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Suzuka 8hr

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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.

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”.

After the burst of activity leading up to last week, things have once again calmed down in the world of international motorcycle racing.

Neither MotoGP nor World Superbikes are testing – though BSB are preparing for their season by testing in Spain – and as a consequence, news is thin on the ground.

But not completely absent, so here is our weekly round up of what is happening in MotoGP and WSBK. And in this case, further abroad.

A rumor that we are almost certain isn’t true, yet too good not to muse about: Casey Stoner is said to be making a return to motorcycle racing, competing in the prestigious Suzuka 8hr endurance race for Honda.

The rumor comes from the Sportmediaset blog of Max Temporali — usually one of Italy’s more reputable sporting publications. Given Stoner’s contentious relationship with the media, especially the Italian media, one can guess as to the motivations involved though.

Josh Waters will continue to race for Yoshimura Suzuki in 2011, wild carding at the Miller Motorsports Park World Superbike round, and also making an appearance at the Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Race. “Josh showed he has the potential,” explained team owner Fujio Yoshimura, “I have told him we’d like him to ride again in America at Miller Motorsports Park. It’s a good start for the team and Josh and we will both get better.”

With Yoshimura indicating that Waters would be a member of the Yoshimura entry contesting the endurance race at the Suzuka circuit on July 31, that date would obviously rule out a wildcard WSBK entry at Silverstone, though the team is interested in entering Waters in other rounds later in the season.