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PJ Jacobsen

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The 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the books, and it was one to remember. In a lot of ways, this was Suzuka back in its heyday. Factory bikes, world-class riders, and a flat-out sprint race between the best of the best.

It was a shame that the weather interrupted what had looked set to be a classic 8-Hours. With Jonathan Rea hitting the deck in the treacherous conditions, it took a potential race-winner out of contention, and ended three and a half hours of toe-to-toe, bar-to-bar between Kawasaki and Yamaha.

For the first time since 2015, Yamaha was challenged, but Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark weren’t rattled.

Prior to the race Van der Mark joked that “I don’t get scared on a bike, I scare the others!” and on Sunday the two-time WorldSBK race-winner certainly wasn’t scared of the reputation that Rea brings as a three-time world champion.

The Dutchman’s opening stint was superb, and his fight with Rea was something unlike any seen we have at the 8-Hours in recent years. When they pitted, it was up to Lowes and Leon Haslam to continue the fight and that’s exactly what happened.

Over the course of those opening hours, we were treated to the full spectacle of motorcycle racing, and it was everything it should be. With that in mind, here are some of the biggest talking points of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours.

Honda doesn’t want you to see these photos. I am pretty sure that there is a dark room somewhere on the Suzuka Circuit facility, possibly guarded by Yakuza henchmen, where they are keeping Steve captive for his misdeeds in bringing you the detailed photos we are about to show you. This is how seriously HRC is taking this year’s Suzuka 8-Hours. “Win at all costs” is the mantra being used by the Red Bull Honda team, which will field PJ Jacobsen, Takaaki Nakagami, and Takumi Takahashi at this year’s edition of the race. Their goal is simple: to restore honor to the company, and win the most prestigious race on the Japanese calendar. To do this, Honda has built a special machine. A one-off superbike, this Honda CBR1000RR SP2 was designed to race at only one race track, for only one race, for only three riders.

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.

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.

It’s always good to come home. That’s how I feel every time I return to Laguna Seca.

Driving off of Boundary Road, and onto the perimeter of the track, then cresting the big downhill that descends behind Turn 2, towards the green parking area, I always get a big smile knowing that a great weekend of racing is about to begin.

This weekend was no different, with bright, sunny skies, a good crowd, and lots of great racing in both the World Superbike and the MotoAmerica series.

To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Going up against Kenan Sofuo?lu was no easy matter for the top riders in World Supersport, but it was necessary if you were going to move on from the feeder class.

Kenan Sofuo?lu was the benchmark upon which every WorldSSP rider was judged. If you wanted to move from the class to race a superbike or a grand prix machine, you needed to prove you could beat Sofuo?lu.

As the dominant force of the class his rivals never underestimated the challenge they faced. To mark Kenan’s retirement from motorcycle racing, we reached out to his fiercest competitors to see what they had to say about competing against the Turkish rider.

PJ Jacobsen’s rookie WorldSBK campaign is one that will be defined by small steps. The American, racing for Triple M Honda, knows that making progress is the key, and that it will only be in the second half of 2018 that we truly see his potential.

The season opening round of the season at Phillip Island came too soon for Jacobsen, with the team still dialling in its electronics package after a difficult winter.

A vicious highside at Lukey Heights left a lasting impression on the paddock about the task facing the team this year. However, Thailand was much improved with the 23-year-old making progress session by session.

With the electronics more sorted and predictable, Jacobsen was able to fight and battle before claiming the first top ten finish of his WorldSBK career.

The 2018 WorldSBK season is just around the corner, and Asphalt & Rubber has you covered for the latest within the paddock. After a winter of change for the WorldSBK paddock, normality will resume with the opening round of the season.

The biggest technical shake-up in series history should ensure closer competition throughout the field and the goal is to ensure that Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki are given a stern test throughout the campaign.

With rev limits imposed on a manufacturer by manufacturer basis, the performance weighting of each bike can be adjusted throughout the season.

The changes have been criticised by some Kawasaki brass recently, but for Rea the changes are a source of motivation.

Patrick ‘PJ’ Jacobsen will be stepping up to the big show for the 2018 season, with today’s announcement that the American will be riding with the TripleM Honda WSBK Team. Moving off of the World Supersport grid and into the World Superbike Championship, Jacobsen will be riding the Honda CBR1000RR SP2 with the satellite Honda team effort that TripleM has put together. “I’m very excited to be making my World Superbike debut with TripleM Honda WSBK Team,” said PJ. “It’s a great opportunity for me to be finally racing in this class and I want to thank the team and Honda for making this possible. Both the team and I will be rookies in the WorldSBK championship so there’ll surely be a lot to learn, but it’s a challenge that stimulates me and I can’t wait to get started.”

Jonathan Rea has topped the final World Superbike test of the 2017 preseason, a few days before the season kicks off in earnest at Phillip Island.

The reigning champion was fastest in the morning session, though he had to cede top spot to Marco Melandri in the afternoon. But the Kawasaki man had gone fast enough in the morning to just edge the Ducati of Melandri, and end the test as fastest overall.

Chaz Davies was third fastest, three tenths off the time of his Ducati teammate Melandri, but still ahead of the Kawasaki if Tom Sykes. Xavi Fores made it three Ducatis in the top five, while Leon Camier put the MV Agusta into 6th place, in what is a promising start to the 2017 season.