This weekend’s Suzuka 8 Hours will double as the third round of the 2010 Qtel FIM Endurance World Championship, marking the mid-season of the 2010 series.
Reigning world champions Yamaha Austria Racing Team is the most experienced European team in Suzuka this year, with team riders including Australian Steve Martin, Igor Jerman and Gwen Giabbani trying to take back the championship lead as they are only two points behind Bolliger Switzerland.
YART finished fourth in the 2009 Suzuka 8 Hours and also finished eighth in the Suzuka 300 last month just behind the Yamaha France GMT 94 Ipone.
In Suzuka, the official French Yamaha will try to score big points after two difficult races in Le Mans and in Albacete. David Checa and Kenny Foray will team with Damian Cudlin, since Gregorio Lavilla, the third official rider, is still recovering from a broken pelvis following his Spanish crash.
Cudlin is an endurance regular and was seen this year on the Honda BMP Elf 99, but in the end the Belgian Honda team did not enter the Suzuka 8 Hours due to financial reasons. Another big absence in Suzuka is the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, which is now under great pressure to do their best at the Bol d’Or and the 8 Hours of Doha to clinch the 2010 title.
These three permanent teams will have to battle against the highly prepared Japanese competition, which benefits from the support of the official factories and are entering with Moto2, World Superbike, Australian Superbike and British Superbike riders.
Amongst the favourites for victory are the Yoshimura Suzuki team of Yukio Kagayama, Daisaku Sakai and Nobuatsu Aoki as they won the 2009 8 Hours and this year’s Suzuka 300.
FCC TSR Honda will lead the Honda charge with Kosuke Akiyoshi, Jonathan Rea and Yuki Takahashi, while ASBK contender Wayne Maxwell will team with Chojun Kameya in the Honda Dream Sakurai team. Another team will Honda Keihin Kohara, featuring ex-MotoGP regulars Shinichi Itoh and Makoto Tamada.
The first practice will start in Suzuka on Friday, with the start of the race scheduled for Sunday at 11:30am local time.