News 1 Aug 2016

Yamaha takes back-to-back Suzuka 8 Hours victories

Australians shine in round three of World Endurance.

Source: Supplied.

Source: Supplied.

Yamaha Factory Racing has won the Suzuka 8 Hours for the second-consecutive year, as Pol Espargaro, Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Alex Lowes rode the YZF-R1 to victory ahead of Kawasaki’s factory Team Green and Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance.

As in 2015, Yamaha Factory Racing swept the board at the 39th Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours, claiming both pole position and a win. Espargaro, Nakasuga and Lowes led the race for practically all of the 218 laps.

Ryuichi Kiyonari, who got off to a brilliant start in the saddle of Team Kagayama’s Suzuki, was the only one to briefly wrest the lead out of their grasp. Head and shoulders above the others with a fastest lap of 2m08.411s, Yamaha widened the gap with the other potential winners as the hours slipped by.

Second across the finish line, Team Green ran a superb race with riders Akira Yanagawa, Leon Haslam and Kazuki Watanabe. Team Green and Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance had waged a heated battle for the second step of the podium in the final few hours of the race, but Team Green managed to turn the duel to its advantage. 2009 was the last time there was a Kawasaki on the podium.

Third position was a particularly strong result for Australia’s Josh Brookes alongside Japanese duo Takuya Tsuda and Nori Haga, placing him back on the podium for the first time since his rode at Yoshimura in 2013.

YART Yamaha Official EWC Team finished fourth largely due to the heroics of Aussie Broc Parkes and the best-placed of the FIM EWC championship teams, now back in the running for the world title, on par with Team SRC Kawasaki and just ahead of Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and F.C.C. TSR Honda.

All three teams, likely candidates for a FIM EWC 2016 championship win, had a tough time of it at Suzuka. Team SRC Kawasaki looked settled in 10th place after a very focused start by Gregory Leblanc, Matthieu Lagrive and Jeremy Guarnoni, but a rear wheel axle issue forced them to withdraw six hours into the race.

Suzuki Endurance Racing Team was among the top 10 in the first hour, but after a stop-and-go penalty for a jump start and Vincent Philippe crashing due to a passing back-marker, the team finished 23rd.

F.C.C. TSR Honda started from fourth on the grid and did battle with the leading pack for the first few laps, but slid down the rankings after Dominique Aegerter crashed on the fifth lap. They eventually finished 18th.

Moto Map Supply were fifth past the finish line with another Australian Josh Waters, Nobuatsu Aoki and Yoshihiro Konno, ahead of another Suzuki in the Team Kagayama machine when Yukio Kagayama, Naomichi Uramoto and Ryuichi Kiyonari were slowed down by an especially laborious refuelling stop, followed by a flat tyre.

Eva RT Trick Star Kawasaki finished seventh with riders Osamu Deguchi, Hitoyasu Izutsu and Erwan Nigon. This competitive Japanese team has announced its intention of taking part in the entire EWC championship next season.

A tight group of four Japanese teams on Hondas finished in eighth to 11th place – Honda Team Asia, Mistresa with ATS, Teluru Kohara RT with Damian Cudlin on board and Toho Racing. Team R2CL of Aaron Morris, Honda Endurance Racing, GMT94 Yamaha and Team Bolliger finished in the top 15. Anthony West’s Akeno Speed WJR Yamaha Superstock squad was credited 53rd after his teammate crashed.

GMT94 Yamaha had the best grid position of these four permanent FIM EWC teams, but a rear wheel issue followed by electrical problems slowed them down. Team April Moto Motors Events was 19th at the finish, enabling Alex Cudlin’s squad to hold onto the title lead with one round remaining.

The upsets that afflicted the favourites at Suzuka enabled this French privateer to hold on to the top spot in the provisional FIM EWC championship standings, with an eight-point lead over Team SRC Kawasaki and YART Yamaha Official EWC Team.

Major non-finishes in the race included Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda with a mechanical forcing Nicky Hayden, Michael van der Mark and Takuma Takahashi out, as was the case for Team Dogfight Racing Australia’s Mark Aitchison and Corey Turner.