146 13070 +2013 Suzuka 8 Hours Race Report+
The MuSashi RT HARC-PRO Honda team of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael Van Der Mark took the win at the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours.
The Yoshimura Suzuki Racing squad of Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki, and Josh Brookes finished second despite some setbacks during the race.
Nighttime during the Suzuka 8 Hours race.
F.C.C. TSR Honda's Ryuichi Kiyonari had the team comfortably in the lead when he crashed in fluids from a previous crash, forcing the team to retire from the race.
Former 500cc Grand Prix world champion Kevin Schwantz rode a stint again wearing a replica helmet of rival and friend, three-time 500cc world champion Wayne Rainey.
The MuSashi RT HARC-PRO Honda team of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, and Michael Van Der Mark took a well-managed victory in the 36th running of the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race held in the usual sweltering heat of summer in Japan. After inheriting the lead in the third hour when F.C.C. TSR Honda’s Ryuichi Kiyonari crashed, the MuSashi team maintained the lead to the end, taking the victory by nearly a lap over the Yoshimura Suzuki team of Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki, and Josh Brookes, who climbed back onto the podium after a mistake by Aoki exiting the pits and a crash by Brookes cost the team valuable time. Finishing a very steady third just over a lap down was a very impressive effort by the privateer Team Katayama Suzuki squad of Yukio Kagayama, Noriyuki Haga, and 49-year-old former 500cc Grand Prix world champion Kevin Schwantz.
The start initially saw a five-rider lead pack consisting of Kiyonari, Takahashi, pole sitter Monster Energy Yamaha YART’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Tsuda, and BMW Motorrad France’s Erwan Nigon begin to pull a gap on the field. The BMW Motorrad France team began to drop down the order as time went by with various problems, which were exacerbated by a crash by Nigon in the third hour, a stop-and-go penalty for exceeding the pitlane speed limit, and then a crash by teammate Jason Pridmore in the fourth hour that eventually forced the team to retire from the race.
The Monster Energy Yamaha YART team fell victim to an engine seal leak that forced them into the pits for repairs. The pace of the leaders meant that by the time they got back into the race, the Yamaha team had dropped well down the race order—they eventually worked their way back up to eighth place at the finish. Yoshimura Suzuki’s Aoki was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for exceeding the pitlane speed limit on his third stint, and then Brookes’ crash lost them additional time, although he was able to pick up the bike and continue racing, not stopping in the pits and charging back into third spot.
The F.C.C. TSR Honda team was comfortably in the lead of the race by the third hour when Kiyonari lost the front end after hitting water spilled on the track from a previous crash moments before in the Degner curve, damaging the bike too heavily for the team to continue. This gave the lead to the MuSashi RT HARC-PRO team, who had opened up a gap over the second-placed Yoshimura Suzuki squad of about half a lap, with the Team Kagayama Suzuki squad in third.
Former 500cc Grand Prix world champion Kevin Schwantz rode a stint in the fourth hour, and again wore the Shoei helmet replica of his great rival and friend, three-time 500cc Grand Prix world champion Wayne Rainey. “By riding with this helmet, I wanted to show my respect for Wayne by wearing his helmet at this 8 Hours race,” said Schwantz afterward. “It’s been an honor to ride again here with these talented guys. I was lucky to be with an excellent team. The Suzuki was perfect and our Dunlops helped us to stay the distance. I did my best to be fast without making a mistake.” The 48-year-old Schwantz only cemented his legendary status with riders and race fans alike with his performance, and that wasn’t lost on Team Kagayama manager/rider Yukio Kagayama: “Kevin Schwantz has been my hero since I was a kid. It’s amazing to ride with him here in Suzuka.”
2013 Suzuka 8 Hours race results:
1. MuSashi RT HARC-PRO (Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, Michael Van Der Mark) Honda
2. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team (Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki, Josh Brookes) Suzuki
3. Team Kagayama (Yukio Kagayama, Kevin Schwantz, Noriyuki Haga) Suzuki
4. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Vincent Phillipe, Anthony Delhalle, Julien Da Costa) Suzuki
5. Yamaha France GMT Michelin Yamalube (David Checa, Kenny Foray, Matthieu Lagrive) Yamaha
6. Honda Team Asia (Makoto Tamada, Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman, Yuki Takahashi) Honda
7. TOHO Racing with Moriwaki (Tatsuya Yamaguchi, Shinichi Ito, Kazuki Watanabe) Honda
8. Monster Energy Yamaha YART (Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Broc Parkes, Josh Waters) Yamaha
9. Honda Kumamoto Racing (Mitsuhiro Yoshida, Kazuhiro Kojima, Kazuki Tokudome) Honda
10. Team R2CL (Gwen Giabbani, Masahiro Shinjo, Dylan Buisson) Suzuki