Suzuka Circuit, Japan – Honda has again won the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race, even today arguably the most important race of the year for the Japanese factories. The Mushahi RT Harc Pro team with riders Leon Haslam, Michael Van der Mark, and Takumi Takahashi won by just less than two minutes/one lap ahead of the Yoshimura Suzuki entry of Nobuatsu Aoki, Josh Brookes, and Takuya Tsuda.
But for a crash by Brookes, the Yoshimura team may well have taken the win.
A surprise third was the “masters” Suzuki entry of Team Kagayama, featuring none other than fomer 500 cc world champion 49-year-old Kevin Schwantz together with “the Samurai of Slide” Noriyuki Haga, and team owner Yukio Kagayama.
Fourth went to the SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team) entry with Vincent Philippe, Anthony Dehalle, and Julien Da Costa, but that relatively disappointing finish still moved them into the lead in the FIM World Endurance series.
It was Haslam’s first win at Suzuka, and only the second time an English rider has taken top spot (his father Ron was second one year). Irish ace Jonathon Rea was on the winning team in 2012, but his team failed to finish this year when Ryuichi Kiyonari crashed out after three hours.
A delighted Haslam said, “The hardest thing was to watch Takumi hold on to our first position in the rain over the last half hour of the race!”, while his WSS team-mate Van Der Mark added, “Winning the Suzuka 8 Hours is an indescribable feeling. It’s one of the finest races in the world. It was my first experience at Suzuka … it’s fabulous to see all these guys on the podium.”
Third-place team leader Kagayama remarked, “Kevin Schwantz has been my hero since I was a kid. It’s amazing to ride with him here.”
Schwantz commented, “It’s been an honour to ride again here with these talented guys. I was lucky to be with an excellent team. The Suzuki was perfect and our Dunlops helped us to stay the distance. I did my best to be fast without making a mistake. By riding with this helmet (Rainey Replica), I wanted to show my respect for Wayne.”
The next leg of the FIM Endurance World Championship will be the 8 Hours of Oschersleben in Germany on August 17.