Aug 6, 2001
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From a Kawasaki press release:<BR><BR>Team Kawasaki would field two Superbike teams on the starting grid in today's prestigious but gruelling 8-Hours race. Kawasaki Riders Akira Yanagawa and Hitoyasu Izutsu paired together, with Gregorio Lavilla and Tamaki Serizawa forming the second team. The race staged around the undulating Suzuka layout would pit both rider and machine to 8 hours of punishment throughout the heat of Japan in mid summer.<BR><BR>Akira/Hitoyasu produced a stunning qualifying lap, pushing their green Ninja ZX7-RR Superbike to the outside of the front row with the fourth-fastest time. Gregorio/Serizawa would start from the third row with the 10th-fastest qualifying time.<BR><BR>Akira discussed his race strategy saying, "We really need to be in the leading group of riders throughout the race to have a chance. The weather is so hot and humid and I know this will affect a lot of riders at the end of the race. I think if we can be there at the end the fireworks will start in the last few laps."<BR><BR>Gregorio said, "The most important thing is to avoid crashing and complete the race. I will try my best against the fast local riders and some big-name international riders. This is the only way to achieve good finishing results and promote the Kawasaki name."<BR><BR>Race Day:<BR>The hopes of all the Kawasaki Racing Team were dealt a severe blow early on in the race when Akira crashed into the back of a slower rider. Initially the crash damage wasn't seen as very severe. On returning to the pits, the damage forced extra-unscheduled pit stops moving them down the order into 40th. Both riders recovered remarkably, clawing their way back up to 12th position, before another two race crashes. Eventually they finished the day in 23rd place.<BR><BR>Gregorio/Tamaki were consistently in fifth and sixth place up until the latter stages of the race. Gregorio was just starting his final session when he tried to overtake, on the inside of a much slower rider, around the Spoon Curve. To avoid hitting the rider, he was forced onto an unusual line and highsided heavily on the exit of the corner. Gregorio was unhurt but his ZX7-RR Ninja Superbike didn't fare that well and both<BR>were forced to retire.<BR><BR>Overall a disappointing end to a race that can be summed up by Mr.Takata, the Head of Race Engineering, "We should move on from this nightmare, however, at the same time we should learn something from this experience--that's what we must not miss."<BR><BR>Gregorio said, "It's been a tough weekend. We both were riding the bike really well and it looked as if a podium was within our reach throughout the race. In the end it's disappointing to have worked so hard and not get any result at all."<BR><BR>Akira summed up his race by saying, " We didn't have much luck in the race after qualifying so well. It's a shame because the team worked so hard just to get us both out onto track after the first crash. We all wanted a better finish but at least we tried."<BR><BR><BR>From a Suzuki press release:<BR><BR>SUZUKI RIDERS YUKIO KAGAYAMA, AKIRA RYO AND ATUSHI WATANABE finished third in the prestigious Suzuka Endurance race less than a minute and a quarter behind first place at the end of the eight hours.<BR><BR>The Japanese trio took advantage of the new regulations allowing three team riders and started from pole position following an immaculate lap from Akira Ryo in final qualifying yesterday and remained on the lead lap despite Yukio Kagayama riding off of the track at Spoon Curve.<BR><BR>The race was won by Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi (Honda).