BMW’s ambitions at Suzuka
The German brand is relatively well represented at the Suzuka 8 Hours. Nine BMW teams will be on the grid in Japan on 29 July, including two European squads who are neck and neck in the FIM EWC provisional standings.
Two Japanese BMW teams have made a good showing at Suzuka over the past few years. One team in particular to look out for is BMW Financial Services 135, a regular Top 20 finisher. Shinya Takeishi will partner with British Superbike riders Michael Laverty and Christian Iddon to ride the BMW 135. But BMW Motorrad 39, another S1000RR-mounted Japanese team, will no doubt make its presence felt thanks to a strong trio of riders. Daisaku Sakai, winner of the 2009 Suzuka 8 Hours and FIM endurance world champion with Suzuki Endurance Racing Team in 2011, will be riding the BMW #39 alongside Australian racing brothers Damian and Alex Cudlin.
A championship duel
Mercury Racing’s face-off with NRT48 will also make for an interesting duel. Just two points separate the two teams in the 2017-2018 FIM EWC provisional standings. Czech squad Mercury Racing, which mustered a 47th-place finish at last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours, has Frenchman Sylvain Barrier riding alongside two Czech riders, Karel Hanika and Ondřej Ježek. German team NRT48 is making its Suzuka debut with a trio comprising French riders Kenny Foray and Julien Da Costa and British racer Peter Hickman. The two Frenchmen have already reaped rewards at Suzuka in recent years, notably a 3rd-place finish for Kenny Foray in the 2012 race and a 4th place for Julien Da Costa in 2013.