The 2016 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the bag, and once again the Japanese endurance race proved to be a formidable challenge to its competitors, and a great spectacle for fans.
As expected, this edition of the Suzuka 8-Hours saw strong teams succumb to the challenges of endurance racing – examples being the Honda factory-backed MuSASHI RT HARC PRO team, which had to retire early for mechanical reasons, as well as the SRC Kawasaki Team that also did not finish.
While there were surprises in defeat, we also saw surprises in victory, with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team once again winning the prestigious Japanese race. A repeat of last year’s result for Yamaha, today’s win is marks a shift in the balance of power for endurance racing in Japan.
“I’m very happy and very satisfied with this win, for me, for Alex and for Nakasuga-san because we really deserved it. From the start of the test we have worked so hard to get the best for us three,” said an ecstatic Pol Espargaro.
“After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I’m sure Alex will complete the second one next year! I just want to say thanks to Yamaha, to all the people that support this fantastic team, because we are three riders but a lot of mechanics and other people work in the Yamaha Factory Team.”
“Thanks so much to Alex and Nakasuga, they were amazing today, I can’t say anymore, just thanks!”
The Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race is this weekend, and while the iconic race isn’t being broadcasted by a US television station, the Suzuka Circuit does make a live stream available via Ustream.
The live stream typically covers the Suzuka 4-Hour race (on right now, as of the time of this writing), as well as the free practice and qualifying sessions for the Suzuka 8-Hour. On race day, however, the stream usually just features a live-timing screen, which is still better than nothing.
You can find a schedule of the sessions on the Suzuka Circuit website, or just click right here.
The Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race is more than just a stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship, it is the battle ground for bragging rights between the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers.
It is not uncommon to see the Big Four stacking their factory-backed teams with their top talent from MotoGP, World Superbike, and other domestic series, in addition to their local Suzuka experts. This year will be no different.
For Honda, this means recruiting its factory WSBK boys. Yes, Nicky Hayden (along with Michael van der Mark) will join Takumi Takahashi on the factory-backed MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team at the 2016 Suzuka 8-Hour. Boom goes the dynamite.
Once upon a time, the Suzuka 8 Hour race was a big deal. A very big deal. It was the race the Japanese factories sent their very best riders to compete in, the event often being written into the contracts of the top Grand Prix and World Superbike riders as part of their factory deals.
The list of big names to win the race is impressive. Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Daryl Beattie, Aaron Slight, Doug Polen, Scott Russell, Noriyuki Haga, Colin Edwards, Daijiro Kato, Alex Barros, Shinichi Itoh, Tohru Ukawa, Taddy Okada. And of course Valentino Rossi.
There, they faced the very best of the Japanese Superbike riders, as well as the regulars from the World Endurance Championship, of which it forms a part.
It may have been an honor to have been asked to do the race, but the GP riders were far from keen. Held in July, the race fell right in the middle of the Grand Prix season.
Racing in the event meant multiple flights to Japan for testing and practice, then the grueling race itself in the oppressive heat and humidity of a Japanese summer. It meant doing the equivalent of four Grand Prix in the space of eight hours, then rushing home to get ready for the next race.
The best case scenario meant they started the next Grand Prix event tired and aching from Suzuka. The worst case was a crash and an injury that either kept them off the bike or left them riding hurt.
The only benefit was that it kept the factories happy, and marginally increased a rider’s chances of extending his contract with the manufacturer for a following season.
You may have already heard that Casey Stoner crashed out of the Suzuka 8-Hour this weekend, while leading the race no less. The result of which was a broken scaphoid and fractured left tibia/ankle for the 29-year-old Australian, who had finally found himself back in motorcycle racing.
Ultimately, the throttle on the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda CBR1000RR was to blame, with it getting stuck open at 26º of full throttle.
For fans that have been waiting the return of Casey Stoner, a rider we tip as likely the most talented ever to race on two wheels, this is a disappointing end to what could have been a fairytale weekend.
Time will tell if Stoner mounts another racing motorcycle, though we imagine this weekend’s events don’t help the realization of that pipe dream.
Click after the jump, for the carnage…and note why many riders consider Suzuka too dangerous a venue for motorcycles.
In Japan, the Suzuka 8-Hour is a huge deal, but for the rest of the world, it ranks on par with the rest of the FIM Endurance World Championship.
That’s kind of a shame, really, as the Endurance World Championship is the only motorcycle championship where we still see different tire manufacturers competing against each other, the bikes are beautifully technical in their own special way, and in the case of Suzuka, there are often heavy-hitters at play.
This year was no different, with Yamaha fielding its “Yamaha Factory Racing Team” with two MotoGP stars, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith, along with factory test rider and MotoGP podium-finisher Katsuaki Nakasuga.
If you will pardon the pun, it’s a tough break for Casey Stoner and his Suzuka 8-Hour debut, as the two-time MotoGP World Champion broke his right scapula & left tibia today in crash that occurred while he was leading the famous iconic endurance race.
Stoner, along with his teammates Takumi Takahashi and Michael van der Mark, took the factory-backed Honda team of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO to a third-place qualifying position, after the Top 10 team qualifying shootout.
With Stoner at the helm of #634 for his first stint of the day, the Honda team took over the leading position, when the Yamaha Factory Racing Team pitted.
Subsequently, the Australian lost control of the Honda CBR1000RR because the throttle got stuck open, which then caused him to crash into the hairpin turn of Turn 11, which is appropriately enough called “Hairpin”.
Well, the rumors were true…Casey Stoner will return to motorcycle racing, competing as one of Honda’s MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO three racers in the Suzuka 8-hour endurance race.
For those who don’t follow the Suzuka 8-Hour, the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team won last year’s event, and is a top Honda entry every year for the prestigous Japanese race. Joining Stoner on the team will be Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi.
Van der Mark is of course Honda’s factory World Superbike racer and the current reigning World Supersport Champion, while Takahashi splits his time racing in the MFJ All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship and testing for HRC.
The threesome will be looking to clinch Honda’s sixth-straight victory at Suzuka. They will of course be racing on the EWC-spec Honda CBR1000RR, which Stoner tested at January’s Sepang test. The Australian will test it again on the CBR in July 7th & 8th and July 14th and 15th.
With heavy rain delaying the start, the Suzuka 8-Hour was more like the Suzuka 6-Hour, as only six hours and thirty-five minutes could be fit into the race’s time slot. Still, FIM Endurance World Championship fans were treated to a good battle, which unfortunately saw F.C.C. TSR Honda out early while in the lead.
Kosuke Akiyoshi gave F.C.C. TSR Honda its early lead, and strong stint from Jonathan Rea seemed to solidify the team’s position. But on his next outing, Akiyoshi had a massive crash at the 130R corner. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR back into the pits with a broken femur, Akiyoshi was the hero of the race, but F.C.C. TSR would have to settle for 40th overall.
The crash left the lead for MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team, which laid claim to the top step at Suzuka for the second year in a row. The Japanese team, which was comprised of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael van der Mark put in an impressive performance at the Suzuka 8-Hour Endurance race, though only had roughly a minute’s gap at the finish line to show for it.
In case you missed watching this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours (the second stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar), and that is pretty much everyone outside of Japan, since no live stream was available on race day, we’ve got you covered.
Compressing eight hours of hard-fought endurance racing into four and a half minutes, you can witness Ryuichi Kiyonari’s nasty crash on the F.C.C. TSR Honda, Schwantz’s epic return to road racing, and the victory of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda with Leon Haslam, Takumi Takahashi, and Michael Van Der Mark on-board.
Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember.
While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama, the Suzuka starting grid was also blessed with the entries of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Simon Andrews, and American Jason Pridmore.
Though a long eight-our race, the on-course action was surprisingly close, with the Top 5 teams on the same lap well past the three-hour mark. Team Kagayama was in good shape for a solid result from the onset of the race, as Noriyuka Haga put the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a solid fourth position.
The team rose as high as second-position with Team Manager Yukio Kagayama on-board, as the Suzuka specialist kept a solid pace, and benefited from the pit stops of other teams, not to mention the retirement of the FCC TSR Honda team, which had a race-ending crash with Ryuichi Kiyonari at the helm.
While the crash from Kiyonari on the FCC TSR Honda dashed the race-win-repeat hopes of World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea, Kevin Schwantz finally dazzled fans in the third hour as he took to the course. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.