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. This Honda represents everything that HRC knows about making an endurance racing machine.
As you can imagine then, while this story starts with a bit of hyperbole, it isn’t far from reality.
What you are looking at here is the bike that Honda hopes will win the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race this year. It is called the Honda CBR1000RRW.
It is not all that different from the WorldSBK-spec model, the one that Leon Camier and Jake Gange are competing with currently (and that PJ Jacobsen is helping develop), save for some interesting changes.
For starters, the Honda CBR1000RRW dumps its Cosworth boxes, and instead runs the Magneti Marelli electronics package that Jacobsen is using in WorldSBK.
Also, there are some obvious bodywork changes, namely where the exposed front spars of the frame would be, which are now covered by a silver painted panel.
Then of course, there are the mechanical changes for endurance duty, like quick-change wheel pieces and functional lights. Also note the Nissin brakes,
Showa Öhlins suspension, and Bridgestone tires (the FIM EWC is the last major series where there is competition also amongst the tire brands).
Before CBR1000RRW can race at Suzuka though, Honda will campaign the machine in the All Japan Superbike Championship, with Takumi Takahashi at the helm.
Takahashi-san will race at Suzuka as well, with two other teammates, who are still to be named, and likely will come from Honda’s MotoGP or WorldSBK racing efforts.
So far, Franco Morbidelli and Thomas Luthi have been tipped as being asked by Honda, but we are sure that Big Red sent out more feelers to other riders.
With the holiday season receding into the rear view mirror, that means that we are getting closer to seeing bikes on tracks.
Testing starts this week for both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks, and before testing, the Movistar Yamaha team will present their 2018 livery later on this week as well.
The action starts on Tuesday in Jerez, where virtually the entire WorldSBK paddock is gathered for a two-day test.
The Andalusian track will see the first real test of the 2018 WorldSBK machines, with the teams all having had the winter break to develop their bikes under the new technical regulations – new rev limits, and better access to cheaper parts.
All eyes will once again be on triple and reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, the man who dominated at Jerez in November.
The Japanese motorcycle manufacturers take the Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race very seriously, and none of the brands make a bigger deal out of the mid-summer event than Honda.
Big Red has won the Suzuka 8-Hours on 27 occasions, out of its 40 runnings, which is an impressive win ratio, but there is one issue: for the last three years in a row, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team has displaced Honda’s supported efforts on the top podium step – a feat no other team has ever achieved.
This is an insult that Honda can apparently no longer tolerate, and this week the Japanese manufacturer announced that at the 2018 Suzuka 8-Hours, a factory-backed “Team HRC” squad will compete in this iconic race.
Stefan Bradl is to miss the rest of the 2017 WorldSBK season. The Red Bull Honda rider’s wrist injury, sustained in a crash at Portimao, is more serious than initially thought, and the recovery period required means he will not be fit for either the Jerez or Qatar rounds of WorldSBK.
The decision was taken after surgery on Bradl’s right wrist. Pins were inserted and a torn scaphulonate ligament reattached, damage sustained in the crash.
The surgeons who performed the operation have ordered Bradl to keep his wrist immobilized to allow the damage to heal. This effectively makes it impossible for him to ride for the rest of the season.
Vince Lombardi once said that he “firmly believes that any man’s finest hour is that moment when he has worked his heart out for a good cause and he lies exhausted on the field of battle. Victorious.”
The day is done, the battle is won, and for a third consecutive year, Yamaha lifted the Suzuka 8-Hours trophy.
It was a dominant performance by the #21 crew, and in the aftermath they sat and enjoyed their success. They weren’t exhausted, but for Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark, and Katsuyuki Nakasuga this was the final moment of their 2017 in Suzuka, Japan.
Sitting in their paddock office, the trio of riders were relaxed, but the emotions of the day were starting to take hold.
Yamaha claimed its third Top 10 Shootout victory on the bounce at Suzuka today, but the Yamaha Factory Team know that there is still plenty of work to do to claim victory at the Suzuka 8-Hours
There are no team sports quite like motorsport. Fans focus their attentions on the riders on track, but it truly is a team effort that drives performance.
At the Suzuka 8-Hours, teamwork becomes even more important, and how a trio of riders work together and gel can become the deciding factor between winning and losing.
Yamaha retained its vice-like grip on the Suzuka 8-Hours by leading the way in qualifying, ahead of this weekend’s 40th edition of the legendary race, but Honda’s consistency could be a real threat.
Alex Lowes was the pace-setter for the Factory Yamaha Team with the WorldSBK star setting his fastest ever lap of the Japanese circuit. His 2’06.4 was marginally faster than his teammate, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, and afterwards Lowes was pleased with their efforts and excited for the weekend.
“I’m really happy with today,” said a smiling Lowes. “I did a 2’06.4 on the same tires that we will be using for the race, so that’s very positive. It’s also the first time that I’ve done a 2’06 around here. Today was difficult in the morning because there were some damp patches, but the bike is really good here.”
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.