We heard rumors of this tire at the beginning of the year, and finally we can talk about the new Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tire. A knobby dual-sport tire made for adventure-touring machines, the AX41 means that Bridgestone finally has an offering for ADV riders.
It is surprising to think that the Japanese brand has been without a tire for such an important market segment for so long, but that is water under the bridge now, with the Battlax Adventurecross AX41 tire debuting at INTERMOT and coming to American dealers at the start of next year.
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.
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.
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.
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. This Honda represents everything that HRC knows about making an endurance racing machine.
As you can imagine then, while this story starts with a bit of hyperbole, it isn’t far from reality.
Compromise has little place in most forms of racing. Speed is of the essence and everything else is secondary to it. In Endurance, the same principle guides the way, but there are compromises to be made. Speed is as necessary in the pit lane as it on the race track.
Being able to repair any damage quickly and easily is crucial. At this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours, we will see the fruit of that work once again, but ahead of this year’s edition, we take another look at the YZF-R1 that took the victory. It deserves one last moment in the spotlight.
With fewer restrictions in place on manufacturers, the return of “Suzuka Specials” in recent years has allowed the Japanese manufacturers to flex their creative muscles.
At the Suzuka 8-Hours, brain power is more important than horsepower, and finding a way to get the power to ground, by electronics, suspension or tires, is crucial.
Innovation is everywhere on the Suzuka grid, and last year’s winner was no exception..
The Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race kicks off this week, with the racing action coming to us this weekend. The final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, Suzuka also happens to be the endurance race that all the Japanese manufacturers want to win.
To put Suzuka into perspective, this race means more to Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha than the Motegi round of MotoGP.
It means more than any domestic championship, the World Superbike Championship, and possibly even the MotoGP Championship as well. For the Big Four, this is big business.
It is no surprise then that we are seeing three official one-off factory teams entering this year’s Suzuka race, on top of the bevy of factory supported squads already in the FIM EWC paddock.
With so much on the line this year, Asphalt & Rubber will have boots on the ground for the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours, bringing you content every day from this truly unique race in Japan.