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Kazuma Watanabe

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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 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 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.