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Leon Haslam

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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.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQtPvixTL_g&feature=youtu.be

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.

For the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, we will see Leon Haslam lining up alongside teammate Jonathan Rea in the factory-backed Kawasaki Racing Team.

The announcement became officially official today, but it has been a long time coming from Kawasaki. Parting ways with Tom Sykes earlier this month, Haslam’s signing has been rumored in the WorldSBK paddock for many weeks now.

With Jonathan Rea’s future firmly set at the Kawasaki Racing Team, the focus this past weekend at Laguna Seca was on the future of his teammate, Tom Sykes. The Yorkshire man had spared few words in the media for his team and teammate in the days ahead of the California round, and he certainly wasn’t holding too much back once he was at Laguna Seca. You could almost smell the smoke emanating from Sykes, a result of the bridge that was being burned behind him. Sykes is 99.9% not riding with Kawasaki for the 2019 World Superbike Championship season, and he finds himself as one of the top picks in the paddock in the rider market. Chaz Davies is another top rider who is highly sought after in the paddock, and he is likely to remain at Ducati.

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.

The WorldSBK grid at Jerez will be full of replacement riders, as injury takes its toll, not just on the regular riders, but also on possible replacements.

Sylvain Guintoli is to step in and replace the still injured and departing Randy Krummenacher in the Kawasaki Puccetti team for the rest of the season, the Swiss rider having previously fractured his wrist.

Guintoli will ride for the Puccetti team in both the remaining rounds this year, at Jerez and at Qatar.

Vince Lombardi once said that he “firmly believes that any man’s finest hour is that moment when he has worked his heart out for a good cause and he lies exhausted on the field of battle. Victorious.” The day is done, the battle is won, and for a third consecutive year, Yamaha lifted the Suzuka 8-Hours trophy. It was a dominant performance by the #21 crew, and in the aftermath they sat and enjoyed their success. They weren’t exhausted, but for Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark, and Katsuyuki Nakasuga this was the final moment of their 2017 in Suzuka, Japan. Sitting in their paddock office, the trio of riders were relaxed, but the emotions of the day were starting to take hold.

Yamaha claimed its third Top 10 Shootout victory on the bounce at Suzuka today, but the Yamaha Factory Team know that there is still plenty of work to do to claim victory at the Suzuka 8-Hours

There are no team sports quite like motorsport. Fans focus their attentions on the riders on track, but it truly is a team effort that drives performance.

At the Suzuka 8-Hours, teamwork becomes even more important, and how a trio of riders work together and gel can become the deciding factor between winning and losing.

Yamaha retained its vice-like grip on the Suzuka 8-Hours by leading the way in qualifying, ahead of this weekend’s 40th edition of the legendary race, but Honda’s consistency could be a real threat.

Alex Lowes was the pace-setter for the Factory Yamaha Team with the WorldSBK star setting his fastest ever lap of the Japanese circuit. His 2’06.4 was marginally faster than his teammate, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, and afterwards Lowes was pleased with their efforts and excited for the weekend.

“I’m really happy with today,” said a smiling Lowes. “I did a 2’06.4 on the same tires that we will be using for the race, so that’s very positive. It’s also the first time that I’ve done a 2’06 around here. Today was difficult in the morning because there were some damp patches, but the bike is really good here.”

On first glance, the field looks to be close ahead of this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours. Yamaha led the opening session, Honda topped the second, and there are four manufacturers inside the Top 5, and all within a second of the pace.

It seems to be setting up for a great weekend of racing, but when you delve into the times it’s clear that, while Honda has made progress, they are still playing catch up with their CBR1000RR SP2.

Despite a crash for Jack Miller, the #634 machine led the way in the afternoon session, but with Yamaha electing to use only one set of tires in the session, their true one-lap pace is still unknown.