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Noriyuki Haga

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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.

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.

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. 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.

In case you missed the story last week, Kevin Schwantz is preparing to race in this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race. For the race, Schwantz will be riding on a team formed by Yukio Kagayama, who in addition to having raced in the MotoGP, World Superbike, and British Superbike Championships, is also a previous Suzuka 8-Hour winner with the Suzuki Endurance Race Team (also joining the three-rider team Noriyuki “Nitro” Haga). Releasing a Q&A about his team’s Suzuka 8-Hour entry, Kagayama-san walks us through how the team came together, what equipment the riders will use, and his outlook on the team’s competitiveness.

Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz has certainly been in the news a bit these past few months, mostly for his involvement and falling out with the Circuit of the Americas and the Americas GP, but also more recently for his comments regarding Dani Pedrosa — we also sat down with Mr. Schwantz in Austin, and the Texan gave us some sobering insight into the future of American road racing. As if all that wasn’t enough, Schwantz is making a return to two-wheeled racing, and has entered the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race with Team Kagayama racing alongside Noriyuki Haga and team owner Yukio Kagayama.

The rumors about Noriyuki Haga’s future have been swelling for the past few weeks, as the Japanese rider was tipped to land in the British Superbike Championship for the 2012 season. Officially confirmed today by Yamaha Racing, Nitro Nori will once again take to a Yamaha YZF-R1, as he competes with Swan Yamaha in BSB, and permanently replaces the injured Ian Hutchinson. While BSB fans were surely dismayed by the news that Hutchy would be out for at least part of the BSB season, the Isle of Man TT star’s absence will at least be made up for by the addition of Haga to the BSB rostrum.

A boon for the British Superbike series, Haga’s status as a former-WSBK contender should add another name to the list of riders that British fans will have to follow in 2012. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, Haga finished runner-up in the 2000, 2007, & 2009 WSBK seasons, and finished third in the 2004, 2005, 2006, & 2008 seasons. Nitro Nori will be hoping to change that luck in the UK though, and with the support of the factory-backed Swan Yamaha squad, we expect to see the Japanese rider on the top step on more than a few occasions.

Carlos Checa (1:54.144) won pole during Saturday’s Superpole sessions after leading every session but one through the 2011 Nurburgring round of the World Superbike championship. He would have been joined on the front row by Eugene Laverty, Max Biaggi, and Marco Melandri, but Biaggi’s injuries from a stone hitting his foot during practice kept the Italian from participating in either Race 1 earlier in the day or Race 2. With Biaggi missing the chance for the fifty points possible for a double race win, Checa’s lead over him in the championship could easily grow over the three remaining race weekends.

Throughout the weekend, only Checa and Biaggi led the practice and qualifying sessions. The Italian held provisional pole after the first qualifying practice on Friday, but no one else could catch Checa in Germany. Biaggi’s did qualify with his injured foot, but the nerve and tendon damage, along with a broken bone and the resultant swelling and cast kept him out of the action on Sunday. The order had a shake-up in the final warm-up, with Haslam leading Guintoli, Corser, Sykes, and Berger as the fastest five while Checa was only thirteenth fastest.