Since the Suzuka 8 Hours began in 1978, Kawasaki had only claimed victory once. The year was 1993 with five-time Daytona 200 Champion Scott Russell and Aaron Slight at the controls of a ZXR-7.Last year the Kawasaki Team claimed second aboard the ZX-10RR Ninja. For 2018, Kawasaki is seeking the win, and has the perfect team to complete the task at the Suzuka circuit in Japan July 28-29.
The three-rider lineup for 2018 features the man who won the past three WorldSBK titles, Jonathan Rea, British Superbike Champion Leon Haslam and Asian racer Kazuma Watanabe. Haslam was on the team last year, but Rea and Watanabe have never raced the Suzuka 8H aboard Kawasaki machinery.Rea is no stranger to the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance motorcycle race; he claimed a win there with Honda in 2012. He is looking forward to the challenge of Suzuka.“Suzuka is the biggest test for man and machine. It’s like an emotional roller coaster during the race and I am very excited to go back this season,” Jonathan Rea says.Haslam, a World Superbike race winner, has two Suzuka 8 titles under his leathers; the Brit won there in 2013 and 2014 aboard Honda CBR1000RR machinery.“Suzuka is very challenging circuit and it really suits the characteristics of the bike itself. Being part of Team Green and riding the ZX-10RR is a dream come true,” Leon Haslam says.Kazuma Watanabe is also optimistic: “For this year’s Suzuka 8hr we are fielding our strongest team yet. We will be pushing for the win so be sure to cheer for Team Green.”Kawasaki says a win at Suzuka on “home soil” has a special significance for Japanese manufacturers and can also act as a springboard for other marketing activities according to the head of the motorcycle marketing department at Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Eiko Kirino.“There is worldwide interest in the Suzuka 8hr and to achieve success is highly newsworthy across Asia in particular,” Kirino We wish Kawasaki Team Green well and hope that Jonathan, Leon and Kazuki reach the top step of the podium in July.”
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.