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.
It is a race unlike any other, and it has a circuit unlike any other to match. The Suzuka 8-Hours is the biggest race of the year for Japanese manufacturers, and it is held on one of the longest laps of the year.
With lap times of over two minutes, it is very easy for time to burn during a session, and it is very easy to left rueing any mistakes you make.
The Japanese venue is one of the most technical on the planet. It is a lap of contrasts, with the sweeping corners of the opening half, followed by a hairpin and chicanes in the second half of the lap.
Getting it right takes time and any mistake is heavily punished on the stop watch.
Jonathan Rea grabbed the headlines on Friday in Japan, with an unofficial lap record at the Suzuka 8-Hours, which put the Kawasaki Team Green ZX-10RR on a pole-position start.
The Northern Irishman was nine tenths of a second faster than Pol Espargaro’s 2016 pole lap, and Rea’s time was made all the more impressive by the fact that he, like the majority of front-runners, didn’t opt to use a qualifying tire.
The FIM Endurance World Championship regulations allow teams to use 14 sets of tires throughout the Suzuka weekend, and with eight tires allocated for the race, and two qualifying tires, it means that for the opening two days the front-runners focus on race pace with used tyres.
Though of note, Rea set his fastest time in the second qualifying session, with a fresh tire.
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.
Leon Camier’s misfortune of suffering a fractured vertebra has become PJ Jacobsen’s gain, as the American racer has been promoted into the factory Honda team at this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.The move is a huge win for Jacobsen, for several reasons.
First, the Suzuka 8-Hours has always been an incredibly important race for the Japanese manufacturers, one that they take very seriously.
Second, this year’s race in particular is a pivotal year for Honda, as Big Red is looking to stop Yamaha’s recent run of three consecutive Suzuka victories.
To do this, Honda is fielding a full-factory outfit, the Red Bull Honda team. This is the first time that their has been an official HRC team at Suzuka in 10 years, a sign of how seriously Honda is looking for a win at its home track.
In the FIM Endurance World Championship, the GMT94 Yamaha team is at the top of the heap. The defending champions, GMT94 Yamaha is only 10 points back in the current season from holding the FIM EWC trophy, with only one race remaining.
One round is all that the French team has, however, as the GMT94 Yamaha team will be calling it quits after this month’s Suzuka 8-Hours race. Needless to say, this is huge news for motorcycle endurance racing fans.
With three world titles under its belt and seventeen FIM EWC race victories on its tally, GMT94 Yamaha will leave the Endurance World Championship for happier hunting grounds in the World Supersport Championship.
As such, the French squad will leave a massive hole behind in EWC, as the GMT94 Yamaha squad tackles the remainder of the 2018 WorldSSP season with Corentin Perolari, before taking on the World Supersport Championship full-time in 2019.
The winningest team in the FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team is the standard by which other endurance teams are measured…and that is a measuring stick that has seen a lot of use in recent seasons.
This is because the FIM EWC is a hot bed for competition right now, with a bevy of factory-backed teams capable of winning on any race weekend.
This has made it tough for SERT, and its riders Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson, and Gregg Black, who currently sit sixth in the 2018 FIM Endurance World Championship standings.
For this season, SERT hopes that a new racing platform will make the difference, as the French team has finally jumped onboard with the current-generation Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Last year, SERT was still using the old GSX-R1000, despite the superbike being replaced with a new model for consumers in 2017.
What you are looking at here is the bike that Honda hopes will win the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race this year. It is called the Honda CBR1000RRW.
It is not all that different from the WorldSBK-spec model, the one that Leon Camier and Jake Gange are competing with currently (and that PJ Jacobsen is helping develop), save for some interesting changes.
For starters, the Honda CBR1000RRW dumps its Cosworth boxes, and instead runs the Magneti Marelli electronics package that Jacobsen is using in WorldSBK.
Also, there are some obvious bodywork changes, namely where the exposed front spars of the frame would be, which are now covered by a silver painted panel.
Then of course, there are the mechanical changes for endurance duty, like quick-change wheel pieces and functional lights. Also note the Nissin brakes,
Showa Öhlins suspension, and Bridgestone tires (the FIM EWC is the last major series where there is competition also amongst the tire brands).
Before CBR1000RRW can race at Suzuka though, Honda will campaign the machine in the All Japan Superbike Championship, with Takumi Takahashi at the helm.
Takahashi-san will race at Suzuka as well, with two other teammates, who are still to be named, and likely will come from Honda’s MotoGP or WorldSBK racing efforts.
So far, Franco Morbidelli and Thomas Luthi have been tipped as being asked by Honda, but we are sure that Big Red sent out more feelers to other riders.
This year’s Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race is heating up with competition, as today Kawasaki announced that it will field a one-off factory squad for the race.
Riding the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, the Kawasaki Team Green will consists of three riders: Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, and Kazuma Watanabe.
The move bodes well for the Suzuka 8-Hours, as the iconic Japanese race continues to see growing interest from the Japanese OEMs.
The last three races have seen Yamaha’s one-off factory team winning the race, and this year Honda announced that it would field an official factory team in response to Yamaha’s recent domination.
Not wanting to be left out in the cold, today marks Kawasaki’s response to the growing Suzuka challenge, and all three factories have a chance of winning one of Japan’s biggest bragging rights in the motorcycle industry.
Broc Parkes is to step in to replace the still ill Jonas Folger in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team at Phillip Island. The Australian veteran is already part of the Yamaha family, riding for the manufacturer-backed YART World Endurance team.
Parkes is an obvious choice, being both Australian and having previous MotoGP experience. Parkes previously rode for the PBM team in 2014, when he was teammates with Michael Laverty aboard Aprilia-based ART machines.
There is still no news on when Folger will make a return to MotoGP, as the team has not yet released any information on a diagnosis of his illness.