The Yamaha Factory Racing Team has did it again. Just as it did last year, the factory Yamaha team dominated the Suzuka 8 Hours from start to finish aboard the YZF-R1.This year’s three-rider team, consisting of All Japan JSB1000 Champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga, MotoGP’s Pol Espargaro and World Superbike’s Alex Lowes – earned the quickest practice time on Friday, qualified on pole Saturday, and won the endurance race on Sunday.
And it was pure domination at the 39th Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race; Nakasuga, who was the first rider on the 3.617-mile track, took the lead on lap 18, and remained in the leading position to the final 218th lap. This was Yamaha’s fist back-to-back victory since 1988; last season, Yamaha returned to the Suzuka 8 Hours for the first time in 12 hours. Local hero Nakasuga also took the honor of delivering the fastest lap of the race with a stunning 2:08.411 on lap 105.Joining the Yamaha Factory Racing Team on the 2016 Suzuka 8 Hours pole were Team Green Kawasaki (Yanagawa/Haslam/Watanabe, +2:17.883) and Yoshimura Suzuki (Tsuda/Brookes/Haga, +1 lap).Wataru Yoshikawa, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager, says “We spent a year doing all kinds of preparation so we could win the Suzuka 8 Hours again. And today, we ran the race just as we’d planned and were able to win for the second time in a row.“The safety car didn’t come out and it never rained so it was eight hours of non-stop racing, but we recorded 218 laps and that’s a new record for the current course layout, so we’re really satisfied with our performance.“This year, we were able to carry out the exact kind of plan needed in an endurance race because our riders as well as the team really came together to make it happen. To the fans that came to cheer us on and related staff, thank you very much for all your support.”As for the MuSHASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda team with 2006 MotoGP Champion and current Honda World Superbike pilot Nicky Hayden, the team suffered a DNF due to mechanical problems with the CBR1000RR.Following is an official race recap courtesy of Yamaha:Nakasuga was the starting rider, sprinting to his YZF-R1 to ride the first hour. Swift to his machine, he was third into the first corner, then dropped slightly to start the first full lap in fourth. As Nakasuga found his feet he was quick to start climbing back to second, tucking in less than two tenths of a second behind rivals Team Kagayama.The 2015 Suzuka winner settled in, keeping the gap to two tenths or less and the pressure high until taking the lead on the last chicane before heading in to lap 18. From there he was untouchable, building a lead until he came in at the end of the hour to hand the bike over to teammate Lowes.An impressive 17-second pitstop saw the British rider hitting the track in first place and picking up where Nakasuga left off, lapping under the 2:09 mark to stretch the lead even further. By the time he came in to hand the #21 machine over to Espargaró, Lowes had built a lead of almost 20 seconds. The MotoGP rider continued his teammates’ pace, upping the pressure even further to be the only rider on track lapping under the 2:10 mark. By the time Nakasuga had returned to the track an hour later the lead was nearly one and a half minutes and growing.The team continued to be untouchable on track, delivering a masterclass in team endurance riding to stretch themselves further and further into the lead. Espargaró took one more stint, riding two hours in total and Nakasuga a further one to make three.Come the seventh hour it was the responsibility of Lowes to make the final push, riding into the darkness to seal the team’s second consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory in stunning form.All three riders consistently outperformed the field for the duration of the eight-hour race, rightly earning the cheers from the nearly seventy-thousand fans in attendance as the clocked ticked down to zero.Lowes crossed the line a massive two minutes and 17 seconds clear of second place.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team Quotes:
Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Yamaha Factory Racing Team: “Today was the hottest day of the week and it was really hard to ride for everyone. In my first ride I wanted to go further to the front but unfortunately the tyres weren’t the perfect match for the weather at the time. Towards the end I was able to bring the bike up to the front so finally I was happy. Yamaha did a fantastic job here in the 8 Hours and the bike is brilliant. I really have to thank everyone; the staff, the riders, and the fans for the great job they did.”Pol Espargaró, Yamaha Factory Racing Team: “I’m very happy and very satisfied with this win, for me, for Alex and for Nakasuga-san because we really deserved it. From the start of the test we have worked so hard to get the best for us three. After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I’m sure Alex will complete the second one next year! I just want to say thanks to Yamaha, to all the people that support this fantastic team, because we are three riders but a lot of mechanics and other people work in the Yamaha Factory Team. Thanks so much to Alex and Nakasuga, they were amazing today, I can’t say anymore, just thanks!”Alex Lowes, Yamaha Factory Racing Team: ”Obviously I’m really very, very happy; this is the first time I’ve won this event. The whole week for me has been fantastic, it’s a totally different experience to my normal racing championship and the atmosphere we have in the team and the relationship we have has been really enjoyable, both on the track and off the track. The feeling you get when you win is fantastic and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve felt that so I’m happy! I want to say a massive thank you to the whole Yamaha Factory Racing Team for inviting me here; all the staff and guys have been fantastic. Pol and Nakasuga-san have been fantastic teammates, they’re really fast which has made the job a lot easier for me so a big thank you to them and hopefully I’ll be back next year!”
2016 Suzuka 8 Hours Results:
1. #21 Yamaha Factory Racing Nakasuga/Espargaro/Lowes 218 laps 2. #87 Team Green Yanagawa/Haslam/Watanabe +2m 17.883s 3. #12 Yoshimura Suzuki Tsuda/Brookes/Haga +1 lap 4. #7 YART Yamaha EWC Team Parkes/Nozane/Fujita +4 laps 5. #32 Moto Map Suzuki Waters/Aoki/Konno +4 laps 6. #17 Kagayama Suzuki Kagayama/Uramoto/Kiyonari +5 laps 7. #01 Eva RT Kawasaki Deguchi/Izutsu/Nigon +5 laps 8. #22 SatuHati Honda Team Asia Pratama/Wilairot/Zaidi +6 laps 9. #18 Mistresa ATS Honda Nakatsuhara/Kobayashi/Sekiguchi +6 laps 10. #090 Teluru RT Honda Akiyoshi/Cudlin/Ohkubo +6 laps 14. #94 GMT94 Yamaha Checa/Canepa/Mahias +8 lapsSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.