Suzuka: A race like no other
The Suzuka 8 Hours occupies a special place on the FIM EWC calendar. The track, the atmosphere, the riders and the factory teams combine to make for a race like no other.
The Suzuka 8 Hours – the final race of the FIM EWC since last season – has always had a very particular vibe. There’s no other race quite like this one on the endurance world championship calendar.
The heat and humidity make the race a huge challenge for the riders and the bikes. According to the weather forecast, 2018 looks set to be even hotter than usual.
There is always a big turnout in Japan (128,000 spectators turned up last year over the four days the circuit is open to the public). Their unbridled enthusiasm, admiration and support for riders and teams give the race a very special atmosphere. After Thursday’s free practice, the two qualifying sessions take place on the Friday. The ten best teams in qualifying are then pitted against each other on Saturday during the Top10 Trial, a Suzuka-specific superpole. This exciting session inevitably draws keen crowds.
For the Top10 shootout, each team picks two riders, who take to the track separately to do one flying lap. The top 10 spots on the grid are then reassigned to the riders who set the fastest individual times.
Another thing that sets the Suzuka 8 Hours apart is that, being the final race, it yields 150% of the usual points score, which means there are 45 points on offer for the race winner at Suzuka.
Factory teams on the grid
This unusual race also draws all the Japanese manufacturers. This being their home race, winning at Suzuka is a point of honour with the Japanese factories. Having so often triumphed in the past, Honda’s Team HRC is back this year after an absence to challenge the domination of Yamaha Factory, on a winning streak since 2015. Kawasaki Team Green and Yoshimura Suzuki round off the constructor quartet. Amid the factory teams and a slew of competitive Japanese squads, the top FIM EWC teams too will surely make their voices heard.
The circuit itself also makes Suzuka a very particular challenge. The long 5,821-metre track with a figure of 8 layout is both extremely fast and technical.
The one-of-a-kind race that is the Suzuka 8 Hours will be flagged off this year at 11.30 am local time (GMT+9) on Sunday 29 July.