Yoshimura Suzuki and Team Kagayama raced their GSX-R1000s to second and third places at today’s drama-packed Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship second round at Suzuka in Japan.
The #34 Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance team of Takuya Tsuda, Randy De Puniet and Josh Waters closed to within 60 seconds of victory in a delayed 37th running of the Coca-Cola Zero-sponsored event that was plagued by intermittent rain, forcing extra pit stops to change tyres; along with several Safety Car situations following crashes.
In what was a mirror of the 2013 Suzuka 8-Hour podium, Team Kagayama – Nori Haga, Yukio Kagayama and young Swiss newcomer Dominique Aegerter – finished a lap behind Yoshimura Suzuki and winners Musashi Harc-Pro’s Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and Michael Van Der Mark; the top-two teams on the same number of 172 laps.
In the ‘Sprint Start,’ Aegerter led Tsuda with the #12 Legend of Yoshimura team rider Nobuatsu Aoki fourth. Aoki, who was teamed with former World 500cc Champion Kevin Schwantz and former All Japan Superbike Champion Satoshi Tsujimoto, caught-up with Tsuda on lap six to challenge for second place, but crashed-out heavily as he tried to go inside to make a pass, ending the team’s Suzuka challenge early.
Tsuda too suffered a crash two laps later, but remounted to start a climb back through the field and into fourth position, as reigning World Endurance Champions SERT – with Erwan Nigon taking the first rider stint – circulating in 14th initially before eventually climbing to eighth place at the flag; and the best of the permanent EWC teams in the race. Nigon pitted on lap 24 as the track dried-out and slicks were fitted. The other Suzuki teams came in a lap later.
With Kagayama in the seat, the Team Kagayama GSX-R1000 was back-up to fourth position by lap 34 - after slipping back to seventh - and then after a pit-stop to change tyres, climbed into second place. SERT also pitted for different tyres as rain fell again, handing-over to Damian Cudlin, who put the team into ninth position during his stint.
De Puniet took over the Yoshimura Suzuki on lap 76 and the Frenchman got up into second position – putting in the fastest lap of the race to that point of 2’09.426 as the conditions dried again - but the following laps saw the Safety Car out following crashes; including early leaders TSR Honda, allowing the pack to bunch-up again.
The closing stages also saw more drama with crashes and Safety Car situations – one lasting 18 minutes – then as Waters took his last stint on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R as night fell, there was an issue with the headlight not working; which would have caused the team to be excluded. However crisis was averted as the headlight finally switched on and Waters tried his hardest to hunt-down new race leaders Musashi Harc-Pro in the final laps, closing the gap to 59.844 seconds.
“It was really crazy weather conditions; sunny and then heavy rain. It was totally unpredictable throughout the race, lots of Safety Cars but I am sure we did our best today.”
Randy De Puniet:
“It was really difficult conditions today; but this is my first time racing at the Suzuka 8-Hours and it’s been a very good experience. My team-mates and the Yoshimura team staff all did their best and kept the battle going until the finish line. It is really a precious experience for me and I hope to be back here next year to race again.”
“I know we all did our best but I’m not satisfied with the result. I will do my best again though next year to win.”
“I am really happy with the great support from the fans we’ve had today and I would like to say thank you to the organisers for all their hard work and arrangement of safety cars to keep a high-level of safety for the sport. I planned to take Noriyuki (Haga) to the podium and Dominique did a great job his first race here, and I’m pleased we invited him to join us. Thanks also to our great staff!”
“Before the race, I was told I’d only race one stint, so was a little disappointed, but it meant I could fully concentrate on my stint. I am very happy with my team mates’ effort and that we got the podium. The atmosphere in the team is very nice, I really enjoyed it, so thanks to everyone.”
“This is my first race at Suzuka and I have learnt a lot. Despite the delay, wet conditions, dry conditions, pits stops; it all good experience for me and I hope I can come back again to ride with the team.”
“The Suzuka 8-Hour was unusual with the weather conditions and the tyre choices, but our team has a lot of experience, so it was ok. The race was good and the GSX-R was perfect, but I’m not satisfied with eighth as we wanted to win or finish on the podium. But it’s difficult at Suzuka as there’s lots of the Japanese factory riders who have a lot of experience here. But a top-10 finish is not so bad.”
“The start was little bit strange, but the GSX-R was good and I was confident with the settings we’d found in practice. Our team has confidence in us and has a lot of experience in various weather conditions, so we could keep a good consistent pace.”
“This has been a very good experience for me to be in this world championship team. It’s my first race for the team and I’ve gained a lot more confidence with the bike and the team and got faster, so if they need me again, I am ready.”
Suzuka 8-Hour Results: 1 MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO (Honda) 172 laps, 2 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI Shell ADVANCE (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Takuya Tsuda, Randy De Puniet, Josh Waters – 172, 3 TEAM KAGAYAMA and Verity (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Dominique Aegerter, Noriyuki Haga Yukio Kagayama – 171, 4 Monster Energy Yamaha (Yamaha) 171, 5 TOHO Racing with MORIWAKI (Honda) 170, 6 Honda Suzuka Racing Team (Honda) 170, 7 Honda Team Asia (Honda) 169, 8 SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Anthony Delhalle, Erwan Nigon, Damian Cudlin – 169, 9 Yamaha Racing GMT94 Michelin (Yamaha) 168, 10 Monster Energy Yamaha (Yamaha) 168.
More, from a press release issued by Yamaha Racing:
Yamaha Take World Endurance Championship Lead after Suzuka 8 Hours
The Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube Team have today stepped into the lead of the FIM World Endurance Championship following the drama filled Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan. The 37th edition of the race was tense from the off with the start delayed by heavy rains on the Suzuka circuit and then reduced to just under seven hours to comply with local restrictions.
GMT94’s David Checa endured a less than perfect opening ride on his Yamaha YZF-R1, dropping three laps behind the lead in the first two hours before handing over to teammate Kenny Foray on a dry track in 27th position. Foray then began the hard work of regaining ground, and third rider Mathieu Gines was also on the pace, allowing the No.94 bike to cut through the pack and take a respectable ninth place at the line. The finish was enough to put the French team into the lead in the world standings as they return to Europe for the next round, the 8 Hours of Oschersleben on 23rd August.
The Monster Energy Yamaha Austria Racing Team’s YSP No.07 bike finished the Suzuka race just off the podium in fourth position. Local hero and All Japan Superbike star Katsuyuki Nakasuga worked hard alongside Australian riders Broc Parkes and Joshua Brookes. Having started from 2nd the riders had lost several places due to a technical issue and were outside the top ten before climbing back up to try and challenge for the last spot on the podium. The last two hours saw them step closer and closer however after several safety car appearances for crashes not connected to them the team had to settle for fourth.
The second YART bike, No.7 made great progress from their qualifying position of 22nd. Riders Wayne Maxwell, Rick Olson and Tommy Bridewell put in a strong fight, rising 12 positions to bring their R1 home just behind the GMT bike in tenth position.
“We are now leading the World Endurance Championship and this is what we wanted, so the goal is reached. I’m also happy because I understood how to be fast on this difficult track. I had a lot of fun and I’m happy that the team enjoyed it as well.”
“The start was so tough, I thought that I was going to crash at every corner of the race. I was so scared of not being able to bring the bike back. I’m happy that I didn’t crash in the end! After this, the race was amazing. I found my good feelings back with the Yamaha and catching up with the others was exhilarating.”
“I love Suzuka. I would like to thank the team who gave me the opportunity to get there. I learned a lot and now I’m looking forward to Oschersleben, that is a track that I like a lot also. For now, we can breathe and enjoy the fact that we took the lead of the Championship!”
Suzuka 8 Hours Final Results
1. 634 Musashi RT HARC-PRO 6:56'13.056
2. 34 Yoshimura Suzuki Shell ADVANCE 6:57'12.900
3. 17 Team Kagayama / Verity 6:56'16.132
4. 07 Monster Energy Yamaha YSP 6:57'49.072
9. 94 Yamaha Racing GMT94 Michelin 6:57'06.359
10. 7 Monster Energy Yamaha YART 6:57'13.151
FIM World Endurance Championship Standings
1 Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin 94 FRA Yamaha YZF-R1 62
2 SRC Kawasaki 11 FRA Kawasaki ZX10R 55
3 Team Bolliger Switzerland 8 SUI Kawasaki ZX10R 45
4 Musashi RT Harc Pro 634 JPN Honda CBR1000RR 35
5 Team Motors Events April Moto 50 FRA Suzuki GSX-R1000 35
6 National Motos 55 FRA Honda CBR1000RR 32
7 Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance 34 JPN Suzuki GSX-R1000 29
8 Team R2CL 2 FRA Suzuki GSX-R1000 26
9 Team Kagayama / Verity 17 JPN Suzuki GSX-R1000 25
10 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team 1 FRA Suzuki GSX-R1000 23
11 Monster Energy Yamaha with YSP 07 JPN Yamaha YZF-R1 21
20 Monster Energy Yamaha YART 7 AUT Yamaha YZF-R1 11
More, from a press release issued by Pata Honda:
Pata Honda riders conquer Suzuka 8 Hours with CBR again
Pata Honda riders Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark, together with Japanese team-mate Takumi Takahashi won today’s Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan with the MuSashi Harc-Pro Honda team's CBR1000RR Fireblade for the second year in succession.
It was a dramatic and incident-packed race after the start was delayed by one hour because of a heavy rain storm. Further rain fell during the race and a number of crashes brought out the pace car no fewer than four times.
One of those crashes befell race leader Kosuke Akiyoshi of the FCC TSR squad, winner of the 2012 race with Jonathan Rea who was his team-mate once again for this year’s event. Remarkably, Akiyoshi managed to return his CBR1000RR Fireblade to the pits, despite fracturing his femur in the crash.
It is the second year in succession that Rea has seen a team-mate crash out of a healthy lead but the FCC TSR team managed to repair the machine and draft in the fourth Pata Honda rider Lorenzo Zanetti who was reserve rider for the team. With Rea doing the final stint in the gruelling race, the pair managed to lift the team back to 40th place at the flag.
It was World Supersport championship leader van der Mark who put the decisive move on Suzuki’s Randy de Puniet to take second place at around half race distance. When Akiyoshi crashed out, the Dutchman took over the lead which eventually built to more than a minute by the time his team-mate Takahashi took the chequered flag after just under seven hours of racing.
And it was van der Mark and Haslam who, as Pata Honda team-mates, were left to celebrate their second successive win with Takahashi, for whom it was a third Suzuka 8 Hours victory. It was the fifth consecutive success for Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade and Honda’s 27th Suzuka triumph.
Usually I enjoy my riding but for this time I felt pressure not to crash or not to make any mistakes. The team did a fantastic job and the pit-stops were very neat and quick. Michael was super-fast and Takumi was Mr. Consistent in his
stints! I was really nervous watching him at the end, but he made it for our second win in a row.
Michael van der Mark
Amazing feeling! I was ready for the third hour but it start raining and team decided to go with Takumi in the rain because he has more experience. The fourth hour was for me and I got faster and faster with a steady pace and rhythm. The bike worked perfect, the team did an amazing job. My last stint was at a really good pace and I could ride quite easily. To be here again in my second year is amazing feeling. We did it all together.
It’s difficult to know what to say apart from how disappointing this is. Akiyoshi did an amazing job to get the bike back to the pits and that allowed us to get out again but we knew there wasn’t much we could do. But, as I said earlier: “You win if you can, lose if you must, but you never quit.”
My first experience of the 8 Hours was incredible and I did not expect to ride, especially because Jonathan and Akiyoshi did such a fantastic job to get the team to the front and then build a strong lead. I feel very sorry for the whole team but congratulations to Mikey and Leon and Takumi of course.