Countdown to EWC Suzuka 8 Hours: MotoGP-level concentration needed for Honda to end winless run
F.C.C. TSR Honda France must adopt MotoGP levels of concentration if it’s to end the Japanese make’s winless run in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Honda hasn’t celebrated success in its home round of the FIM Endurance World Championship since 2014 but can count on a host of rapid local riders and their teams, plus its leading EWC entrant F.C.C. TSR Honda France to challenge for glory in 43rd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, which takes place from 4-7 August.
Managed by Masakazu Fujii and represented on track by Mike Di Meglio, Josh Hook and Gino Rea, F.C.C. TSR Honda France is the only frontrunning EWC team to have claimed two podium finishes in this year’s series. It starts the Suzuka 8 Hours with its Honda CBR 1000RR-R 15 points behind Yoshimura SERT Motul, the defending champion FIM EWC team, in the provisional rankings and is determined to complete round three on top in the title chase.
“We’re aiming to win with Josh Hook, Gino Rea and Mike Di Meglio,” Fujii-san said. “The concentration needed to win EWC is now at the MotoGP level.”
Australian rider Hook, who joined Di Meglio and Rea on the EWC podium at the 24 Heures Motos at Le Mans in April and at the 24H SPA EWC Motos in June, tested for two days at Suzuka last month.
“We were expecting to be a lot more competitive than we were [in testing] so we have a lot of work to do but we are getting there slowly and that’s the main thing,” said 29-year-old said. “We used the two test days wisely to try to develop the bike as much as possible to give ourselves a good package for the race. Working on race set-up has been our target, to be fast but also consistent on the tyres in the hot conditions. We’re feeling good, we just need to keep working.”
Honda has powered 27 Suzuka 8 Hours winners and was unbeaten between 1997 to 2006. It’s now aiming to win the event for the first time in eight years when it can also count on the factory Team HRC entry, which will challenge F.C.C. TSR Honda France for success.
Kazuhiko Yamano, a former MotoGP team manager, heads the attack, which features Tetsuta Nagashima, Takumi Takahashi and Iker Lecuona as its rider line-up. “We have seasoned MotoGP staff and new members who will learn HRC technologies into the team,” he said.
Spaniard Lecuona, who rides for Honda in the FIM Superbike World Championship and previously raced in MotoGP, is making his debut in the Suzuka 8 Hours, while Takahashi took the first of his three Suzuka 8 Hours victories in 2010.