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Suzuka 8 Hours: Honda scores dominant make an impression on Kawasaki

Takumi Takahashi, Tetsuta Nagashima and Iker Lecuona were virtually unchallenged for most the race aboard the #33 HRC Fireblade, with a variety of Hondas pace advantage and a fortuitous safety car helping the trio finish a lap free from Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Alex Lowes aboard the factory Kawasaki.

It marked the fourth-career win for Takahashi following his previous three successes with Honda in 2010, 13 and 14, and the initial for his rookie teammates Nagashima and Lecuona, who both showed rapid pace through the entire race.

For Honda it marked the finish of a dry spell at Suzuka 8 Hours dating back to to 2014, when Takahashi, Haslam and Michael van der Mark clinched the very best spot for the HARC-Pro squad.

In the beginning of the race, pole-sitter Takahashi slipped behind both Haslam (now at Kawasaki) and a fast-charging FCC TSR Honda of Josh Hook, but had little trouble repassing them because the inherent pace benefit of the CBR1000RR-R became quickly evident.

An early on safety car for a collision between Honda satellite riders Kosuke Sakumoto and Naomichi Uramoto brought Takahashi’s rivals back to play as he again dropped right down to third, nonetheless it took a matter of a laps for japan rider to repass Haslam and the Yoshimura Suzuki of Gregg Black and reinstate the status quo.

From there on Takahashi continued to create an eight-second advantage on the chasing pack, with Nagashima further stretching the gap to 22 seconds during his first stint.

Hondas bid for an initial victory in Suzuka in nearly ten years was further strengthened when Lecuona overran the bike in the 3rd hour, just when Kawasaki handed the riding duties to Lowes after previous stints from Haslam and Rea.

Belying his insufficient experience at japan track and in endurance racing, Lecuona was rapid out from the gates and set a number of quick laps, while Lowes struggled for pace aboard the factory Kawasaki and dropped 30s down the first choice.

This continued to possess a major effect on the ultimate order as, once the safety car returned on the right track following the #51 I.W NAC Yamaha caught fire at second Degner, Lowes finished up picking the next of both safety cars.

This handed Lecuona a protracted benefit of a 1m15s on the British rider, effectively ending a chance of magic fightback from Kawasaki.

Rea did make an effort to close the gap to the best Honda after overtaking the bike again in the fourth hour and could consistently match – and sometimes even beat – the laptimes of Takahashi.But his effort was undone when he clipped the handlebar of a rival while navigating his way through traffic, forcing him to the bottom at the initial chicane.

The six-time World Superbike champion could hop back on his Kawasaki and obtain going again, however the 30 second he lost along the way put Honda even more prior to the field.

Through the fifth hour of the race, Nagashima could put a lap on the Kawasaki during his second stint aboard the works Honda, and from there on the HRC crew enjoyed an untroubled run on the way to an extraordinary victory on its home turf.

Kawasaki, meanwhile, was forced to show its focus on securing second place, having dropped behind the YART Yamaha team after losing further amount of time in the pits during Reas scheduled stop to perform some repairs on the #10 ZX-10RR.

The #7 YART crew of Marvin Fritz, Niccolo Canepa and Karel Hanika had built a lead of near 10 seconds on the Kawasaki trio, having successfully rebounded from the woeful start that left the FIM EWC team in 22nd place by the end of lap 1.

The battle between your two squads was set to decrease the wire, with YART likely requiring a supplementary fuel visit the finish of the race to get to the finish.

But a maiden podium for the Austrian team went begging when Fritz and the #74 Yamaha of Riku Sugawara crashed at the Esses on the beginning of the ultimate hour, wrecking both their races and allowing Kawasaki to seal second position.

Fritz could bring the bike back again to the YART garage for quick repairs because the safety car returned for a third time, but a stop-go-penalty further dampened its chances also it eventually finished the race a disappointing seventh, five laps down the first choice.

Late drama for YART promoted its rival EWC team Yoshimura Suzuki to the ultimate i’m all over this the podium on which is likely to function as final outing for the maker as a works entrant at Suzuka.

Competing without Sylvain Guintoli carrying out a hand injury for the French rider and needing to start 22nd place, the works Suzuki team appeared rapid through the race with a heroic first stint from Black briefly elevating it to the lead following the first safety car phase.

Black and Kazuki Watanabe finished up dropping several places down the order because they competed the race as a duo in hot conditions, but a solid end to the race ensured they finished third on the podium.

The #40 S-Pulse team supported the outcomes of the factory Suzuki squad with a fourth-place finish, as Hideyuki Ogata, Atsumi Cocoro and Takuya Tsuda arrived at the top in a duel with the #104 Toho Honda of four-time Suzuka winner Ryuichi Kiyonari, Hiromichi Kunikawa and Takuma Kunimine.

Behind the YART Yamaha, the very best 10 was completed by the #40 Team ATJ Honda of Yuki Takahashi, Kazuki Ito and Tomoyoshi Koyama, the #5 FCC TSR Honda of Josh Hook and Mike de Meglio, and the #50 Team Kodama Yamaha of Yuuta Kodama, Kengo Nagao and Kenji Nagao.

The FCC TSR team, competing without Gino Rea following his horrific crash in Saturday practice, was in contention for a high five finish until an extended pitstop with brake issues in the 3rd hour dropped it down the order.

BMWs first works entry at Suzuka ended in a DNF following its sole M1000RR crawled to a halt right before the midway point of the race, with two-time IDM champion Ilya Mikhalchik needing to push the bike to the pits where it had been eventually retired.

Race results:

Pos No. Team Bike Laps Gap
1 33 Team HRC Honda 214
2 10 Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H Kawasaki 213 1 Lp.
3 1 Yoshimura SERT Motul Suzuki 212 2 Lp.
4 95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING – ITEC Suzuki 210 4 Lp.
5 104 TOHO Racing Honda 210 4 Lp.
6 72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA Honda 210 4 Lp.
7 7 YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC Yamaha 209 5 Lp.
8 40 Team ATJ with JAPAN POST Honda 208 6 Lp.
9 50 TEAM KODAMA Yamaha 208 6 Lp.
10 5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France Honda 208 6 Lp.
11 88 Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA Honda 208 6 Lp.
12 54 GOSHI Racing Honda 206 8 Lp.
13 64 Kawasaki Plaza Racing Team Kawasaki 205 9 Lp.
14 44 SANMEI Team TARO PLUSONE BMW 204 10 Lp.
15 11 WEBIKE SRC KAWASAKI FRANCE Kawasaki 203 11 Lp.
16 806 NCXX RACING with RIDERS CLUB Yamaha 202 12 Lp.
17 85 TONE RT SYNCEDGE 4413 BMW BMW 202 12 Lp.
18 52 TERAMOTO@J-TRIP Racing Suzuki 202 12 Lp.
19 60 Honda Hamamatsu ESCARGOT RT Honda 202 12 Lp.
20 3 KRP SANYOKOGYO&RS-ITOH Kawasaki 200 14 Lp.
21 99 ADVANCE MC & FOC CLAYMORE EDGE with DOGHOUSE Suzuki 198 16 Lp.
22 27 TransMapRacing with ACE CAFE Suzuki 198 16 Lp.
23 15 TEAM HANSHIN RIDING SCHOOL Kawasaki 195 19 Lp.
24 78 Honda Blue Helmets MSC Kumamoto & Asaka Honda 193 21 Lp.
25 9 Murayama. Honda Dream. RT Honda 193 21 Lp.
26 82 Team BIZENSEIKI Kirimoto Techno Works Kawasaki 192 22 Lp.
27 74 AKENO SPEED.YAMAHA Yamaha 188 26 Lp.
28 45 YSS Mercury with TKm Kawasaki 187 27 Lp.
29 89 CLUB NEXT & Honda Dream TAKASAKI Honda 184 30 Lp.
30 25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing Team Honda 183 31 Lp.
31 112 Honda Soyukai Tochigi Racing & Dream RT Honda 173 41 Lp.
32 71 Team MATSUNAGA KDC & YSP NAGOYA KITA Yamaha 170 44 Lp.
33 69 Auto Race UBE KEN RACING YIC Kawasaki 169 45 Lp.
34 38 K’sWORKS RACING Yamaha 165 49 Lp.


35 42 Shinshu activation project Team NAGANO BMW 160 54 Lp.
36 61 Team de”LIGHT Ducati 155 59 Lp.
37 17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing Honda 153 61 Lp.
38 70 OGURA CLUTCH ORC with RIDE IN Yamaha 149 65 Lp.
39 31 Hamamatsu Team TITAN Suzuki 144 70 Lp.
40 41 IRF with AZURLANE Yamaha 144 70 Lp.
41 2 EVA RT 01 Webike TRICKSTAR Kawasaki 142 72 Lp.
42 34 Honda Ryokuyoukai Kumamoto Racing Honda 139 75 Lp.
43 73 SDG Honda Racing Honda 139 75 Lp.
44 51 T.MOTOKIDS TAKADA I.W. NAC Yamaha 89 125 Lp.

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