Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance took third place in today’s 39th Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship round in Japan after an exciting battle that saw just a handful of seconds separate them from the second-step of the podium after a total of 218 laps of drama-packed action.
Team riders Takuya Tsuda, Nori Haga and Josh Brookes were just over 10 seconds behind race-long rivals Team Green; that saw Haga locked-in an incredible dice for second with Leon Haslam at mid-race distance where the lead change several times per lap once the pair got into backmarkers.
Japan’s most-prestigious motorcycle event saw three Suzuki GSX-R1000-mounted teams in the top-10: Moto Map SUPPLY riders Nobuatsu Aoki, Josh Waters and Yoshihiro Konno scored an impressive fifth position; and Team KAGAYAMA Suzuki’s Yukio Kagayama, Naomichi Uramoto and Ryuichi Kiyonari sixth place; both having suffered issues during the race.
Reigning World Endurance Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) were unlucky not to score points after an enforced penalty, capped-off with a high-speed crash early-on in the event, but fought back from 48th to 22nd and still hold fourth in the series, just nine points off the championship lead, which is still held by Suzuki GSX-R1000-mounted Team April Moto Motors Events (Gregg Black, Gregory Fastre and Alex Cudlin) – who scored two points in 19th position with a total of 208 laps.
The start at 11:30am local time under 28 degrees (air) and 37 degrees (track) temperatures saw two Suzuki’s in the lead: #17 Ryuichi Kiyonari got a perfect start for Team KAGAYAMA and finished the first lap leading #12 Tsuda on the Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance GSX-R1000.
Kiyonari kept his lead until the 18th lap when the eventual race winners Yamaha Factory Racing took over at the front. Kiyonari pitted on lap 26 and handed over to Kagayama, but a problem changing the tyre cost the team dearly and they dropped down to sixth.
With Yoshimura Suzuki holding third, SERT was given a ‘stop-and-go’ penalty for an alleged jump-start, so had to do a ride-through; and then the 14-time World Champions suffered a high-speed crash trying to make-up the time, when Philippe swerved to avoid another rider, but he picked-up his GSX-R1000 and rode back to the pits with a very damaged machine, complete with a punctured rear tyre; dropping down 48th position, but earning the applause of the fans for the team’s super-quick efficient repair to send rider and machine back-out on track.
Problems also hit the Kagayama Suzuki team on the 52nd lap when a problem with the front tyre forced Kagayama to have an extra pit-stop; again dropping the team down the leaderboard, but in the coming hours, they fought back heroically.
With 30 minutes to go, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Brookes held third, Moto Map SUPPLY’s Waters fifth, Kagayama – riding some impressive lap-times – seventh; and SERT’s Philippe 26th. Kagayama excelled in the closing moments as darkness fell, to move up another position; and SERT also reeled-off another four positions. Ultimately, they scored no championship points but kept the team’s 2016 World Championship – a potential 15th – alive with such a determined effort.
With the final race of the season taking place in Germany on August 27th for the Oschersleben 8 Hours, just 17 points separate the top-seven teams; and 35 points are available to the winner.
SUZUKI TEAMS HOUR-BY-HOUR:
Hour 1: 3 – Yoshimura, 6 – KAGAYAMA, 10 – SERT, 11 – Moto Map SUPPLY.
Hour 2: 3 – Yoshimura, 5 – Moto Map SUPPLY, 14 – SERT, 28 – KAGAYAMA.
Hour 3: 3 – Yoshimura, 4 Moto Map SUPPLY, 17 – KAGAYAMA, 48 – SERT.
Hour 4: 2 – Yoshimura, 5 – Moto Map SUPPLY,13 – KAGAYAMA, 41 – SERT.
Hour 5: 2 – Yoshimura, 5 – Moto Map SUPPLY, 12 – KAGAYAMA, 35 – SERT.
Hour 6: 2 – Yoshimura, 5 – Moto Map SUPPLY, 9 – KAGAYAMA, 29 – SERT.
Hour 7: 3 – Yoshimura, 5 – Moto Map SUPPLY, 7 – KAGAYAMA, 26 – SERT.
Hour 8: 3 – Yoshimura, 5 – Moto Map SUPPLY, 6 – KAGAYAMA, 22 – SERT.
“This result happened because the team fought in unison, I’m not entirely satisfied with the result, but I can accept it. I want to make machine for next year and I will r-de with Noriyuki and Josh. I have my eyes set on victory.”
“I was separated by Kawasaki because of my stint and I feel this is the cause we weren’t able to get second place. But Takuya and Josh made up for it: I’m grateful for their help. If there is a chance, I want to challenge again with the team next year.”
“On a test, there is the choice of tyre, soft or hard. I choose the soft tyre like nobody else in the first stint, because the track temperature was higher than the test and the race week, but I couldn’t show the expected performance and I almost crashed three times; I couldn’t increase the machine’s pace. I choose the hard tyre in the next stint, but choose the soft tyre in the last. I feel sorry that I was not able to contribute more to the team.”
“It is really disappointing that we could not stand on the podium today. Thinking about the efforts of mechanics, team staff, riders, we were able to get a second podium. We had problems and my heart was almost broken, but we discussed with the riders and confirmed ‘We won’t give up and we Challenge’ with full effort.”
“I always thought about riding with every effort after I decided to race in the team. I wanted to take the ‘holeshot’ after having been told I was the first rider on the bike. And I concentrated on that and I was with the leaders in the early stages. I was able to carry it out, but unfortunately we could not get the good result which we wanted because of the issues today. If it is possible, I hope to race with this team again and win.”
“I am frustrated with my poor performance. I imagined I could help more but I feel I did a bottom-end job. But I learned lots of things from both experienced riders during the test days, race week and today and I want to thank everyone for this experience.”
“ Josh and I were preparing for this Suzuka 8-Hours Endurance and raced in the All Japan Championship in SUZUKA 2&4 race and SUGO. I am very happy with the result. It was very hot and we had to endure it. The road surface temperature got lower, but our bike and tyres were good. Thank you for all our supporters and sponsors. I really appreciate the support we have had.”
“I prepared in various ways for this race since last year, and it led to a good result. I had a hard time in the final qualifying, but it all came together today for us.”
“I really enjoyed the race and riding in a perfect team. I’m grateful for the support by Nobu-san and Yoshihiro. Because of it, I could give everything to my riding. The atmosphere of the team was the best and it was a really enjoyable race week. Thank you so much!”
“It has not been a great race for us. We got a penalty and when I was trying to avoid a rider crossing in front slowly, I slipped down. We tried to get the points, but we could not today. It is very disappointing but we will switch our mindset and prepare for the next race.”
“It became very hot today – which we did not experience during the test days – and race week. Also we had an unlucky accident. We tried to get one single point in the end, but couldn’t. It was very difficult race today.”
“It was very tough race. It has become the race to put a burden on Vincent.
I realise that I lack experience here, need to improve my skills and hope to help team mates more in future.”
Suzuka 8-Hour Final Result: 1 Yamaha Factory Racing Team (Yamaha) 218 laps, 2 Team Green (Kawasaki) 218, 3 Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance – Tsuda, Brookes, Haga – (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 217, 4 YART (Yamaha) 214, 5 Moto Map SUPPLY – Waters, Aoki, Konno – (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 214, 6 Team KAGAYAMA – Kagayama, Uramoto, Kiyonari – (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 213, 7 EVA TEST TYPE-01Trick Star (Kawasaki) 213, 8 SatuHATI Honda Team Asia (Honda) 212, 9 Mistresa with ATS (Honda) 212, 10 au&Teiuru-KoharaRT (Honda) 212.
Full Suzuka Results: CLICK HERE
Suzuka 8-Hour Image Gallery: CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS
World Championship Points (after 3 of 4 rounds): CLICK HERE