Suzuka: the most important race in the world for Japanese manufacturers.
Jonny Rea is the best Superbike racer in the world, but he isn’t an experienced endurance rider. He tore the field a new one in qualifying, but couldn’t get away in the race. The picture shows how close he and the Yamaha were in first and second places until Jonny ran out of fuel coming into the pits. Then a crash behind the pace car consigned the factory Kawasaki to the bottom step of the podium.
Alex Lowes braces himself ready to take the factory Yamaha to the chequered flag for the third year running. Alex rode the session after the rival Kawasaki had run dry coming into the pits and he seized the chance to open a ten second lead, the race’s turning point. ‘It is a dream to ride in the 8Hours; it is a dream to ride a works bike in the 8Hours; it is a dream to win the 8Hours; to win it three times...’
When Katsuyuki Nakasuga was injured in practice the Yamaha team were worried. Mickey van der Mark and Alex Lowes did what the situation demanded and what the team has done for the previous three years. They didn’t make a mistake. In fact Alex can’t think of one error team or rider have made in this amazing run of four consecutive wins. Do not underestimate how relieved and impressed Yamaha are.
BSB DID WELL
The large BSB contingent all impressed. Leon Haslam on the Kawasaki, Brad Ray in an epic fightback to 10th on the Yoshi Suzuki (pictured), Christian Iddon and Michael Laverty on their way to fourth in the championship on a BMW, and Peter Hickman on his first visit.
HRC entered a factory team for the first time in ten years. They led the first session thanks to Takahashi in the wet, backed up by Motogp man Nakagami, but a mid-race decision to put third rider P J Jacobsen out for his first and only session in tricky conditions cost the team time. They ended up second, beaten by just 30 seconds. Not what was required. The only compensation is that a Honda team won the championship.
‘It is a dream to ride in the 8 Hours; it is a dream to win the 8 Hours’