Legends invited to 40th anniversary race
The Japanese organisers of the 2016-2017 FIM EWC grand finale, the 40th anniversary of the Suzuka 8 Hours, have invited some of the legendary riders who have marked the history of Japan’s most famous race.
Kenny Roberts, Wes Cooley, Graeme Crosby, Kevin Schwantz, Toru Ukawa, Satoshi Tsujimoto and Tadahiko Taira will all be at Suzuka for the 40th anniversary of the race.
A special mention for the very first among them: Wes Cooley, winner of the first edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours on 30 July 1978. He and Mike Baldwin made up an all-American team in the saddle of Yoshimura’s Suzuki GS 1000. Wes Cooley also won the 1980 Suzuka 8 Hours for Yoshimura with New Zealander Graeme Crosby.
GP500 and Suzuka 8 Hours
Many GP500 riders had already begun making forays into the Suzuka 8 Hours back then. Graeme Crosby placed 3rd in the 1985 edition of the race together with Kevin Schwantz, riding a Suzuki GSX-R 750 for Yoshimura Motul. Kevin Schwantz returned to the third step of the Suzuka 8 Hours podium in 1986, once again for Yoshimura, along with Japanese rider Satoshi Tsujimoto. He then picked up 2nd place in 1988 with fellow-American Doug Polen. Satoshi Tsujimoto who had meanwhile switched to Honda finished 2nd in 1993 with Eddie Lawson, and in 1995 with Shinichi Ito. The evergreen Shinichi Ito, a four-time winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours (1997, 1998, 2006 and 2011), will be back on the grid for the start of the 40th edition on Sunday.
Tadahiko Taira inscribed his name on the list of Suzuka 8 Hours winners in 1990 with teammate Eddie Lawson, riding a Yamaha YZF 750. Five years previously, the Japanese rider had teamed up with Kenny Roberts. The American rider, who was basking in the glory of his three GP500 wins between 1978 and 1980, picked up pole at the 1985 edition. But, like Kevin Schwantz, Kenny Roberts never won the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Five wins and a record to beat
Toru Ukawa holds the record for the highest number of Suzuka 8 Hours wins. The Japanese rider carried off the victory five times from 1997 to 2005, while simultaneously carving out a noteworthy career in GP250 and then MotoGP. His five-win record is yet to be broken. Shinichi Ito and Ryuichi Kiyonari, both four-time winners, will try to equal it. They will be on the starting grid on Honda bikes, for SuP Dream Honda and Moriwaki Motul Racing respectively.
The story continues …