Former 500cc World Champion, Kevin Schwantz, will pair with former Japanese Champion, Satoshi Tsujimoto, in this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour race. The duo originally tackled Suzuka together in 1986, ultimately coming in third position. Now the two are back in celebration of Yoshimura’s 60th anniversary, as part of the company’s “Legend Team.” Yoshimura will also field a second entry with former Australian Champion Josh Waters and All Japan Superbike rider Takuya Tsuda.
As fans of the sport, the news of Schwantz and Tsujimoto pairing together again is an exciting one. Last year, at age 49, Schwantz came out of retirement to team with Yukio Kagayama and Noriyuki Haga in the 8-Hour event, finishing third overall (Schwantz has never finished higher), but only riding in one stint during the race. Both he and Tsujimoto (54) will have to up their fitness regimen to ensure they can endure the grueling conditions faced at Suzuka in July.
Says team manager Fujio Yoshimura: “We are glad to announce that the Suzuka 8-Hour this year is going to be one of the most memorable event ever for Yoshimura Japan. It is our 60th Anniversary year since Pops Yoshimura started this business back in 1954 and we are fielding a ‘Legend Team’ to celebrate our racing history.
The team will run with two very famous riders; one is 1993 WGP Champion Kevin Schwantz and other is 1985-1986 All Japan Formula-1 Class Champion Satoshi Tsujimoto. They were paired together in the 1986 Suzuka 8-Hour and finished third overall. They will challenge not only for a podium finish but also hopefully give a lot to the entertainment side of motorsport as well.
Even for riders like Schwantz and Tsujimoto, to challenge at the Suzuka 8-Hour will be extremely tough because of the high temperatures and humidity – which drains your energies to where you could get into serious dehydration problems – but both of them are willing to challenge to prove that it is something worth challenging for!
I have to put together the team to support their challenging sprits in the best possible manner. Yoshimura believes that such an effort will make our anniversary a worthwhile project – just like Suzuka 8-Hour in 80’s. We can assure you that this effort hopefully makes all the spectators and our fans realize the team’s sincerity and determination; and also add a bit of nostalgic-excitement to the event.”
Schwantz’s experience last year has reignited his racing spirit saying, “Competing in the 2013 Suzuka 8-Hour with Team Kagayama reminded me of what racing with a great team is all about. I am really looking forward to celebrating Yoshimura’s 60th anniversary of being in business by competing in the 2014 Suzuka 8-Hour on a ‘Pops Yoshimura’ Suzuki.
Pops was a very influential man in my career; I first met him mid-way through the 1985 season riding for Yoshimura. Riding for Pops taught me a lot and helped groom me to be the competitor that I am. He was a real motivator and got the best out of everyone that worked around him.
In 1994, I presented Pops with my winning Suzuka Grand Prix trophy – the fourth Japanese win of my career – in the Suzuki garage. That photo is still one of my favourites of all time. Before his passing, he told me I was his only rider to ever win a 500cc World Championship, or as it is known today MotoGP, and since his passing his words still hold true. To be teamed with my team-mate from 1986, Satoshi Tsujimoto, is a real honor. Thank you to the Suzuka circuit and everybody at Yoshimura Japan for the opportunity.”
Tsujimoto was equally excited for the opportunity, saying, “It is the 60th anniversary year for Yoshimura and I am so excited to announce that I will race at the Suzuka 8-Hour as a member of the Legend Team. My team-mate is Kevin Schwantz, who joined the Yoshimura Factory at the same time as me back in 1984!
“It has been 30 years since then and I am honored to race together in the Yoshimura family. I am now 54 years old, but I still have same Yoshimura ‘Challenging Spirit’ from the past and I will work hard to get myself in the best condition to enjoy the race. It is going to be a really tough race physically, but we will show our performance at the race.”
Yoshimura’s second team of Takuya Tsudo and Josh Waters will be managed by Pops Yoshimura’s grandson, Yohei Kato, who is confident of his team’s shot at a fifth overall 8-hour victory, though he knows the road won’t be easy. “It is going to be a very tough race again this year as there are strong Honda teams, there is Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), YART, other experienced teams from WEC and also the Kawasaki factory team is backing the race,” he says. “But we are convinced that we can beat them with our ‘Racing Spirit’ and ‘Strong Bond.’”
Says Tsuda, “I am so glad and excited to race the Suzuka 8-Hour again with the Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance Team. It is the 60th Anniversary for Yoshimura and I am proud to be in the team. Last year we were in the winning-position but finished second after a couple of racing accidents.
We do not need this experience again and we will just push hard to finish race at the highest podium position. Since my team-mate Josh Waters is very fast at Suzuka, my team crews are always reliable – and team will build the best race machine for us – so it is going to be possible to bring a fifth victory for the team!”
For Waters, “I am very excited to be joining Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance for this Suzuka 8-Hour race; some of my best racing memories have been at Suzuka and with Yoshimura Suzuki.
My team-mate Takuya is very fast and we have a great team behind us, so we are going to be one of the strongest teams this year. Yoshimura Suzuki every year at the Suzuka 8 hour has been fighting for the victory, so this year we will try even harder to achieve the best result as it is a very special year for the team and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.”