Suzuka 8 Hours Preview Report
Honda has released a preview report for the upcoming 42nd "Coca-Cola" Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race to be held at the Suzuka circuit in Mie Prefecture, Japan, on Sunday, July 28, 2019.
Suzuka 8 Hours Preview Report
SUZUKA Circuit, Japan, July 23, 2019
One of summer's highlights, the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race (Suzuka 8 Hours), reaches its 42nd year as being Japan’s largest motorcycle racing event since its inauguration in 1978. Honda has won the event 27 times, and between 1997 and 2006, set a record winning streak of 10 straight victories. 1997 was special, as Honda’s Shinichi Ito and Toru Ukawa rode an RVF/RC45 to victory, becoming the first Japanese pair to complete, and win an 8-hour endurance race. The 219-lap record was set by Daijiro Kato and Colin Edwards on a VTR1000SPW in 2002. They managed to reduce the number of pit stops from the typical seven times to six, which helped them set a record which still stands to this day. Honda’s Toru Ukawa holds the most number of wins with two in a row (1997 and 1998) with Ito, with Daijiro Kato in 2000, with Hitoyasu Izutsu in 2004, and with Ryuichi Kiyonari in 2005. His record has not been broken yet.
Since two seasons ago, the Suzuka 8 Hours has been the final round of the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) series, the race to determine the series champions. This led to the Eurosports worldwide live coverage of the Suzuka 8 Hours, raising the race’s familiarity and popularity with European fans. Last year F.C.C. TSR Honda France became the first Japanese team to win the championship series.
This upcoming Suzuka 8 Hours sees the return of Kawasaki as a factory team, and with the Yamaha factory team aiming for their fifth consecutive Suzuka victory and Honda’s biggest rival Yoshimura Suzuki, a fierce competition is all but given. Team HRC, Honda’s factory team in the All Japan Road Race Championship JSB1000 class, teams with RED BULL once again to compete at the Suzuka 8 Hours as Red Bull Honda.
Takumi Takahashi, JSB1000 championship leader (as of the end of Round 3) and four back-to-back wins will be joined by Ryuichi Kiyonari, currently racing in the FIM Superbike World Championship, and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl to ride for the team on the CBR1000RRW, a CBR1000RR SP2-based factory bike. Takahashi has participated in every test to date, setting up the bike and recording the fastest times in the wet and dry. Coming to Suzuka in such peak condition, Takahashi has longed to race with Kiyonari, who he had won the event with in 2010. His logic being “better a friend rather than a foe,” Takahashi has his wish come true this year, and promises victory saying “we have the momentum, now all we need is the results.”
Kiyonari, returning to Honda’s factory team for the first time since 2008 says, “I want to return the favor to Honda and Takahashi of having the chance to race here by winning.” Bradl enters his first Suzuka 8 Hours with “the best factory team environment and experienced Suzuka 8 Hours veterans as partners” and promises to do his best. The three riders are led by team manager Toru Ukawa. “I don’t think 220 laps is good enough to win,” comments Ukawa, aiming to beat the total lap record, and even higher: If the team wins, Takahashi will tie the second-most number of wins with a total of four, and Kiyonari will tie with Ukawa, with his number of wins at five.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France, continuing to compete in the EWC, has won two races and is currently ranked 3rd (as at the end of Round 4). Josh Hook, Freddy Foray and Mike Di Meglio represent the team which aims to win its second consecutive championship. Currently 23 points adrift of the championship leader and 18 points from second-place, 1.5 times the points are awarded for the EWC final round, so if they manage to qualify on top, they have the chance to gain up to 50 points. Fujii, team manager, says “that’s what we’re aiming for.” Fujii has won the Suzuka 8 Hours three times, making the team serious contenders to not only win the Suzuka 8 Hours, but also the championship.
Honda Endurance Racing, also competing in the EWC, will race at the Suzuka 8 Hours on a CBR1000RR SP2-based machine. Randy de Puniet, Sebastien Gimbert and Yonny Hernandez will represent the team, currently 6th in the championship.
KYB MORIWAKI RACING has JSB1000 rider Yuki Takahashi, All Japan Road Race Championship ST600 class rider Tomoyoshi Koyama, and Australian Superbike Championship rider Troy Herfoss. Takahashi and Koyama are best friends since childhood, and frequently go on trips with their families. Their teamwork could not be better. Troy is well-versed with racing at the Suzuka 8 Hours for Honda teams. MORIWAKI is a well established team, but has not won the Suzuka 8 Hours yet. The team vows to change that.
Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA, competing in JSB1000, has Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) ASB1000 class rider Md Zaqhwan Zaidi, who is well-known in Japan, and ARRC SS600 class rider Andi Farid Izdihar to race for them. Their third rider is yet to be fixed, but team manager Makoto Tamada says “we’ll basically rely on the two riders’ performance,” aiming to finish high up in the rankings.
Team ATJ will race with Taro Sekiguchi, who joined JSB1000 this season, joined by ST600 hopeful Takuma Kunimine and Satoru Iwata, an experienced Suzuka 8 Hours rider.
Honda DREAM RT Sakurai Honda once again has legendary rider Shinichi Ito, contributor in nurturing Honda riders and has seven pole positions and four wins to his name. Ito will be joined by JSB1000 rider Sodo Hamahara and J-GP2 rider Kosuke Sakumoto. Sakurai Honda won the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2003, and Ito wants to take advantage of that experience.
au Teluru SAG RT will be represented by JSB1000 rider Kosuke Akiyoshi, Taiga Hada, and MotoGP Moto2 class rider Tetsuta Nagashima. Akiyoshi has won three Suzuka 8 Hours races and has become JSB1000 champion twice. Hada is an upcoming rider fighting for the championship in the ARRC SS600 class, but new to the Suzuka 8 Hours. Nagashima is a rider who many believe will lead the way in motorcycle racing in the coming years. At last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours, Akiyoshi, Nagashima and Isaac Vinales took the team up to 4th before crashing and losing positions, but they proved the potential to finish on the podium, which is their goal this year.
MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. Honda will race with Ryo Mizuno, currently 4th in the JSB1000 class (as of the end of Round 3), Xavi Fores, currently racing in the British Superbike Championship, and Moto2 rider Dominique Aegerter. For Mizuno, this is his third time at the Suzuka 8 Hours, the first time with Honda DREAM RT Sakurai Honda, and the second with race favorites MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. Honda. Las year we was positioned as the team’s third rider, but this time he acts as team leader. Mizuno comments, “I raced with Dominique last year, and I know his strength and speed. Xavi will definitely improve our lap times, despite this being his first Suzuka. Teamwork is vital for the Suzuka 8 Hours, so the three of us will work closely together.” Winning the Suzuka 8 Hours will be the first time for all three riders, and the fourth for HARC-PRO.
Honda aims for its first Suzuka 8 Hours win in five years. Each team is working hard leading up to the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Takumi Takahashi | Red Bull Honda (#33)
“We’ve been conducting tests to improve the bike, but I’d like to make final adjustments during race week when all three riders are here, as three riders ride the same bike in the Suzuka 8 Hours. I don’t think I’ll ever have another chance to race with perfect teammates such as Kiyonari and Bradl, so I’m determined to get good results. It’s a race where one mistake or problem is costly, so we’ll concentrate and aim to win.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari | Red Bull Honda (#33)
“Takumi [Takahashi] is doing a solid job getting the bike set up. I’m proud to be able to aim to win the Suzuka 8 Hours with such trustworthy team riders and staff, and the strongest Honda factory team ever. Takumi is in great shape, so I’ll try to contribute rather than rely on him.”
Josh Hook | F.C.C. TSR Honda France (#1)
“We won the opening round at Bol d’Or, but haven’t been as successful since. We regained momentum by winning in Germany, and now we’re at Suzuka. The track is unique, but lets you find many of its secrets, such as at which point you can improve lap times. It’s a physically and mentally demanding race, but Honda has prepared a really amazing bike, so I’ll do my best as part of the team.”
Freddy Foray | F.C.C. TSR Honda France (#1)
“In Germany, an 8 hour race is an 8 hour race. But at the Suzuka 8 Hours, you have to compete like it’s a 24 hour race. It’s that hard on the rider and machine. This is my fifth Suzuka, but there’s always something new to learn, and is a rewarding track to race on. This year the bike feels great, the tires are great, the team is great, everything is great. If the three of us do our best, we can pressure Kawasaki and Suzuki, so we’ll do our best to win the title.”
Mike Di Meglio | F.C.C. TSR Honda France (#1)
“This is my first time at the Suzuka 8 Hours with Honda, but I rode the bike during the tests and felt its awesome power. I’ll do my best and aim for the title.Since joining EWC two years ago, I have been aiming to finish on the podium at Suzuka. I think we can achieve that this year. I’ll work with the team to get the results.”
Masakazu Fujii | F.C.C. TSR Honda France (#1) Team Manager
“We’ve been aiming to become the champions, but Le Mans was a setback. I was prepared not to come back if we didn’t win in Germany, but we won, and we’re here. Last year we came to Suzuka as championship leaders, and had to defend that lead. This year, we have nothing to lose. We’ll fight. We have already proven ourselves in the EWC with the #1 since pre-season tests. We’re aiming to win again.”
Ryo Mizuno | MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. Honda (#634)
“Last year Randy [du Puniet] was out with injuries, so the two of us had to race most of the 8 hours. My regret is that I fell, and we couldn’t finish the race. Remorse is all I feel from last year’s Suzuka. This year though, it’s Dominique [Aegerter]’s second year with HARC-PRO. It’s Xavi [Fores]’s first Suzuka, but he is definitely great, so the three of us will do our best. There isn’t that much between our lap times and the faster teams in the tests, so we’ll put in a solid race week, and aim for the checkered flag.”
Shigeki Honda | MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. Honda (#634) President and Team Manager
“Last year, the weather and a tough situation took its toll on Mizuno, his second time at Suzuka, and Randy [du Puniet] fell and injured himself earlier, so it was a disappointing Suzuka. This year, Mizuno understands the endurance bike setting much better. We have Dominique again, so we have no worries there. Xavi is racing here with us for the first time so there are some unknowns, but I think he understood at the tests that the Suzuka 8 Hours needs all three riders to work together, giving way some times, compromising some times, and putting up with some issues. If they ride without making mistakes and aim to finish the race, the results will come naturally.”