More, from a press release issued by FIM EWC:
HONDA-POWERED HEROES WIN ACTION-PACKED EWC SUZUKA 8 HOURS FOR TEAM HRC
*Nagashima, Takahashi and Vierge combine to claim famous race for home outfit
*Despite delay F.C.C. TSR Honda France retakes points lead after YART Yamaha woe
*TOHO Racing and SDG Honda Racing complete podium following late rain shower
*Japan’s EWC round records a weekend spectator attendance of 42,000
*Coveted FIM EWC world title to go down to the wire in next month’s Bol d’Or
(6 August 2023): Team HRC proved unbeatable during a thrilling third round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship, the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, which finished at the iconic Japanese venue this evening (Sunday).
Its second Suzuka victory in as many years followed a lengthy delay for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team and an early setback for F.C.C. TSR Honda France, all of which means the EWC title chase will go down to the wire in next month’s eagerly awaited Bol d’Or.
Despite its delay during the opening hour in Suzuka, F.C.C. TSR Honda France was able to retake the championship lead by fighting back to finish fourth. But its advantage over YART heading to the Circuit Paul Ricard finale from 14-17 September is just 14 points. And with points being multiplied by a factor of 1.5 for the fourth round of the season, the title race is wide open with a number of other teams also in contention.
For Spanish World Superbike rider Vierge, however, the focus is firmly on his debut EWC win alongside Japanese riders Takumi Takahashi and Tetsuta Nagashima, who recovered from a foot injury to take part having not raced since April.
“For me it’s amazing because it’s the first time I made this amazing race and to get this win just feels incredible,” said the 26-yea-old Vierge. “I need to say thank you so much to my team and also to my team-mates, they did an amazing job. I learn a lot from them during all of the week and finally we are able to have a good pace. It has not been easy because in my second stint I had the safety car and I was one of the last in my group [when the race restarted] and it was so difficult to overtake without making mistakes. And the last two hours for them were really difficult with the rain. But they just made the correct decisions in every moment. It was a perfect strategy, it’s such a pleasure and I’m so happy.”
Behind Team HRC with Japan Post, Yoshimura SERT Motul looked set to improve on its 2022 placing of third by claiming the runner-up spot, only for Gregg Black to crash nearing the seven-hour mark. Having led early on, Black’s Suzuki-powered team responded to late-race rain by switching the UK-born French rider onto wet weather tyres.
Returning to the track for what would have been a double stint in the hot and humid conditions, Black slid off at the ‘S’ Curves and eight minutes were lost in the pits while repairs were made. Sylvain Guintoli completed the race for the team in P12.
Yoshimura SERT Motul’s misfortunate let in TOHO Racing for second with Ikuhiro Enokido, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Takuma Kunimine onboard its Honda after it had clocked the third fastest time in Saturday afternoon’s Top 10 Trial. SDG Honda Racing placed third with riders Teppei Nagoe, Haruki Noguchi and Naomichi Uramoto coming through strongly towards the end.
AutoRace Ube Racing Team relied on two riders only – Dan Linfoot and Takuya Tsuda – following an injury to Hafizh Syahrin in pre-race testing to finish fifth behind F.C.C. TSR Honda France, which dropped out of contention with a sensor issue that contributed to a fall for Mike Di Meglio in the opening hour.
HOW THE CHASE FOR EWC GLORY UNFOLDED IN JAPAN
A rapid running start from Gregg Black in front of Suzuka’s packed main grandstand gave Yoshimura SERT Motul the early lead only for Niccolò Canepa to snatch top spot for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team at the final chicane nearing the completion of lap three.
Having been muscled out of second place, Takumi Takahashi fought back from fifth to lead on lap seven aboard his Team HRC Honda. But Canepa, on the #7 Yamaha, responded only for Takahashi to retake an advantage who wouldn’t lose on lap 12.
And Team HRC’s gap to its rivals grew significantly when the #7 Yamaha, with Karel Hanika riding, stopped on track on the run out of Spoon Curve after one hour and 36 minutes.
With the help of two volunteer marshals, Hanika heroically pushed his stricken machine back towards the pits where an electrical issue was identified and fixed, albeit following a major time loss. A further pit visit to fix a loose fairing left YART in 40th position after four hours of racing. It crossed the finishing line in 23rd.
As well as several on-track battles for position, the focus of the final hours was on the expected rain, which materialised after six hours and 20 minutes of racing and led to several changes of position and myriad pit stops for tyre changes.
BMW Motorrrad World Endurance Team secured important EWC points in seventh, one place behind Honda Dream RT Sakurai Honda. Honda Asia-Dream Racing with Showa finished eighth followed by S-Pulse Dream Racing -ITEC and Astemo Honda Racing Dream SI Racing, which completed the provisional top 10.
Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar finished 13th after it was delayed by two unscheduled pitstops. Honda Viltaïs Racing came home 14th as Motobox Kremer Racing equalled its previous best finish of 25th. KM99 was delayed by more than 20 minutes, however, when its Yamaha ran out of fuel.
The Bol d’Or season decider takes place at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, from 14-17 September when the FIM Endurance World Championship and FIM Endurance World Cup titles will be up for grabs.