EWC Suzuka 8 Hours Home Heroes Pt1
Part of the unique flavour of the EWC Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours is the multitude of Japanese teams contesting their local event harnessing riders and management both well-known on the international stage and those who have more fame at home.
We’ll be having a word with some of the local heroes to hear what they have to say across this week’s event.
#33 Team HRC Honda CBR 1000 RR-RSP
Takumi Takahashi is a multi-time Japanese champion back home celebrating multiple title victories in the All Japan Road Race Championship.
Takahashi secured title success in the All Japan Road Race Championship, where in 2008 he took the GP250 title and in 2017 was crowned JSB1000 champion. He is also twice a runner-up in the MFJ All Japan Road Race Championship JSB 1000.
Takahashi, a contracted Honda Racing Corporation rider, has also enjoyed past success at the Suzuka 8 Hours, having won the event in 2010, 2013 and 2014. Since 2021 he has raced in the British Superbike Championship.
“2008 was my first Suzuka 8 Hours, and I’ve been on the podium many times and won three times. I’m happy to be back with the team here and I’m determined to do my best. Our team has to win! So we’re here to win. If each of us does what we have to do then I’m sure a good result will follow.
“It’s a new bike and new to the Bridgestone tyres, but I think the bike has been developed in a good way and we’re ready.”
As a BSB contender, we asked how Suzuka compares to one of the circuits beginning with an S on the British schedule: Snetterton?
“First of all, it’s wider! Compared to any British track! Snetterton is very flat so the image here is quite different. I think if any of my fellow BSB riders came to race here they wouldn’t know the racing line so quickly, it’s very different from racing in the UK!”
#95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING ITEC Suzuki GSX-R1000R
Takuya Tsuda has been Suzuki’s primary test rider since it returned to MotoGP in 2015 and thus an architect in the squad and Joan Mir’s 2020 championship victory.
Tsuda made a solitary MotoGP outing in the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in place of the injured Alex Rins.
He has raced at the Suzuka 8 Hours for six years with the Yoshimura squad.
“It feels nice to be back, it’s like the good old days!
“It’s the old model from Yoshimura that we’re using, and this team developed it. And even though it’s an old bike it has a very good balance – it’s a great bike
“All three riders had a really good balance during the test so when we compare with the works teams like Yoshimura, HRC, YART and Kawasaki I think we still have to go one step higher to reach them, but with all the other teams I think we’re very compatible, so our goal is to aim for the top six.”
#17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing CBR1000RR-R
Riders for the #17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing had better take note of their team boss as 55-year-old Shinichi Ito knows a thing or two about racing. Ito raced extensively in Japanese and International championships, competed in the All Japan Road Race Championship, won the Japanese 500 cc Championship, and is also 3 times Japanese Superbike Champion.
More relevant to this weekend, Ito he has qualified on pole 5 times and won the Suzuka 8 Hours three times.
Also a rider in the 500cc World Championship, with non-other than Mick Doohan as a team-mate, Iko has also raced in the Superbike World Championship. His considerable experience on different types of racing machine has earned him a reputation as a premier development rider.
“Maybe it’s faster if I ride,” he joked when asked if he wanted to be on riding duties this weekend.
“I’ve been really looking forward for this opportunity so I’m very happy to be here. The times are really good between our three riders and we we’ve reached our goal as far as the lap times go. And also our fuel consumption strategies are really good. I think we can really fight for a good battle during the race.
“We ride here a lot, so we’re good at being fast here, but compared with the EWC teams their pit stops are maybe quicker – this is something we might struggle with. Against that, we’re very confident in our speed on the straights.
“This is the first time for me as the team director. I’ve raced here many times and our riders are very young. It’s a new challenge for me and I will share a lot of experience with the riders.”