Highlighting this year’s Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours will be one of America’s most influential riders, 1993 500cc MotoGP Champion Kevin Schwantz. The 48-year-old Texan has great memories of Suzuka – he won his first-ever premier class race there in 1988 (Suzuka was on World Championship calendar from 1988-1995), and, sadly his competed in his final race there on April 23, 1995.But 18 years following his final race, Schwantz will return to the track that has highlighted his motorcycle-racing career. But things will be much different regarding bikes; Schwantz won’t be competing on his famed Lucky Strike RGV500 two-stroke. Rather, Schwantz will compete on the Team Kagayama Suzuki GSX-R1000 with Yukio Kagayama, the former Team Yoshimura Suzuki member who formed the privateer effort, and World Superbike icon Noriyuki Haga.Kevin Schwantz says: “The last time I raced the 8-Hour was in 1992 with Doug Chandler and we did not finish due to mechanical issues. With only two riders, it used to be a really, really physical race and now with three riders it is still going to be tough but not quite as much. Although eight hours on a 1000cc bike is going to be very physically-demanding, I will need to increase my training program to possibly do two-three hours on the bike.“I’ve never have won the 8-Hour and with my team-mates that are as strong as Yukio and Nori, along with our Dunlop tires, I think we stand a good chance.”There will many other top stars competing, also. Josh Hook, just 20-years old and a rising star in the Australian Superbike firmament, will team up with fellow Australian Jamie Stauffer on the Honda Dream RT Sakurai, which regularly fights it out at the front of the race.World Supersport rider Michael van der Mark of the Netherlands will ride with Takumi Takahashi and current Pata Honda World Superbike rider Leon Haslam on the powerful Honda of Musashi RT Harc-Pro.These crews will be in the limelight along with the many favorites tipped to win. The FCC TSR Honda will top the list with two consecutive wins at the Suzuka 8 Hours. The Honda #11 will be put through its paces by Pata Honda World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea and Ryuichi Kiyonari, as Kosuke Akiyoshi is out of action with a broken leg.Also wearing the Honda colors, the Toho Racing with Moriwaki, second in the 2012 edition, will be one to watch with Tatsuya Yamaguchi, this time teamed up with Shinichi Ito, a safe pair of hands in their bid for a Suzuka podium.The Honda armada will be facing its toughest opposition from the Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team. Forced to drop out last year, the 2009 winner regularly takes the fight to the frontrunners and will be chasing the 2013 winner’s spot with Takuya Tsuda, Joshua Brookes and Nobuatsu Aoki.The leading Kawasaki of Eva RT Trick Star with Tamaki Serizawa, Osamu Deguchi and Hitoyasu Izutsu will also be a strong contender this year.The nine permanent teams lining up in Suzuka July 28 willhave a fight on their hands, but the podium is within reach, as proved last year by the Yamaha France GMT 94 Michelin Yamalube with a superb third place.They are back this year with David Checa, Kenny Foray and Matthieu Lagrive. Fans can also expect good performances from the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team with Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Julien Da Costa, the Monster Energy Yamaha YART with Katsuyuki Nakasuga (pole position in 2012) back to support Broc Parkes and Joshua Waters, and also the BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent (Sylvain Barrier, Damian Cudlin and Erwan Nigon) and, last but not least, the Honda TT Legends (Simon Andrews, Michael Rutter and John McGuinness) who will be trying to make up ground after a difficult Bol d’Or.As in 2012, Bolliger Team Switzerland (Kawasaki), Team R2CL (Suzuki) and Flembbo Leader Team (Kawasaki) will be riding in Japan this July while Motobox Kremer by Shell Advance (Suzuki) is making its Suzuka début.