Excitement building at Suzuka
With 40 days to go to the Suzuka 8 Hours, the 2019 race is shaping up to be a memorable one. The official Japanese factory teams are entering the race with one clear objective: taking the win to dash Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s hopes of a fifth consecutive victory. The 42nd edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours is also the FIM EWC season finale. Team SRC Kawasaki France, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team and F.C.C. TSR Honda France are the contenders for the title.
Unbeaten at the Suzuka 8 Hours since 2015, Yamaha Factory Racing Team are once again fielding their 2017 and 2018 winning line-up. Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark will be riding a Yamaha Tech 21 Shiseido in the historic colours of the first-ever factory machine to be entered by Yamaha in 1985 and targeting a fifth straight win.
The other Japanese manufacturers are closing ranks to scupper Yamaha Factory’s plans. Kawasaki are returning to Suzuka with a KRT factory team. After finishing on the podium for the last three years as Kawasaki Team Green, this year Kawasaki Racing Team are targeting the win with riders Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu. The three riders are among the FIM Superbike World Championship’s Top 7. Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam finished 3rd at Suzuka last year with Kawasaki Team Green.
Yoshimura Suzuki bolster line-up
As to Suzuki, Yoshimura have announced a line-up of seasoned riders. Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli, Suzuki’s MotoGP test rider, will be in the saddle partnering two Japanese riders, Kasuki Watanabe and veteran Yukio Kagayama, who is making a comeback in the Yoshimura colours. He finished 2nd at Suzuka in 2011 before entering his own Team Kagayama, who monopolized the third step of the podium from 2013 to 2015.
A slew of Hondas in HRC’s wake
The Honda colours will predominate at Suzuka. Having returned to the Suzuka race last year, Honda HRC have lined up Takumi Takahashi, the current leader in the JSB1000 Japanese Superbike and three-time winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours, Ryuichi Kiyonari, the FIM Superbike World Championship rider with four Suzuka wins to his credit, and HRC’s MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl to ride the Red Bull Honda #33. The Honda fleet also includes Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda, au Teluru RT, KYB Moriwaki Racing, Honda Asia Dream and Honda Dream RT Sakurai, not to mention F.C.C. TSR Honda France, who are still in with a chance of winning the 2018-2019 FIM EWC title, and Honda Endurance Racing, who will be seeking retaliation after being forced to withdraw at Oschersleben.
Three world title contenders in the Japanese arena
Three teams will be battling it out for the FIM Endurance World Championship title at the Suzuka 8 Hours. In the run-up to the Grand Finale, Team SRC Kawasaki France lead the standings with 132 points ahead of Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, with 127 points, and F.C.C. TSR Honda France, with 109. Their goal is to take on the top Japanese teams on their home ground and seize the opportunity offered by the season finale to score 150% of the regular points in order to claim the world title. 45 points are awarded to the winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours.
The 42nd edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours will be held in Japan on Sunday 28 July.