The Suzuka 8 Hours
71 teams hope to race in Japan on 27 July
The Suzuka 8 Hours is going gangbusters. This second round of the FIM Endurance World Championship has attracted a record number of entries, among them nine permanent crews who will be taking on the best Japanese teams on their home ground.
We have to go back to 2008 to find so many teams entering the Japanese event. There are 71 entries but only 70 places available at the start which will be given at 11h30 local time (GMT+9) on Sunday 27 July. This 37th edition is also attracting several big names in the motorcycle racing world. Kevin Schwantz, who made his comeback with Team Kagayama last year, is back with even greater ambitions this time aboard the Legend of Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance with two other Suzuki MotoGP celebrities, Satoshi Tsujimoto and Nobuatsu Aoki. This Suzuki #12 marks the 60th anniversary of the Japanese preparer which is also entering the Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance #34 with Takuya Tsuda, Josh Waters and Frenchman Randy de Puniet who will be making his début at the Suzuka 8 Hours. Team Kagayama will be on the grid again with Yukio Kagayama, Noriyuki Haga and Switzerland’s Dominique Aegerter, a Moto2 rider also racing his maiden Suzuka 8 Hours.
Among the Japanese favourites, Musashi RT Harc-Pro (Honda) is again fielding its winning crew from 2013, Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and Michael Van der Mark. The FCC TSR Honda, victorious in 2011 and 2012 and the fastest machine coming out of the tests held on 2 and 3 July, is aiming for victory with Kosuke Akiyoshi, Jonathan Rea and Lorenzo Zanetti, an Italian rider from the FIM Supersport World Championship. Kawasaki’s colours will be defended by the Eva RT Synergy Force Trick Star with Osamu Deguchi, Hitoyasu Izutsu and France’s Gregory Leblanc, currently top of the leader board in the FIM Endurance World Championship after his win with the SRC Kawasaki at the Bol d’Or.
Monster Energy Yamaha YART is the permanent team most in view at Suzuka. There will be two Yamahas sporting the YART colours in Suzuka. The #07 will be entrusted to the Japanese star Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who took pole position in 2012 and 2013, alongside Australians Broc Parkes and Josh Brookes, and the Yamaha #7 in the capable hands of Australians Wayne Maxwell and Rick Olson with Britain’s Tommy Bridewell.
Among the other permanent teams likely to make the Top 10 in Suzuka is Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube with David Checa, Kenny Foray and Mathieu Gines. Runners-up in the Bol d’Or this April, this team was on the podium in Suzuka in 2012 and finished 5th in 2013. The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, multiple FIM Endurance World Champion, will be hungrier than ever in Suzuka after a DNF following a crash in the first round of 2014 at the Bol d’Or. The only question mark is whether Vincent Philippe has fully recovered. He is certainly hoping to be at the start with team mates Anthony Delhalle and Erwan Nigon.
Also among the ones to watch are the new Honda Racing team with Julien da Costa, Sébastien Gimbert and Freddy Foray, who were very impressive at the Bol d’Or, Team R2CL (Suzuki), who have shown themselves capable of getting in amongst the factory teams, with Gareth Jones, Gwen Giabbani and Matthieu Lagrive, and Bolliger Team Switzerland with Horst Saiger, Roman Stamm and Daniel Sutter. Team Flembbo Leader Team (Kawasaki) and Motobox Kremer by Shell Advance (Suzuki) will also be on the grid at Suzuka where Team Motors Events April Moto (Suzuki), 5th in the Bol d’Or avec Grégory Fastré, Michael Savary and Jimmy Storrar, will be making their first appearance.