Spectacular finale coming up at Suzuka
With barely one month to go for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the tension is building in Japan. Manufacturers have begun announcing their line-ups – and since all their rider trios stand a good chance of winning, the 2017-2018 FIM EWC grand finale in Japan on 29 July looks set to be a thriller of a race.
May the best team win! Following three successive wins at the Suzuka 8 Hours, Yamaha has two objectives for the race in Japan: a fourth win for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team, who will be fielding Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark at Suzuka end-July, and a second consecutive FIM world championship title for GMT94 Yamaha. David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio will defend the French team’s world title, while YART Yamaha’s Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Takuya Fujita set out to wind up the season in style.
Honda to make strong showing
Honda is back with a vengeance this year to put an end to Yamaha’s winning streak. Team HRC is returning to the fray after a 10-year absence, with Takumi Takahashi, Takaaki Nakagami and Leon Camier in the saddle of the CBR1000RR SP2. Like Yamaha, Honda is looking not just to win the Suzuka 8 Hours with the factory machine, but also to earn a first-ever FIM world championship title for a Japanese team: F.C.C. TSR Honda France, who arrive in Suzuka at the top of the standings with rider trio Freddy Foray, Josh Hook and Alan Techer.
A veritable fleet of Hondas will be lining up on the grid: Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda (Dominique Aegerter, PJ Jacobsen and Ryo Mizuno), a three-time winner at Suzuka; KYB Moriwaki Motul Racing (Ryuichi Kiyonari, Yuki Takahashi and Dan Linfoot), Au&Teluru MotoUp RT (Kosuke Akiyoshi, Tetsuta Nagashima and Isaac Viñales) and Honda Dream RT Sakurai (Sodo Hamahara and Shinichi Ito).
Suzuki and Kawasaki to make focused effort
Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing will be the Suzuki spearhead, with Takuya Tsuda, Sylvain Guintoli, Bradley Ray and Kazuki Watanabe riding (the final trio will be announced later). MotoMapSupply’s GSX-R with Yoshihiro Konno, Josh Waters and Nobuatsu Aoki in the saddle will also be worth keeping an eye on, not to mention Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Vincent Philippe, Etienne Masson and Gregg Black), who will be going all out to wrest back a spot in the championship Top 5.
The Kawasaki clan have already made a splash by announcing the Kawasaki Team Green line-up: Kazuma Watanabe, Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam. Eva RT Webike Trick Star (Anthony West and Osamu Deguchi) will also be flying the flag for Kawasaki.
BMW holding its own
Mercury Racing (Karel Hanika) and NRT48 (Kenny Foray, Peter Hickman and Julien da Costa) will be competing to be the best-placed BMW in the championship standings, but two other S1000RR-mounted teams – BMW Motorrad 39 (Daisaku Sakai with brothers Damian and Alex Cudlin) and BMW Financial Services (Shinya Takeishi, Michael Laverty and Christian Iddon) are worth keeping an eye on too.
A round of tests is scheduled at Suzuka in early July, but the real face-off of the Suzuka 8 Hours will take place on 27 July when the first official test gets underway.