The Musashi HARC-Pro Honda team of Leon Haslam, Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi captured the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours race. The Musashi team was joined on the podium by the Yoshimura Suzuki team of Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki and Josh Brookes and the Kagayama Suzuki team of Yukio Kagayama, Noriyuki Haga and Kevin Schwantz.
The Musashi team completed 214 laps to win the endurance race. The Yoshimura team also completed 214 laps but finished 1:53.276 behind, to finish second despite an earlier crash and a 30-second time penalty. The Kagayama team finished one lap back, edging out the reigning Endurance World Champions, the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) of Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Julien Da Costa by 6.796 seconds.
Yoshimura’s Tsuda took the early lead after getting a better start than pole-setter Katsuyuki Nakasuga of the Monster Energy Yamaha team of Japanese Superbike Champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga with Broc Parkes and Josh Waters. The Yamaha team soon regained the lead but the Musashi later gained the advantage. The Yoshimura team had a solid hold on third place after the first hour ahead of Team Kagayama and SERT.
Jonathan Rea, a winner in last year’s race, and his FCC TSR Honda teammate Ryuichi Kiyonari later joined in the hunt, tracking down the Musashi team before Kiyonari crashed out in the third hour, injuring his chest and damaging the team’s Honda CBR1000RR too much to continue. The crash left the Musashi team in front for good the rest of the race.
Also in the third hour, Yoshimura’s Aoki was handed a 30-second penalty for speeding in pit lane, giving up second to Team Kagayama. Brookes later crashed the team’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 but managed to remount and finish his full turn. Yoshimura later regained second place during the fourth hour, a position it would hold to the end. There was a bit of drama near the end, as rain started to fall over the last hour and Yoshimura opted not to change to wet tires, but the team managed to hold on to second.
“I am very sorry that I was given a penalty for speeding in the pit-lane. It gave Takuya and Josh a lot of pressure,” says Aoki. “When I jumped onto the bike, I didn’t touch the speed limiter switch. It is stupid mistake! Especially for Josh, who managed to catch-up with the front runners again and was pushing hard, which is maybe why he crashed.”
With Haslam’s victory, the British rider surpassed his father Ron who a runner up in the 1979 race. The win was especially gratifying considering his disappointing year in the World Superbike Championship where he currently sits 15th, missing several races after braking his leg.
“This means so much after the tough season I’ve had. The leg held up pretty well during my stints but I just want to say thanks to the whole Musashi HARC-Pro team,” says Haslam. “They did a great job and also Mickey and Takahashi-san rode really well. I feel sorry for Jonathan and Kiyo [Ryuichi Kiyonari] but it’s a long tough race and anything can happen. I’m just glad that we managed to hold on to the lead until the end. It’s a really magical feeling.”
But perhaps the feel-good story of the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours was the podium finish for 1993 Grand Prix World Champion Schwantz making his racing comeback taking one turn on the team’s GSX-R1000. Schwantz praised Kagayama for putting the team together.
“I know this race is not easy to win. But this time Yukio made a very good team. This was the only condition that I asked of him coming to Japan to enter this race again. He has changed his Japanese Superbike team to a World Endurance top contender,” says Schwantz. “Yukio’s effort was great! I tested so many tires and set-ups for bike and we found a lot of potential. In the race, I only did one stint but I really enjoyed racing with the young Japanese riders. We got third place for the race and thank you to every one of our team staff. Yukio said to me ‘You are my idol!,’ but I would like to say to Yukio ‘ You are a Superstar!”
[Source: Honda, Suzuki, FIM]