SUZUKA, Japan – Run July 27 in typical high heat and humidity, and this year punctuated by several torrential downpours that shortened the race – still probably the most important in the world for the Japanese factories – Pata Honda World Superbike star Leon Haslam became the first British rider to win the prestigious race twice after taking victory with his MuSashi HARC-Pro Honda team.
Haslam’s win was heartbreak for his WSBK team-mate Jonathan Rea, riding for the FCC-TSR Honda squad. Team-mate Kosuke Akiyoshi crashed out of a whopping lead, breaking his leg and heavily damaging their Fireblade but managing to get the bike back to the pits. The incident handed the lead to MuSashi.
How tough is this? Akiyoshi picked up the bike, got it restarted, and rode back with a broken femur.
Rea’s team managed to get the Irishman and Lorenzo Zanetti back into the race but they re-joined in 47th place and 16 laps down with no hope of winning. This is the second year in succession Rea’s team-mate has crashed out of the lead, with Ryuichi Kiyonari the culprit in 2013. The team finished 40th.
Haslam’s team-mates Michael Van Der Mark and Takumi Takahashi did the final runs to the flag, winning by over a minute to take the historic victory and fastest lap of the race of 2’08.620 on the team’s 141st circuit. Van Der Mark, current leader in the WSBK Supersport 600 series, certainly pointed up his chances of moving up to the top ranks by his second Suzuka win.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s first-string team of French ace Randy De Puniet, Aussie Josh Waters, and local Yoshimura rider Takuya Tsuda took second place from their pole position.
The final rostrom spot went to Team Kagayama. Veterans Yukio Kagayama and Noriyku Haga were joined this year by Moto2 front-runner Dominique Aegerter. As with Van Der Mark, Aegerter’s performance will have done the Swiss rider’s chances of a MotoGP spot in 2015 a world of good. The young Swiss rider said, “I am very happy to be a part of this edition, but Suzuka was very special because of the weather and the delayed start. Now I’ll have to ask my team to have as much power as the Suzuki Kagayama when I return to Moto2! ”
MotoGP legend Kevin Schwantz didn’t turn a wheel as his Shell Advance Yoshimura team had to retire on lap six when Nobu Aoki crashed heavily in the rain at 130R, probably the fastest corner on the track, and was taken to hospital. His condition has not been revealed.
The first finisher of the regular entrants in the FIM World Endurance championship was the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, with an eighth place finish. Anthony Delhalle, Erwan Nigon and Damian Cudlin struggled all weekend with grip problems and will no doubt be pleased to get on to the next round August 14 in Germany at the Oschersleben circuit.