The Suzuka 8 Hours has lost a lit­tle of its rep­u­ta­tion-defin­ing im­por­tance in re­cent years, but the 2018 race was the fastest, best-sup­ported and one of the most thrilling yet. This is how it un­folded...

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy Steve English

The most im­por­tant sto­ries from one of the world’s most gru­elling races

THE SUZUKA 8 HOURS is back in a big way with more man­u­fac­turer in­volve­ment than we’ve seen for years. In the dis­tant past, the cream of the GP paddock were con­tracted to a one-off ride on the en­durance su­per­bikes to up­hold fac­tory hon­our. But four-stroke GP rac­ing, diary clashes and the more fo­cused ap­proach needed for MotoGP got them out of it, and the race’s im­por­tance waned a litte.

But it’s been build­ing again in re­cent years: with full fac­tory ef­forts from ma­jor Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ers, WSB cham­pion Jonathan Rea lead­ing an all-star en­try (and smash­ing the lap record in prac­tice), 2018 marked a high-point in the race’s re­cent his­tory. Suzuka is back. As if the rid­ers and bikes weren’t ex­cit­ing enough, the tail end of a ty­phoon meant the 2018 race was tougher and less pre­dictable than ever. The rac­ing gods and weather demons fac­tored into mak­ing this a clas­sic. Change­able weather con­di­tions made judge­ment and strat­egy just as im­por­tant: the fastest bike and fastest rider didn’t guar­an­tee glory this year. Th­ese are the mo­ments that made it.

The Far East’s ex­treme weather helped to make this year’s race one to re­mem­ber

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