On first glance, the field looks to be close ahead of this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours. Yamaha led the opening session, Honda topped the second, and there are four manufacturers inside the Top 5, and all within a second of the pace.
It seems to be setting up for a great weekend of racing, but when you delve into the times it’s clear that, while Honda has made progress, they are still playing catch up with their CBR1000RR SP2.
Despite a crash for Jack Miller, the #634 machine led the way in the afternoon session, but with Yamaha electing to use only one set of tires in the session, their true one-lap pace is still unknown.
The field is set and practice is on the verge of beginning. The preparation work is done and the time has come for the talking to stop and the racing to take centre stage at Suzuka. Who will be the leading actors at this year’s race? Asphalt & Rubber breaks down the field.
There aren’t many circuits as challenging as the Suzuka International Racing Course. So what’s the key to a quick lap?
Suzuka is a real rollercoaster racetrack. The unique figure-of-eight layout ensures that it is unlike any other circuit on the racing calendar, but the Japanese venue isn’t a gimmick, it’s a true test of skill and bravery for every rider.
As riders come across the start-finish line, it is a rare chance to catch their breath as they look across for their pitboard – and the Suzuka 8-Hours is not a short race.
The mental challenge of Suzuka is huge, and it’s easy to get fatigued. The heat and humidity play havoc with the riders, but the 20 corners, with most linked together, mean that mental errors are heavily punished. With such a long lap and stifling conditions, the lap counter seems to grow at a snail’s pace.
When Glenn Frey released one of the biggest hits of the 80s, the Suzuka 8-Hours was on the verge of its glory days. Those days are now being repeated.
In 1984, the Suzuka 8-Hours was on the cusp of being the biggest race of the season for the Japanese manufacturers, and that year’s edition was won by double WorldSBK champion Fred Merkel and 500GP rostrum finisher Mike Baldwin.
The win was Baldwin’s third and final victory, but started a run of success by the world’s biggest names in racing. The following six years saw riders such as Wayne Gardner, Kevin Magee, Wayne Rainey, and Eddie Lawson all have their name etched on the winners’ trophy, and in 1991 the first “Suzuka Super Team” emerged victorious.
With Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner winning, the all-Australian team was a 500GP dream team taking on the rest of the field. With Doohan sidelined by his horrific Assen crash the following year, Gardner nevertheless claimed his third win in Japan, with Daryl Beattie as his teammate.
The run of Grand Prix winners then came to an abrupt end in 1993 with Superbike stars Scott Russell and Aaron Slight delivering Kawasaki’s only victory in the race.
It was an era of exotica, with the Japanese manufacturers using incredible machinery to try and win the race; an era of big budgets and no holds barred racing – a true golden era of motorcycle racing.
Any in racing series, defending the #1 plate is no easy feat, and when it comes to motorcycle racing, this statement is the most true in the FIM Endurance World Championship.
Composed of only four races for the 2016 season, the endurance championship still requires 52 hours of racing, and many more hours of practice and qualifying leading up to that figure.
To put that in perspective, it is roughly three-times more racing that MotoGP does in a season, and twice as much racing than what occurs in the World Superbike Championship.
All that extra racing time means there are more opportunity for where things can go wrong, and with only four opportunities to score points, it makes reliability, teamwork, and racecraft all the more important.
It is also worth mentioning the FIM Endurance World Championship is the only racing series where a tire war still exists, and it is also a battlefield where four factory-backed manufacturers can win at any particular event.
With all that considered then, we must give a well-earned congratulations to the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), along with its riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle, and Etienne Masson, for winning the 2016 FIM Endurance World Championship.
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.
A win in Malaysia, three podiums, and sixth in the standings marks a solid start to any rookie campaign, but Nicky Hayden is no ordinary rookie.
As a MotoGP world champion, the flag bearer for the United States on the world stage, and one of the sports biggest stars, so much is expected of Hayden.
As World Superbike enters the summer break, Hayden has learned how to get the most from the Honda CBR1000RR, and has become a consistent top-six contender.
From the outside, it has been a solid campaign, but Hayden came to WorldSBK to have a chance to win, and even finishing on the podium isn’t quite enough for the Kentucky rider.
Taking things all the way to the last round of the championship – the Bol d’Or 24 Hour race – the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team can finally lay claim to being the the 2015 FIM Endurance World Champions.
Though endurance racing is very much a team effort, this victory for SERT couldn’t have been achieved without the team’s EWC veteran riders: Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle, and Etienne Masson.
The trio’s results have allowed Suzuki to claim its 14th EWC title, which is just one part of the Japanese brand’s domination in the FIM Endurance World Championship.
On its road to EWC glory, SERT won at Le Mans, finished fourth in the very competitive specialist field at Suzuka, landed second on the podium at Oschersleben, and wrapped up the Bol d’Or in the third position.
Have you ever wanted to create your own dream track? Take the best corners from all the MotoGP tracks, and combine them into one epic venue for motorcycle racing? That’s pretty much Bradley Smith has done for us today, and it’s awesome.
When it comes to riders who are adept at explaining the nuances and technical aspects of riding a MotoGP motorcycle, Bradley Smith ranks as one of the top riders. This year has been a breakout season for Smith, maturing both on and off the track, with the Englishman showing strong results on the track.
It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Bradley doesn’t have a signed contract for the 2016 season, though we suspect there’s more than meets the eye taking place behind closed doors.
Silly season issues aside, we’re pretty intrigued by Bradley’s choices for his dream track. Checkout which corners made the track after the jump, along with a video that explains Braldey’s picks, with commentary by his teammate Pol Espargaro.
Suzuki already has a classic blue and white commemorative livery for its GSX-R line of motorcycles, but today at the Indianapolis GP, the Japanese brand debuted another commemorative edition of the Suzuki GSX-R1000, this time in red & black.
While the blue and white livery has become the more traditional colors for Suzuki and its GSX-R sport bikes, it was the red and black GSX-R750 machines of Yoshimura Suzuki that dominated the Suzuka 8-Hour in 1986, the first year of the bike’s debut.