THE ULTIMATE SPECIALS
The factories once again threw the kitchen sink at their entries for the Suzuka 8-Hour, resulting in the hottest superbikes on the planet
There is no other motorcycle race like the Suzuka 8-Hour. Like the Isle of Man TT, the Bol d’or and the Daytona 200 it is one of bike racing’s classics, a standout event that has a flavour and an atmosphere all of its own.
The bikes are more special than anything you’ve ever seen, wherever you’ve been. The Japanese factories put more effort into this one race than they put into any other single race, even a Motogp round. This is the one event they want to win more than any other, not only because it has a major impact on Japanese bike sales but because it’s a huge matter of pride. Win Suzuka and you’ve made the other factories look silly.
Consider the case of this year’s winner. Yamaha’s 8-Hour R1 is jawdropping trick, a no-expense-spared special, created with ultimate love and care by Yamaha’s race department. Bradley Smith, who rode it to victory last year, said it felt just like his M1 Motogp bike. It was certainly much, much more special than the R1 Yamaha run in World Superbikes, because the WSB crown sits way, way below the 8-Hour in the factories’ list of priorities. Don’t believe it? Take a closer look at the big factory contenders and you may change your mind.
‘ Win Suzuka and you’ve made the other factories look silly’
The 2016 Suzuka 8-Hour victors − the factory Yamaha squad of Lowes, Espargaro and Nakasuga Looks like an R1 M, but beneath the fairings it’s totally different
Top suspension team Built by KYB, probably the most famous suspension builder you’ve never heard of (and supplier of OEM parts to many Japanese manufacturers). They might not be well known for their racing, but there’s more suspension techs on hand than some teams have mechanics for Suzuka. Switched on Famously described by Bradley Smith in 2015 as closer to his M1 Motogp machine than that of any R1 he’d ridden, the team still made significant improvements for 2016, including an extra 10% fuel efficiency that handed them a huge advantage. Light show The R1 might have attracted abuse for its bug-eyed look – but the headlight positioning came into its own during the race, with the offset lights doing an excellent job of throwing light around a bend. Cover story Putting their faith in the British, Yamaha went to Hertfordshirebased GB Racing for their crash protection equipment – which thankfully for them, didn’t get tested out in the race.