As is often the case with the five round FIM Endurance World Championship, the season is going down to the wire at the Suzuka 8-Hours.
The Japanese showcase offers bumper points for the finale, so with only five points between the leading duo, Kawasaki France and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), there is still everything to fight for.
The TSR Honda outfit, last year’s world champions, have struggled this year and sits 23 points adrift, but they still stand a chance of the title courtesy of the points system that sees 45 points on offer to the winner this weekend.
The Suzuka 8-Hours is around the corner. Testing is already underway for some of the leading riders, and it will only ramp up in the coming weeks.
Flying back and forth to Japan isn’t easy for anyone, but it is what is needed if you will be able to challenge at the great Japanese race.
The past weeks saw a host of announcements for rider lineups, with some interesting developments for what we will see on the last weekend of July.
The 8-Hours is the biggest race on the calendar for the Japanese manufacturers, and still the race that has the biggest impact on a rider’s fortunes with them. Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Honda have now all announced their top teams, but what does it mean?
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.
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.