Since there is no WSBK/BSB action this weekend I thought I would do a bit of a preview on the Suzuka 8 hour to keep the blog ticking over. The Suzuka 8 hour is obviously an endurance race held over 8 hours with teams consisting of usually 3 riders who rotate in shifts alternating during pit stops.
The circuit itself was designed in 1962 as a Honda test track by John “Hans” Hugenholtz a Dutchman who also designed Hockenheimring‘s “Motodrom” stadium section as well as the Ontario Motor Speedway. It is one of only a few circuits in the world to have a figure of 8 layout with the back straight passing over the front section of the track using an overpass. During its history the track has been modified on multiple occasions the first was in 1983 when a chicane was introduced to final turn to slow down cars as they were about to go onto the pit straight more crash barriers and run off areas were also introduced to improve safety. The chicane was slightly modified in 2002 as was turn 15 improving safety one again, In 2003 the chicane was moved closer to turn 15 but was made slightly faster.
|Length||5.821 km (3.617 mi)|
|Lap record||2:07.110 ( Kousuke Akiyoshi, F.C.C. TSR HondaCBR1000RR, 2009)|
The race was originally started in 1978 as a way for the Big four Japanese bike manufacturers (Kawasaki,Honda,Yamaha and Suzuki) to test and race prototype TT-F1 (Tourist Trophy Formula one)Motorbikes, The race was changed to be a Superbike class race in 1993 due to the popularity worldwide of Superbike racing they had previously been a support race to the main event before this, During the 80’s at the races peak it attracted crowds of 130,000 people the record for the event is 160,000 which was set in 1990 current crowd levels are nowhere near that level with around 83,000 attending the event.
The Japanese factories place huge importance on winning this event the Factory supported bikes that are prepared for this event are of the highest spec found anywhere in the world Bradley Smith rode in the race last year and was quoted as saying him Yamaha R1 felt more like his M1 than a superbike. The importance of this event can also be seen that the scheduling of it usually falls in the summer break of the other major championships around the world allowing factories to use the best riders they have at their disposal.
That is another thing that makes Suzuka such a spectacle often you will find factories drafting in Moto gp riders and top class world superbike riders to compete in the event in some cases riders have had it put in their contracts that they wish to compete in the 8 hour race. If you look down the previous winners of the event you can see just how big a deal this is to both the teams and the riders previous winners include: Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Aaron Slight, Scott Russell, Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi, Alex Barros and Jonathan Rea. This years entry list is no different and is full of big names from the Moto GP, WSBK, BSB and Road racing paddocks note able names include Leon Haslam, Josh Brookes, Pol Espagaro who won the event last year, Nori Haga, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Nicky Hayden and Michael Van Der Mark the full list of riders and Teams can be found here http://www.suzukacircuit.jp/en/events/8tai/entry/.
The race last year was won by the factory Yamaha squad who used Pol Espargaro,Bradley Smith and Katsuaki Nakasuga they used the brand new Yamaha R1 for the race and the team did not disappoint dominating qualifying and going onto the race win even after taking a 30 sec penalty due to Espargaro passing under yellow flags. Casey Stoner unfortunately suffered a bad crash at the event ending the offical Honda teams hope of retaining the race win from 2014. Kawasaki also had a tough year with their official crashing out of the 6th place, Team Kagayama who will again be racing this year finished an impressive 3rd place ahead of the factory supported team. The F.C.C Honda team came home in 2nd place the team of Kyle Smith,Josh Hook and Dominique Aegerter and impressive result for a team using 3 younger riders.