S-PULSE DREAM RACING IAI #95 – 4th
YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING #12 – 10th
Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A. #11 – 11th
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team #2 – 12th
MotoMap SUPPLY #9 – 23rd
In a difficult Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance World Championship race because of weather conditions, Suzuki GSX-R teams fought back today at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan for the final round of the Endurance World Championship.
#95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI finished the highest of the Suzuki teams in fourth position as YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING clawed-back to the top-10 position despite a crash in the early stages.
The anticipated typhoon #12 had passed the Chubu area where Suzuka Circuit is positioned by the morning, and the 41st edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours started on time at 11:30. However, the typhoon had taken an unusual route across Japan making the weather most unpredictable. The sky was thick with clouds and rain one minute, and then blue sky drying the course quickly, making decisions difficult for the teams before the start. All teams were rushed to be prepared for any kind of unexpected situations.
When the bikes were lined-up on the Le-Mans style starting grid and the announcement was introducing the riders immediately before the start, it rained again. It seemed to be only a light shower at this point but before the warm-up lap, the rain became heavier. Most of the top teams chose rain tyres at this point and with a temperature of 29 degrees, and a ground temperature of 33 degrees, the 8-hour race started off in the wet conditions.
Takahashi on the #33 Honda completed the opening lap first, while #12 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING’s Sylvain Guintoli passed the tower in 4th, followed by #95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI’s Kazuki Watanabe in 6th. After a few laps, #12 Guintoli overtook #21 Yamaha of Van Der Mark and moved up to 3rd, while further back, #71 Yukio Kagayama succeeded in gaining many positions and was directly behind #95 Watanabe now in 5th. Kagayama managed to overtake Watanabe on the 8th lap, putting the team which didn’t make it into the top-10 trial qualifying, into an impressive 5th position.
At this time, Vincent Philippe on the #2 SUZUKI ENDURANCE RACING TEAM bike was in 10th position, and #9 MotoMap SUPPLY in the SST class was much further down the leaderboard due to a mistake in tyre choice.
Some 30 minutes into the race, the course started to dry up rapidly. #12 Guintoli chose to pit-in first amongst the top riders and changed to slick tyres on the 14th lap, rejoining the race without changing riders. This decision seemed to be the right one and on the 18th lap, while #33 Honda was changing tyres, Yoshimura moved up into the lead. However, later on he was passed by #11 Kawasaki and #21 Yamaha and continued the race in 3rd position.
An hour into the race, Yoshimura collided with a back marker and was pushed off at the chicane resulting in a crash. After quickly mending the bike in the pits and changing riders to Bradley Ray, Yoshimura seemed to have dealt well with the spill. However, Bradley Ray found further problems with the bike and was forced to pit again. By the time Yoshimura rejoined the race, they were down to 48th position.
Further up the leaderboard, #95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI and #71Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A were maintaining a good pace amongst the leading teams, but on the 33rd lap, #71Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A’s Joe Roberts crashed at the MC chicane, and although they were able to mend the bike and return to the race, it cost the team many positions.
#95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI on the other hand, jumped-up to 4th position on the 39th lap. A safety car had been put in due to an incident at the hairpin, causing a little confusion, but the team maintained their pace and rode constantly in this position.
Coming up to five hours of dry conditions, the weather seemed promising also for the next three, when it started to rain again. It was just a shower at first but due to multiple crashes, the safety car was put in for the second time. While the safety car was leading the pack, the rain started to get heavier and the course was fully wet by this stage and all the teams were rushed to make quick decisions to pit for a change of tyres..
#95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI chose to pit and change to rain tyres, and after the safety car was removed, had maintained 5th position in the difficult conditions. However, shortly afterwards there was oil on the track and the safety car was out again, making the race more confusing.
The position at 6 hours into the race was; #95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI 5th, #2 SUZUKI ENDURANCE RACING TEAM 12th and #71Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A, #12 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING which both suffered crashes earlier on had fought back to 14th and 15th positions. #9 MotoMap SUPPLY was 22nd but 2nd in its SST class, while #31 HAMAMATSU TEAM TITAN was in 47th having suffered a spill.
Two hours to go, the unpredictable weather had seemed to have finished, leaving the course with a dry line and wet patches.
The ending hours of the race passed without any unfortunate drama, and the Suzuki teams finished the race with #95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI in the highest position of 4th. #71Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A and #12 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING succeeded in recovering their positions to 10th and 11th after their incidents, while #2 SUZUKI ENDURANCE RACING TEAM finished in 12th, putting them in a final 6th position in the world ranking of EWC.
#9 MotoMap SUPPLY finished in 23rd, 4th in the SST class after finding an issue on the bike at the last pit-in and losing time fixing the problem, and #31 HAMAMATSU TEAM TITAN took the flag in 44th.
#95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI:
“The team worked well to complete this difficult race. I am proud that we achieved 4th position and thank those for the support. The down side is that I couldn’t do my job as well as I could as a rider which is regretful.”
“Everything was fantastic and the result was unbelievable. The bike was perfect with a good engine, predictable chassis, electrics and tyres… everything just worked wonderfully in the dry, wet, and even in the dark. My Mum used to tell me to eat my carrots so I would be able to see well at night, so I’ll have to thank her too. Joking apart, the team did a great job too with perfect pitting timing and pit work. I’m very pleased and I’m sure I’ll sleep well tonight.”
“I’m happy that we were able to finish in an impressive 4th as a privateer. The conditions might have been in our favour, but the hard working team played a big part. They welcomed me from Yoshimura and made me feel at home, and the bike set up by Ogata-san was perfect and helped a lot to achieve this result. I’d like to keep this good vibe and switch my mind to sprit racing, and fight hard for the remaining rounds of the Japan Superbikes back with Yoshimura.”
Shirou Yoshida – Team Manager:
“The race week was really hard for the riders, the mechanics and all the staff. But the result payed for everything and I’m overwhelmed. We truly thank all our supporters, sponsors and fans. If we are to aim for a higher position, that will mean the podium. We’ll see what we can do next year.”
#12 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING:
“The Suzuka 8 hours is always a tough and demanding race. The bike felt fantastic both in the dry and the wet so it was a shame that we crashed trying to avoid a back marker. But the Yoshimura team is strong with a fighting spirit. We had the pace to be on the podium so we pushed to the end. I’d like to be back again next year and hope to be on the podium then.”
“We adjusted the bike after my spill yesterday and it was in good condition so I was looking forward to the race. However, after Sylvain’s crash the bike’s balance seemed to have been disturbed and it was difficult to control. All sorts of things happen at the 8 hours so I’ll try not this to bother me and will fight hard again in the Japan Superbikes.”
“It was all new to me and everything was a wonderful and difficult experience. The Yoshimura team was professional in every aspect so I am happy I was able to ride with them. The bike was very fast and always perfect, and I think I was able to play my part. I feel sure that this experience will be good for my career and it would be an honour if I could challenge the 8 hours again with this team.”
Yohei Kato – Team Manager:
“We tried our very best but still had weak points that Yamaha and Kawasaki didn’t. In difficult conditions like today, clever tactics are essential. Our decision to change to slick tyres ahead of our rivals was a good move and I felt good vibes at that point so Sylvain’s crash was a pity. As a team, we have the Japan Superbikes ahead of us so we’ll switch channels and concentrate on the next task. We thank you all who have been so supportive.”
#71 Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A
“I am confident with a Le Mans start so I was hoping for a holeshot, but it didn’t work out that way and we weren’t in the position we hoped for in the first stint. The lap times were good but after Joe’s crash the members of the team seemed a little discouraged, so I told them the race is not over yet and we are going to fight back and there’s no time to feel blue about a spill. After that, both Joe and Uramoto rode hard and the staff worked hard in the pits and we had maximum performance again. I hope we were able to show the power of Team KAGAYAMA to our supporters. The final result of 11th isn’t what we hoped for but we tried hard and that’s what we achieved so well have to live with that. Our team is supported by many sponsors and independent supporters and I wanted to pay them back with a good result; however, that’s going to have to wait until next year and the remaining rounds of the Japan Superbikes.”
“I am really happy I was able to ride with this team. I felt at home and the atmosphere was just perfect. The bike was also wonderful and a joy to ride. I had constant and good lap times in the race so it was a pity I fell on a wet patch and I apologise to the team. I’d like to return to this team again to pay them back.”
“After the qualifying on Friday, we assessed where I was losing time and I managed to adjust and mark better lap times today. I couldn’t say they were ideal laps but I feel I have made progress this week. I have now ridden for this team for three consecutive years and am gathering precious experience. I can’t thank Yukio-san enough. I’ll try to pay him back by being successful in the two races left in Spain this season.”
Kevin Schwantz – Team Manager:
“To aim for the top in a World Championship is a hard task. We compete to win so it’s natural to make mistakes. Especially Joe’s still young and his experience is limited. But the team dealt with the situation well and with good performance from both the riders and the staff, we managed to recover our position to 11th. It’s not a satisfying result but that’s what happens in top class competition, and you can’t judge the skill of the team just from the result. I am proud of the team and happy for them.”
#2 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team
“The bike has ran constantly well and there was a chance to finish in a much better result, but this is endurance racing, the unpredictable happens. I feel that we hadn’t been able to really use the good aspects of the new GSX-R up to now, but throughout the Suzuka 8 Hours I feel that we have truly understood the bike and am now able to use the full potential of it. We weren’t very successful in this year’s championship but I feel confident we’ll be always fighting at the top for the next season.”
“It was a tough race. I had constant good lap times in the dry but hadn’t found the perfect setup for the rain and couldn’t ride with a good feel. Also, the timing the safety car entered the track wasn’t at our favour and we lost a lot of time. But this is racing. The good thing is that our understanding towards the new model had gone further and we feel more confident about the bike. I’m sure we will do better next season.”
“The constant changing of the weather made it a difficult race, but under the circumstances we had a good pace with constant lap times. It was bad luck that the pace car was put in the same time as our pitting timing causing a loss of precious time, but the bikes development and understanding made a huge leap forward at Suzuka. This year’s championship is over now but it’s a positive thing that we found a good feeling for the bike.”
#9 MotoMap SUPPLY
“Starting on slick tyres was a gamble and I think we lost our bet. Since we had a constant competitive pace after that, it was even more frustrating we made the wrong decision. By pushing hard we made it up to 2nd in the SST class but a minor trouble occurred in the last pit stop and we lost places again. Entering the SST class was a new challenge and we learned a lot and faced a lot of difficulties, but with support from our supporters and sponsors, I am glad we have made it to the end. Thank you very much.”
“It was impossible to ride hard in that wet condition with slick tyres. That decision cost us a lot of positions. Looking at the constant lap times and the fact that we marked the top time in the SST Class, I feel sure we could of have finished in a much higher position. We were not able to achieve any breathtaking results but I think we prove a point in the potential of the bike.”
“The choice to start on slicks was a mistake but at the time we believed the rain will stop and it was going to be the right decision. We learned from our mistake and when the rain started to fall again we pitted immediately to change to rain tyres to claw back our mistake. However, the safety car had been put in and we weren’t able to do so. Suzuka 8 Hours has always been an unpredictable race and is difficult to always make the correct decisions at the correct time. By entering the SST class our understanding towards the new GSX-R is now at the next level, and we hope to use this experience in development of kit parts and support for users.”
#31 Hamamatsu Team Titan
“Under these difficult conditions we were still very stable and consistent, so the crash by Wada was a pity. Although in almost stock condition, the engine was fast and the balance was good too. This all indicated for a better result so I couldn’t say I’m happy with our final position today.”