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The Suzuka 8-Hours is traditionally a summer race, held in the sweltering heat of Japan – it is part of what makes Suzuka, Suzuka.

That won’t be the case this year though, thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, but there is good news as the iconic endurance race will remain as the season finale for the FIM Endurance World Championship, just with a slight reshuffling of the racing calendar.

Accordingly, the new date for the 2020 Suzuka 8-Hours will be Sunday, November 1st – moved from the originally planned July 19th schedule.

Eight hours, three teams, one (eventual) winner. This year’s Suzuka 8-Hours had it all, but it also showed again that the differences between Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Honda are such that each has to approach the race in different ways.

Yamaha opted for balance, Honda for an advantage in the pits, and Kawasaki on the pace of Jonathan Rea and consistency of Leon Haslam.

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For a brief moment, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team was a five-time winner (in a row, I might add) at the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.

That reality was eventually snatched away by the FIM Endurance World Championship race direction officials, who this weekend learned something new about their rulebook, but the race run by the factory-backed Yamaha team was no less impressive.

For nearly eight hours, the team’s three riders (Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark, and Katsuyuki Nakasuga) kept in check the best efforts by the Kawasaki Racing Team and Red Bull Honda squads, and it wasn’t until the final stint that Alex Lowes lost track of a raging Jonathan Rea.

Episode 111 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one is another special edition from the Suzuka 8-Hours. This means that we see Steve English joined by Jensen Beeler on the mics, as they are our Suzuka specialists.

Of course, the show has to start with a discussion about who actually won this year’s edition of the Suzuka 8-Hours, as the race’s conclusion, and the few hours after the checkered flag, were anything but straight-forward.

Race day at the Suzuka 8-Hours has no shortage of pageantry. The crown jewel in the FIM Endurance World Championship, the Suzuka 8-Hours might be the most important race in all of motorcycling, and it certainly holds that distinction in Japan.

With all that said, this year’s edition was truly a spectacle, as the three factory teams from Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha fought in close-quarters the entire race, giving fans quite the treat.

With a few seconds or less between them for almost the entire eight-hour race, we saw no shortage of passes and strategy, making this a race well-worth watching.

As expected, the result of the 2019 Suzuka 8-Hours was decided well after the podium ceremony for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team, with the factory Kawasaki team protesting Race Direction’s interpretation of the rulebook.

Agreeing with the Kawasaki Racing Team’s reading, the FIM concluded that because the race ended on a red flag, the results should be counted from the first full lap before the incident, which had KRT leading by a comfortable margin. 

This overrules Race Direction’s opinion that KRT failed to return to the pits five minutes after the race ended, which saw the Kawasaki team declared a non-finisher, and thus off the podium box.

UPDATE: The FIM has reversed the results of the 2019 Suzuka 8-Hours, and declared Kawasaki now the winner of the race.

In what will surely go down in history as the most frantic and confusing conclusion to the Suzuka 8-Hours ever recorded, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team won its fifth straight victory at the iconic Japanese endurance race.

The result, which wasn’t clear until moments before the podium ceremony, sees the Red Bull Honda team on the second step, followed by the F.C.C. TSR Honda squad, which also finished second in the FIM EWC standings.

As is often the case with the five round FIM Endurance World Championship, the season is going down to the wire at the Suzuka 8-Hours.

The Japanese showcase offers bumper points for the finale, so with only five points between the leading duo, Kawasaki France and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), there is still everything to fight for.

The TSR Honda outfit, last year’s world champions, have struggled this year and sits 23 points adrift, but they still stand a chance of the title courtesy of the points system that sees 45 points on offer to the winner this weekend.

Photos: © 2019 Steve English – All Rights Reserved

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Why is the Suzuka 8-Hours dominated by Bridgestone tires? During last year’s edition, Michael Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli sat down with Asphalt & Rubber to explain why Bridgestone is the preferred tire of choice at Suzuka.

Even the most talkative factory riders get tight lipped when the topic of tires is raised. After taking nine tenths of a second off the unofficial lap record, Jonathan Rea was asked to compare the feeling with Bridgestone tires compared to the Pirelli rubber used in WorldSBK.

The triple world champion side-stepped that landmine with customary ease by saying “they're both very high performance tires.”

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Tick, tock, tick, tock. As those second hands keep moving when you’re in the pits at the Suzuka 8-Hours the time being lost can be huge.

In many cases, it’s been the difference between winning and losing the great Japanese race. It might last eight hours, but the race is defined by how much, or most importantly how little, time your bike spends in the pits.

Getting the bike in and out quickly is just as important as being quick through the twists and turns of the track. You can’t win the race in the pits, but we have seen time and again that the 8-Hours can be lost in the pits.

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