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What’s the difference between you and me? The Suzuka 8-Hours is dominated by Bridgestone tire. Why is that? And what is the difference between a Bridgestone a Pirelli, and a Michelin at this iconic race? Even the most talkative factory riders get tight-lipped when the topic of tires is raised. Jonathan Rea was asked after securing pole position for tomorrow’s Suzuka 8-Hours about the feeling he has with Bridgestone tires, compared to using Pirelli rubber in WorldSBK. The three-time world champion sidestepped that landmine with customary ease by saying, “both are very high performance tires.” It was a similar situation when talking with MotoGP riders about comparing to Michelin tires in recent years. There are, however, some outliers in the paddock.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oaGkxX2rTY

A typhoon is heading towards Suzuka, but as the paddock battened down the hatches, the winds of change had already set in.

Jonathan Rea’s pole position for Kawasaki ended three year’s of Yamaha topping the times. The three-time WorldSBK champion will be out to do the same during tomorrow’s race.

Kawasaki hasn’t won the biggest race of the year since 1993 – their sole success with Scott Russell and Aaron Slight at the helm – but they may not have a better opportunity than tomorrow.

It is a race unlike any other, and it has a circuit unlike any other to match. The Suzuka 8-Hours is the biggest race of the year for Japanese manufacturers, and it is held on one of the longest laps of the year.

With lap times of over two minutes, it is very easy for time to burn during a session, and it is very easy to left rueing any mistakes you make.

The Japanese venue is one of the most technical on the planet. It is a lap of contrasts, with the sweeping corners of the opening half, followed by a hairpin and chicanes in the second half of the lap.

Getting it right takes time and any mistake is heavily punished on the stop watch.

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.

Can you tell the difference between heaven and hell? Suzuka reveals the soul of a rider by breaking them down through each stint.

Your lungs are burning, the skin is falling off your hands because, even bandaged tightly, the extreme conditions will get the better of them, the dehydration is setting in, and your mind is foggy and far from clear.

Once you’re off the bike, and sitting in your chair, the realization slowly sets in that you still have to get back on the bike.

You look around and see the faces of your engineers, and they know what needs to be done, but the only thought running through your head is that fucking bike and the pain it’s been putting you through.

Suzuka is one of the most spectacular challenges on the planet for rider and machine. It flows around the hills and winds its way on top of itself.

Fast and slow corners. Sweeping bends that lead into each other and tight chicanes. There’s high speeds and heavy braking. Suzuka has it all and when you add in the heat and humidity of the final Sunday of July it becomes on of the biggest tests of character and will that any rider will go through.

This is heaven, this is hell. Which is which? Who can tell? The contrast between the feeling you get from riding a Superbike on the limit at Suzuka and the after effect is massive.

How do you deal with the physicality of racing in heat? Combat the mental strain of getting back on the bike? How do you deal with the sense pressure of expectancy? Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier, and Alex Lowes give us their thoughts on these three phases of the Suzuka 8-Hours.

Compromise has little place in most forms of racing. Speed is of the essence and everything else is secondary to it. In Endurance, the same principle guides the way, but there are compromises to be made. Speed is as necessary in the pit lane as it on the race track.

Being able to repair any damage quickly and easily is crucial. At this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours, we will see the fruit of that work once again, but ahead of this year’s edition, we take another look at the YZF-R1 that took the victory. It deserves one last moment in the spotlight.

With fewer restrictions in place on manufacturers, the return of “Suzuka Specials” in recent years has allowed the Japanese manufacturers to flex their creative muscles.

At the Suzuka 8-Hours, brain power is more important than horsepower, and finding a way to get the power to ground, by electronics, suspension or tires, is crucial.

Innovation is everywhere on the Suzuka grid, and last year’s winner was no exception..

The Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race kicks off this week, with the racing action coming to us this weekend. The final stop on the FIM Endurance World Championship calendar, Suzuka also happens to be the endurance race that all the Japanese manufacturers want to win.

To put Suzuka into perspective, this race means more to Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha than the Motegi round of MotoGP.

It means more than any domestic championship, the World Superbike Championship, and possibly even the MotoGP Championship as well. For the Big Four, this is big business.

It is no surprise then that we are seeing three official one-off factory teams entering this year’s Suzuka race, on top of the bevy of factory supported squads already in the FIM EWC paddock.

With so much on the line this year, Asphalt & Rubber will have boots on the ground for the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours, bringing you content every day from this truly unique race in Japan.

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.