2019 Suzuka 8 Hours Results with Video
The Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8 Hours factory team claimed win Sunday at the 42nd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours.
They had to fight for the victory in more ways than one, though. The team, consisting of four-time World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, with Toprak Razgatlioglu on hand for a reserve rider, had to challenge race officials for the victory.
During the final two-minutes of the race, Rea was in the lead and crashed due to the SERT Suzuki GSX-R1000 blowing up and depositing oil onto the Suzuka Circuit.
The race was red flagged, and Kawasaki declared the winners. But because Rea didn’t make it back perc ferme (pit lane) within the demanded five-minute time frame. Race Direction initially declared the Yamaha Factory Racing Team (Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark) the winners.
After Kawasaki challenged the results, the FIM (International Motorcycle Federation) realized that the Endurance World Championship doesn’t have the same rules as MotoGP and World Superbike, and the results were declared on the finishing order of the last completed lap of the race.
This returned the win to Kawasaki, which secured its first victory at the Suzuka 8 since 1993.
Joining Kawasaki on the podium was the factory Yamaha squad, which secured its fifth-straight podium at the Suzuka 8 Hours, and the factory Red Bull Honda team of Stefan Bradl, Takumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kiyonari.
“I cannot believe what is happening really,” says Jonathan Rea. “From being dejected and feeling that everything was out of our hands, I had already gone back to the hotel, said goodbye to all the guys, with lots of tears.
“I was in the restaurant already, ordering dinner, when my mechanic Uri called me and said, ‘Hey, are you sitting down?’ I thought he was going to ask me to go to another restaurant – but he then told me we had won the 8 Hours. I think common sense prevailed in that one. I have no words because I am really emotional and happy. The strategy was to work on fuel consumption and race consistency and make no mistakes.
“I feel we executed that quite well although I got quite tired and cramped at the end. But we prepared the best way possible with the limited time we had. I am so proud to be part of the project and what an effort from KRT, KHI, KMJ who prepared for this race in two tests. During the race it is like hell, the hardest race you can ever imagine, but getting a result like this almost makes me want to come back for more. The emotional roller coaster is unreal.”
“From everyone being in tears to getting the news sitting in a restaurant that we actually did win it, I have no words to describe how I feel,” Leon Haslam says. “The Suzuka 8 Hours is always one of the hardest races of the year. The effort we put in to win, from us, the team and Kawasaki means it has been a big roller coaster of emotion.
“When the oil went down and the situation happened at the end; words cannot describe the lows we had. But when the good news came through, the highs were just as high. In the second half of each stint I really struggled physically but the bike was working well. I am so happy and I want to thank Kawasaki for this opportunity; also the whole team, Toprak and Johnny, and we pushed as hard as we could. It is a shame that we did not get to stand on the top of the podium but the result is in and we have won the Suzuka 8 Hours.”
Following is from the official Kawasaki report:
Kawasaki started from second place on the grid behind pole sitter factory Yamahah, and the ZX-10RR Ninja was third after the first hour. During the first hour, the racing was tight; the top five teams were covered by just 0.795 of a second.
The KRT riders led after four hours, after five, then six, and then again at the seven hour point.
With Haslam struggling with recent injuries in the final laps of his riding stints Rea, the four-time WorldSBK champion for Kawasaki, re-took the lead in the very last session and looked destined to secure the win for KRT.
In an unbelievable turn of bad luck Rea arrived on another machine’s oil spill in the gloomy and damp conditions that arrived just as the daylight was exhausted. He fell, blamelessly, but was unable to restart.
At that stage the dream of a famous race victory seemed gone and the official Yamaha team were initially declared winners after a red flag was thrown because of the oil.
Despite missing out on the initial podium ceremony, and after a long period of time, the results were amended by the race organizers to put the number 10 Kawasaki back on top. In the final reckoning KRT won the race by 18.720 seconds from Yamaha, with three teams in all on the same lap total of 216.
Even before the final race classification was determined the Number 11 Team SRC Kawasaki France entry of Jeremy Guarnoni, Erwan Nigon and David Checa had already won the FIM Endurance World Championship title outright for the Team SRC Kawasaki France outfit.
Although they lost one place from their immediate Suzuka classification of 11th, to finish an official 12th in the race, their closest rivals Suzuki Endurance Racing Team suffered a technical retirement.
After leading but then finishing a disappointed seventh at the Bol d’Or championship opener, the SRC 2018/2019 championship winning season included a race win at the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours race in April.