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Honda’s Takahashi banished 2019 demons with Suzuka 8 Hours win

All-Japan Superbike champion Takahashi led Hondas assault at Suzuka 3 years ago, with japan manufacturer putting plenty of faith in him by asking him to accomplish a double stint in the ultimate hours of the race.

However, the ex-World Superbike rider was struggling to retain the narrow 3.5s lead he previously inherited, with both Kawasakis Jonathan Rea and the Yamaha of Alex Lowes passing him to leave he and teammate Stefan Bradl a disappointing third at the final.

Following a two-year absence, the Suzuka 8 Hours returned on the international motorcycle racing calendar this season and Takahashi were able to make amends for his previous defeat, going for a comprehensive one-lap victory over Kawasaki with new teammates Tetsuta Nagashima and Iker Lecuona.

While crediting his teammates for his or her role in a historic result for Honda, the 32-year-old feels he could be now personally prepared to equal the record for some victories at Suzuka.

Ive been unhappy with the 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours, so Im glad we won today, said Takahashi, who also won the race in 2010, 13 and 14.

Im relieved that I were able to play my part, as Nagashima developed the bike, and I had to become familiar with it and draw out its potential, otherwise I’d hold him back. This is the initial Suzuka 8 Hours for Iker [Lecuona], and he did an excellent job.

The HRC team gave us solid support including pit work. I’m grateful to everyone involved. That is my fourth Suzuka 8 Hours victory, and when I get another chance, I’ll shoot for the record of five victories held by Tohru Ukawa.

#33 Team HRC, Takumi Takahashi

#33 Team HRC, Takumi Takahashi

Photo by: Jun Goto

Lecuona played an essential role in Hondas record-extending 28th victory in Suzuka, quickly pulling from Lowes (now at Kawasaki) after their respective stops in the 3rd hour.

This meant they were found by two different safety cars following the #51 I.W NAC Yamaha caught fire, extending Hondas advantage to over one minute.

Lecuona admitted he was worried that the safety car would get rid of what have been a 32-second lead for the #33 crew, but was overall pleased with how he performed in his maiden outing within an endurance race of the scale.

I’m very, happy, honestly with this particular victory, he said. I believe the team did an extremely good job during all of the week, during all of the tests we did within Suzuka.

We were really fast this weekend. We knew we’re able to win this race [and] ultimately we achieved it. Very, happy and because of everybody and because of both of these guys who did an extremely good job through the race.

“I believe I were able to draw out the performance of the bike. I was worried once the safety car entered the track that I’d lose the gap our other two riders had developed, but we got through fine.”

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