSR Honda France team.
The Japanese outfit went into the FIM EWC series finale just 10 points ahead of its nearest rival, the GMT94 Yamaha squad, which meant the series crown was still up for grabs heading into the Japanese round.
Suzuka isn’t a normal Endurance World Championship round, however, as there are a number of one-off teams that can steal points from the FIM EWC regulars, which made the 10-point deficit a tough challenge for the French team to overcome.
With circumstances playing into F.C.C. TSR Honda’s hands quite well, and the endurance team having the added benefit of being on Bridgestone tires, the tire of choice at Suzuka (eight of the top ten Suzuka finishers were using Bridgestones), victory was nigh.
Finally getting to taste the bubbly at Suzuka, F.C.C. TSR Honda became the first Japanese team ever to win the FIM Endurance World Championship, thanks to the riding of Josh Hook, Freddy Foray, and Alan Techer.
This is it. This is the biggest, baddest, meanest superbike on the Suzuka 8-Hours grid. Setting the high-water mark in Japan FOUR YEARS IN A ROW now, the Yamaha YZF-R1 from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team is the pinnacle of the sport.
You may not have known it, but things didn’t quite go Yamaha’s way this year at the Suzuka 8-Hours though, with Katsuyuki Nakasuga having to sit out the race because of injury.
This left Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark to carry the load between the two of them, a tiring job at Suzuka.
Winning by only 30 seconds in an eight-hour race is still called winning though, and in doing so the Yamaha Factory Racing Team showed the depth and talent of its team. This is a high-level, high-functioning, endurance racing outfit, and it comes straight from the factory in Iwata, Japan.
And while the Yamaha YZF-R1 is a motorcycle that you can pick up at any dealership in the United States (so long as it isn’t for a Superbike Deathmatch), the machine on the Suzuka Circuit this past weekend is anything but ordinary.
I sent our man Steve English down to the pits to get some shots of this mysterious machine, and the Japanese team was being “very Japanese” about letting us taking photos, as Steve puts it.
That didn’t stop us from getting some photos though. Go ahead, go get a towel before you continue further. We’ll wait.
Yamaha Factory Racing made history at the Suzuka 8-Hours today, claiming their fourth consecutive victory in the great race.
This Japanese endurance race has become one of the biggest spectacles on the motorcycling calendar, and there were moments of today’s 199 laps that would have felt like an eternity for Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes.
With Katsuyuki Nakasuga ruled out with a shoulder injury following a crash in yesterday’s practice session, the burden fell on his teammates to deliver success.
They duly did, but not until they had overcome a huge challenge from Kawasaki.
Race Results of the Top 20 from the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours Endurance Race: Pos. Team Rider 1 Rider 2 Rider 3 Bike Tires Diff. 1 Yamaha Factory Racing Team Nakasug Lowes Van der Mark Yamaha Bridgestone 199 laps 2 Red Bull Honda Takahashi Nakagami Jacobsen Honda Bridgestone -30.974 sec 3
Honda doesn’t want you to see these photos. I am pretty sure that there is a dark room somewhere on the Suzuka Circuit facility, possibly guarded by Yakuza henchmen, where they are keeping Steve captive for his misdeeds in bringing you the detailed photos we are about to show you. This is how seriously HRC is taking this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours. “Win at all costs” is the mantra being used by the Red Bull Honda team, which will field PJ Jacobsen, Takaaki Nakagami, and Takumi Takahashi at this year’s edition of the race. Their goal is simple: to restore honor to the company, and win the most prestigious race on the Japanese calendar. To do this, Honda has built a special machine. A one-off superbike, this Honda CBR1000RR SP2 was designed to race at only one race track, for only one race, for only three riders.
Outside of Europe, we doubt we could find many motorcyclists who would know which team is currently leading the FIM Endurance World Championship. We will save you the struggle, and tell you outright that it is the F.C.C. TSR Honda France squad.
Technical Sports Racing (TSR), is based out of Japan, but is partnered with Honda France for endurance racing, hence the name. From Europe, they have launched an assault on the 2018 FIM Endurance World Championship, with riders Josh Hook, Freddy Foray, and Alan Techer.
Each season, TSR is a team to watch, and this year is no different.
It is of note however that F.C.C. TSR Honda has never won the EWC title, but they go into the Suzuka 8-Hours with a 10-point advantage over the GMT94 Yamaha outfit – and TSR does have a winning history at Suzuka.
The 2006, 2011, and 2012 winners of the Suzuka 8-Hours, the F.C.C. TSR Honda France team is vying for the championship on its home turf, as the Suzuka Circuit is just a handful of kilometers from its Japanese base of operations.