2002 SUZUKA 8 HOURS Report: American Colin Edwards II & the late Daijiro Kato Win

Less = More


(Report authored by the late Tracy Hagen and published with permission from his family)

SUZUKA CITY, JAPAN, AUG. 4 2002

Whatever problem you throw at Honda, Honda seems to have an answer. Always a company to buck the trend and try something different, for the 2002 Suzuka 8 Hours, Honda figured if their riders slowed down a little they could conserve enough fuel – and, just as importantly, save their rear tires – to get through the race with six pit stops instead of the usual seven. Endurance racing, after all, is about distance, not speed.

“Every year, Honda told me to go faster, faster, faster,” said Colin Edwards. “This year, finally, they said, ‘Don’t go that fast.”

Thus Edwards and teammate Daijiro Kato didn’t go as fast, didn’t stop as much, and still won the race. Additionally, the pair bettered the distance record by two laps.

The win was Edwards’ third in the 8 Hours, and to him, the sweetest. Though the team led the last 93 out of 219 laps, a light rain came at sunset while Kato, with little Superbike experience and no night experience, was on the track for the final stretch to the finish.

“For sure, the other two had been boring compared to this one,” Edwards said. “I was really, really happy to win it. Weather did play a part and there was a bit of excitement there at the end. This will probably be the one that I will remember for having drama.”

The win was Honda’s 17th in 25 Suzuka 8 Hours, and the firm’s sixth in a row. With three wins to his name, Edwards joins Mike Baldwin, Aaron Slight and Tohru Ukawa as riders one short of Wayne Gardner’s record of four 8 Hour victories. Kato has one previous victory, which came in 2000 with Tohru Ukawa.
Honda riders Tadayuki Okada and Makoto Tamada chased Edwards and Kato all the way to second place. Though nearly a minute behind when the rain started, Tamada halved the gap by the end. Edwards swore he lost 10 years of his life watching Kato cautiously handle the rain, and Tamada trying frantically to run down the reigning 250cc World Champion.

“This was my first full 8 Hours and I gained a good experience,” said Tamada. “I learned a lot from Okada-san, and that is great for me.”

It was the second consecutive runner-up finish for Okada, a two-time champion in the 8 Hours himself. The 2002 Suzuka 8 Hours and the Suzuka 200K race in June have been the only events the 35-year-old Okada has participated in since retiring from full-time racing at the end of last season.

The top two teams shared the same garage, the same six-stop strategy, and the same Cabin cigarette sponsorship. However, as is common with factory teams for the Suzuka 8 Hours, they used tires from different companies. Edwards and Kato rode in Michelins, and Okada and Tamada on Dunlops.
Alex Barros and Yuichi Takeda completed Honda’s Suzuka 8 Hours task list by finishing third. The duo rode a near full-factory VTR1000SPW provided to the satellite Sakuri Honda. However, only Barros rode with the will to win, and third was the best Barros could salvage after his disengaged teammate allowed other rides to pass at will.

“I think this is a good result for the team, their first podium,” said Barros in the post-race press conference, carefully avoiding mention of his teammate.
Barros had topped the time charts every day of the meeting, and in the race he proved his mettle again by setting the fastest lap.

“This is the present for me,” Barros said. “I make provisional pole, pole, and the the fast lap of the race. My job, this time I do. I’m happy. I ride 100 percent, the best I can do. Honda should be happy with what I did today.”

Barros’ strong ride in the last hour resulted in the closest top-three finish in 8 Hours history, with 48.735 seconds covering the podium. It was also the fourth time that the first three were all on Hondas.
Yamaha showed up with an economical effort of one factory bike piloted by their two All-Japan Superbike Championship riders Wataru Yoshikawa and Takeshi Tsujimura. The pair were rewarded with fourth place after a steady ride, but unfortunately had to watch the Hondas overtake them twice on the track. They simply had no answer for the Hondas, even when Honda had their boys riding with one hand behind their back.
Another outpaced Yamaha, this one a semi-factory YZF-R7 Superbike with veteran Norihiko Fujiwara and youngster Tekkyu Kayo, finished fifth, five laps down from the Hondas.
As last year, Suzuki went with only one team. Riders Akira Ryo and Yukio Kagayama could not stay up with Edwards and Kato, but could with Okada and Tamada until the blue Suzuki started puffing blue smoke in the sixth hour.

“We were ready to fight, but this DNF is really regretful,” said Ryo. “What I regret most was not being able to break down Honda.”

Kawasaki stayed away from Honda’s killing field altogether. Though no press release was issued addressing the question, Kawasaki dropped their domestic Superbike effort in 2002 and switched their focus to MotoGP.
The Suzuka 8 Hours is the circus stop on the FIM World Endurance Championship Series. Five teams vying for the FIM Endurance crown were at Suzuka, competing in the Super Production class. Zongshen Team 2 (Stephane Mertens and Warwick Nowland) and Team 9 (Bruno Bonhuil and Igor Jerman) finished first and second in SP, and seventh and eighth overall. These results lifted Zongshen Team 2 to first in the FIM championship, with 67 points. Zongshen Team 9 is third in the championship with 50.

Corona Extra EBSCO Suzuki finished a fine 10th overall and third in Super Production, on the same lap as the Zongshen bikes. Riders Jordan Szoke and Adam Fergusson, both Suzuka rookies, learned the technical track quickly and were out-lapping the other Super Production teams in practice and qualifying. In the final hour, Szoke had to watch the Zongshen Suzukis disappear down the straights, as the drive chain on the Corona Extra Suzuki was jumping over the dull teeth on the rear wheel’s sprocket.

American Jason Pridmore rode to an 18th-overall finish with Englishman Mike Edwards on the Suzuki QB Phase One Endurance team. The team’s lap times were good enough to place them in the top 10; however, the radiator started leaking during the warm-up lap and the team did not take to the track until the race was nine minutes old. The QB Phase One team is now second in the FIM championship with 56 points.
Former 8 Hours winner Doug Polen entered his first motorcycle race since an episode with pancreatitis sidelined him in 2000. Polen easily found his old form, but finding a riding partner proved far more of a challenge.

When Mike Smith missed his flight from the U.S., Polen and team principal Sam Yamashita were sent walking the paddock looking for a co-rider. In the end, it was all a moot point. The team miscalculated fuel consumption and the gas tank in Polen’s Honda CBR954RR dried up in Degner Curve, 42 minutes after the race started. Which is about as long as it took Polen to walk back to the pits.

RACE

Through practice and qualifying, Edwards thought the six-stop strategy was mad, and denounced it the day before the race.

“I think we’re going to be forced to do seven pit stops,” the Texan said. “I think probably all the Honda teams are. It was a goal of Honda to get six pit stops. I know what my fuel consumption is, and it ain’t worth a shit. Kato’s is maybe a little bit better than mine, but still not good enough. There might be a splash and dash at the end.”

The weather at Suzuka is always hot. Sure enough, rain fell on Saturday night, and by Sunday morning strength-sapping humidity had everyone in a sweat before 9 a.m. warm-up practice started. With a chance of rain forecasted in the last three hours of the race, weather was the talk of the paddock.

Murphy was also there on Sunday morning, at least for two hapless teams. First to find Murphy was Pridmore via a leaky radiator on the warm-up lap. Second to get a visit was the FCC ZIP-FM Racing team, when their Honda started running on three cylinders while on the warm-up lap. Both teams pulled their bikes from the grid.

Polen made a perfect getaway from the 13th position of the Le Mans grid and lunged into the lead. Though a Le Mans start was used – where riders run across the track after a clock counts down – many thought that Polen must have done something illegal.

“The FCC ZIP-FM guys that were right in front of us, right next to us in 12th,” explained Polen, “they had to pull the bike off the grid because they had a problem with it, they had a cylinder go bad. So they pushed their bike off the grid. I’ve got a huge gap now. So I told my guys to turn the bike, go heading down the track instead of heading out [across] and turning. They moved it enough, but I didn’t want it to be too obvious. But they moved it enough that it was good. I hit the started button and, ‘bam!’ I was gone. And those guys hadn’t moved yet.

To say many were surprised that 42-year-old Polen was in the lead is an understatement. The circuit announcer was at a loss for words, shouting, “DOUG POLEN! DOUG POLEN!” endlessly.

Polen’s Cinderella start came to an end quickly. Exiting Degner 2, Polen was overtaken by Ryo under the bridge. Polen stayed tough, and remained second by .765 of a second when the 68 bikes on the track screamed past the grandstands.

Dead last among the bikers on the track was Corona Extra Suzuki rider Adam Fergusson.

“We had a problem from the start. I ran across and jumped on the bike. We were venting the tank to stop any fuel from flowing out. We had a bit of a rag in [the dry break coupler]. When we went to pull the rag out, it ripped the edge of it off and it stuck in there. So, when I took off, gas was pouring all over me. I had to stop at the exit of turn two, and sit there and fumble around with it for 20 or 30 seconds to try and dig it out.”
The running order started to shake itself out on the second lap. Ryo was still in front, flying. Keiichi Kitagawa, on a GSX-R1000 in the promoter’s prototype class, passed Polen in the S-curves. Tamada, Takeda, and Kato all helped themselves to a position off Polen, dropping the Texan to sixth by the conclusion of the second lap.

“I knew I’d go backwards,” Polen confessed. “We had some issues with the bike as far as the setup and stuff. With race tires, it didn’t work as good as it did with the softer tires. It chattered a lot in places that I just couldn’t go fast. As soon as I’d not be aggressive with it and just ride, it was reasonable rideable. But it was still hard – too hard.”

Kitagawa went inside and around Ryo on the third visit to turn one. Ryo hammered the throttle hard coming out of Spoon Curve for the back straight, and the rear wheel stepped out. Tamada gave Ryo look as the riders approached the 130R corner from the back straight, but let Ryo go. And go Ryo did, right up and under Kitagawa as the race reached the Casio Triangle chicane.

The fourth lap was a copy of the third. Kitagawa drafted Ryo down the front straight and took turn one; later, Ryo slipped underneath Kitagawa at the Casio Triangle. The two speedy Suzukis were being followed closely by the Hondas of Tamada and Kato. Takeda was fifth, but three seconds away from Kato, unable to keep pace after the diminutive Japanese ace turned a 2:08.633 lap.

Ryo didn’t let Kitagawa take him at turn on a third time. Kitagawa blasted down the back straight and pulled out alongside Ryo. It wasn’t a pass, it was the Suzukis taking formation to keep the Hondas behind. But Tamada cut off Kitagawa at the Casio Triangle for second, and a shot at Ryo.

The spectators on the hill over the Casio Triangle had the best seats in the house. The next time around, Tamada carved up Ryo at the Casio Triangle, and out of the chicane it was Honda-Suzuki-Honda-Suzuki.
Ryo wound up the Suzuki on the front straight and used the slipstream to regain the lead from Tamada. Tamada stayed on Ryo’s tail for the rest of the lap, and for the first time in five laps there was no passing attempt at the Casio Triangle.

Kato had dispatched Kitagawa a lap earlier, and as the front-runners went in to the S-curves on lap eight Kato passed Tamada, and then Ryo. Tamada dived under Ryo at the Casio Triangle, causing the Suzuki star to lose two spots within a lap.

One second covered the top four riders. Takeda held fifth, five sconds down and chased by Yoshikawa and Shinichi Nakatomi, riding a Sakuri Honda VTR1000SPW.

The leaders started finding the backmarkers on lap 10 in the S-curves, and the little breathing room the two Hondas had on Ryo was then gone. Ryo tailed the Hondas, and the attack on Tamada eventually happened on the front straight. As Tamada looked over his left shoulder for Ryo, Ryo went around on the right.

Kitagawa was then getting gapped, and looked unable to do anything about it. On lap 14, the freckled-face Kitagawa was the first of the big-name fallers with a crash at the tight, low-speed hairpin. It was the first of three falls the team would take in the race, eventually using up all the spares on hand to repair crash damage.

Over the coming eight laps, the traffic became increasingly thicker, yet Kato managed to knife through the snails and hold his laps at 2:09. By lap 22, the snails had nearly come to a halt at the hairpin, and Kato had to sit up and wait. Tamada and Ryo pulled up with Kato and sat, too. Kato, Tamada, and Ryo left the snails exiting the Hairpin, and Tamada took advantage of the reduced interval to Kato to pass Kato on the brakes entering Spoon Curve.

Kato was in no rush to overtake Tamada, and Tamada had an unmolested ride in the lead. Three laps later, Takeda peeled in to the pits at the 53-minute mark to hand the Sakuri Honda over to Barros. Takeda lost 28 seconds to the leaders during his run, far more than Barros thought Takeda would give up.

“I didn’t think he could lose so much,” wondered Barros. “The deal is that maybe maximum 10 seconds per hour could be lost. Ten seconds I could recover in one hour.”

Ryo pitted on the following lap, and then everyone held their breath for the Hondas. The arithmetic for a six-stop strategy required 69 minutes between pit stops, though the first sessions tend to be the shortest as fuel is used on the sighting lap and warm-up lap.

On lap 29, Tamada waved Kato around on the back straight. Kato pulled up, looked over to Tamada, but then pulled over the edge of the track and dropped a leg, indicating his intentions to enter the pits.
“During the first session, I was racing with Daijiro, my good friend, and it was great fun,” said the always cheerful Tamada. “When Daijiro went into the pit one lap before me, I waved, ‘bye-bye, see you soon,’ to him. But after that I didn’t have a chance to race with him again, and I felt sad.”

By lap 31, the first round of pit stops and ‘out’ laps were completed. Kagayama (Suzuki) had a 1.67-second lead on Okada. Edwards was .24 of a second off from Okada. Barros was another 25 seconds behind Edwards.
Edwards passed Okada prior to the Hairpin on lap 32, and was on Kagayama’s rear tire at the Hairpin on lap 34. There was no stopping Edwards, who passed Kagayama on lap 35 and proceeded to pull away and pad the lead – slowly, of course, under orders from Honda to save fuel and rear tire.

“Whenever I was in practice, I was spinning the nuts off the tire,” said Edwards. “Then, in the race, it was just not spin it. In some places, you didn’t have to go full gas. You would just sit there and look at the fuel consumption. On our read-out, you can read how much fuel consumption you got on that lap. So you just hold it in the range.”
Indeed, the factory Hondas had on-board fuel-consumption displays.

“As soon as we cross the finish line, it stays on the screen for five or six seconds,” added Edwards. “You can look down and see what that lap was. It worked out great.”
Okada could not keep up with Kagayama during the middle part of their riding sessions and lost two seconds to the Suzuki rider. Then Kagayama’s rear tire started spinning and sliding, and Okada took back the two seconds, eventually passing on lap 52.

“That time, Kagayama looks very big slide for his rear tire. I pushing hard to catch him,” said Okada.

Barros was in the pits on lap 52, after making five seconds on Edwards over the course of an hour. Kagayama pitted the following lap, while the stingy Hondas of Edwards and Okada stayed out until laps 61 and 62 respectively, and roughly and hour and 10 minutes from their teams’ first stops. Honda’s incredible race strategy was working.

Once the Hondas were back up to speed again, Kato had a .52-of-a-second lead on Ryo. Tamada was six seconds behind Ryo in the third, and Takeda was 25 seconds down from Okada.

Kato set his personal best time of 2:08.467 on lap 64. Undeterred, Ryo pushed his pace in the 2:08 to 2:09 range for the next six laps to keep tabs on Kato. But the Suzuki rider relented on lap 70 and backed off to 2:10 lap times. Kato capitalized on Ryo’s decision to slow down, and by the time Ryo pitted on lap 80, Kato was pus 12 on him.

Kato and Tamada pitted on laps 93 and 94, respectively. Edwards and Okada went out for duty, with Kagayama and Barros on the track.

The race was 3 hours and 28 minutes old when Edwards completed lap 95. Kagayama was 10 seconds behind Edwards, Okada was 24 seconds behind Kagayama, and Barros was seven seconds behind Okada.
Barros’ second stint was the only one out of his four that he failed to make up ground to the motorcycle one position higher up – in this case, Okada’s Honda. The seven-second gap gradually grew to 14 seconds by the time Barros ducked into the pits on lap 108.

“The second time I had a problem with the [rear] tire,” explained Barros. “The last 10 laps, I go 2:11-2:12. The tire is like it doesn’t exist. The first time, some problems, so I changed the tire for the second one. It was very good in the beginning, but the last 10 laps, ‘Whoa!,’ it was spinning. I lost two or three seconds from my normal lap time. It was very dangerous.”

Edwards was having rear-tire troubles, too, but of a different nature.

“I think we made the right decision on tires, but we developed a vibration in the second stint. The first and the third were really good. But in all worked out.”

Fortunately for Edwards, the tire vibration did not affect the 10-second margin to Kagayama all the while, until Kagayama pitted on lap 109. Kagayama’s inevitable pit stop one minute before the four-hour mark allowed Okada to overtake Team Suzuki for a second. Okada stayed in second until he pitted 37 minutes later, Ryo unable to reduce the 12 seconds between himself and Okada.

“The very last time I rode the bike, the engine was losing power,” Suzuki’s Japanese press release quoted Ryo. “I thought the engine just gave up a bit. But I continued on riding hard.”
Edwards pitted on lap 125 and surrendered the lead to Okada, who pitted the following lap and surrendered the lead to Ryo. Ryo’s last hurrah lasted a brief two laps.

At the end of lap 128, Kato was .128 of a second behind Ryo, and on the attack. Kato took advantage of Ryo in the first left-hand corner in the S-Curves. Kato got down to business and started building a sizeable lead – 1.5 seconds a lap – on Ryo’s final 10 tours.
Ryo and Takeda pitted at the five-hour point. Tamada became the new second-place man, though a lengthy 36 seconds away from Kato.

Barros went back to the rear tire he used during his first time out on the track, and fell in love. During the hottest period of the race, the amazing Brazilian Grand Prix rider was stringing together fast laps. It was good television: Barros was either scraping the tarmac or a backmarker in every corner. On lap 139, Barros clocked the only sub-2:08 lap of the race at 2:07.844. The race became alive again, and the interval from Kato/Edwards’ Honda to Barros shrunk from 1:50 to 42 seconds during Barros’ third ride.

The Suzuki finally succumbed to total engine failure on lap 156.

“The last lap, I was going around the corner, and I heard weird noises from the engine,” said Kagayama. “I thought it wasn’t going to go full distance, so I took the shortcut to the pits. Up until then, we were on our strategy and doing pretty well.”
Kagayama clattered into the pits and then the garage, the crew pulling the garage door down behind them.

The two six-stop Hondas pitted on laps 157 and 158, approximately five hours and 45 minutes into the race. Barros stopped two minutes before six hours, on lap 163.

Barros’ amazing ride instilled no visible sign of inspiration to Takeda, and the race became dull. Edwards had a 50-second advantage on Okada, and Okada had a 40-second advantage on Takeda. Tsujimura’s red, white, and black factory Yamaha was a lap down in fourth, and Fujiwara was three more laps down in fifth on the orange and black satellite Yamaha.

“Every session was about managing fuel consumption,” said Edwards. “Keep the gap and maybe pulling a little bit, but don’t do anything too crazy. If anything, I took too much caution, and it shows in my lap times here and there. They’re not as fast as some of the others, but we had a lead and I just made sure I made to the pits in one piece.”

The Michelins on Edwards and Kato’s Honda seemed to have a durability advantage over the Dunlops on the Okada/Tamada Honda, or so one would believe listening to Okada. Reportedly, Tamada was sliding around on his rear Dunlop the last 10 laps of each session, and Okada nearly crashed in his last ride when the rear tire went off.

“The final session for me I almost crashed. Big highside for me in the second S-corner. I go off the track, of course. Same situation, each session: last 10 laps, very big slide. It was very difficult.”
The final pit stops for first-place Edwards, second-place Okada, and third-place Takeda occurred on laps 189, 190, and 191, respectively. The sun was providing a colorful goodbye on the western horizon, but 10 minutes later everyone was looking straight up. The dark clouds overhead were indeed rain clouds, and the track was getting damp from light sprinkles.

Though the track was never truly wet with running water, Kato was on slicks and taking it easy. Kato’s lap time on lap 196 was 2:10.899, 2:15.010 on lap 197, and then 2:20.624 on lap 198. Over the following seven laps, Kato’s lap times were up and down between 2:13.698 to 2:26.217, before finally settling down to sub-2:14 from lap 206 to the end.

Tamada was 53 seconds behind Kato when the rain started on lap 197. Tamada started chopping away at Kato’s advantage, sometimes by seven seconds a lap. It gave Edwards plenty to worry about.
“If it really started raining I stayed dressed in my leathers,” said Edwards, who watched events unfold with the team from the garage monitor. “I go really good in the rain, and if it come down to it, we’d do a pit stop and – obviously it’s up to the team – I’d be there to jump back on it, if needed. As it worked out, it just sprinkled a little bit. But it was heart-pounding and way too much stress after three and a half hours of riding.”
Kato finally stabilized the situation with Tamada at 25 seconds. Barros, albeit further back, was fearless of the water. An experienced rain rider at Suzuka, Barros had ridden in the rain on slicks before and passed factory riders on rain tires.

“I needed more raining,” said Barros of his thoughts on the final hour of the race. “It not rain so hard, just a little bit. Many riders go very, very slow. I thought maybe it would rain for half an hour, or 40 minutes, and I would have some chance to go down on the [interval]. But the track come a little bit wet for just two laps. After the track came dry, I tried again to drop my lap time, but there are too many riders. I just tried to stay on the track.”

Barros made up time on Kato and Tamada hand over fist, once taking out 13 seconds in one lap. Barros made up over a minute, but the last 23 seconds to Tamada were too much. Barros fought the clock like a condemned man, oblivious to slower bikes. In fact, Barros readily admitted to running under one and forcing himself and the backmarker off the track on the final lap.
“When it started to rain during the final session, I was anxious,” said Kato. “I am really happy we won.”

“It was a bit boring at times, but the last hour made up for it,” said a relieved Edwards. “All the excitement of the last hour, I was pissing in my pants. I’m standing there watching Kato, and it’s raining. It was a pain in the ass, and I don’t want to experience that again.”

And with that, a happy Colin Edwards and Daijiro Kato were off to the Honda party, and a few weeks of much-deserved rest before the warfare in World Superbike and MotoGP resumes.

Suzuka Circuit
Suzuka City, Japan
Results: August 4, 2002

Final: 1. C. Edwards/D. Kato (Hon); 2. M. Tamada/T. Okada (Hon); 3. A. Barros/Y. Takeda (Hon); 4. W. Yoshikawa/T. Tsujimura (Yam); 5. N. Fujiwara/T. Kayou (Yam); 6. O. Deguchi/H. Noda (Hon); 7. S. Mertens/W. Nowland (Suz); 8.B. Bonhuil/I. Jerman (Suz); 9. M. Tokinaga/Y. Sato (Yam); 10. A. Fergusson/J. Szoke (Suz).

NOTES

Now just one 8 Hours win short of tying Wayne Gardner’s record of four, is Colin Edwards keen to match or beat the record? “I wouldn’t be disappointed if I never came back,” said Edwards while enjoying a beer at the post-race Honda party. “It’s just getting to a point where it’s really dangerous out there, compared to where it was four or five years ago. Now you’ve got slow guys on really fast bikes. You get balked in the corner and then they pull you down the straight. It gets to be a pain in the ass. Some of these guys you’re passing with 50 mph in the corners. It’s not how I would like to run the event, but they’ve got to fill the grid. Every year it gets more and more dangerous. At times, I do fear for my life, you know?”
Collin Edwards’ status as a rider for the 8 Hours was in doubt for some time prior to the race, due to Honda not listing him as an ‘A’ or ‘B’ rider when preliminary entires were announced in May. “Initially, I was supposed to be a reserve rider, because [Tohru] Ukawa was fit. But then he crashed at Donington and broke his toe and bruised his heel bone. From that point on, Honda said it was an 80 percent chance you’re going to ride with Kato.”

Oddly, in these days of big-money, multi-clause contracts, Edwards claimed at Suzuka that his contract with Honda does not contain terms for the 8 Hours. “Basically, there are no terms. The terms are you get a lot of money if you win. If you come in second you get a boot in the ass.” How much is the money? “It’s a fair old chunk of money – a nice, round, even number,” said Edwards with a smile. Five years ago, informed sources stated that a Suzuka 8 Hours win bonus was $250,000. One MotoGP race team director at Suzuka speculated that a nice, round, even number eluded by Edwards was $500,000.
Don’t look for Valentino Rossi to return to the 8 Hours any time soon. Like Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, and other stars of the previous generation of Grand Prix racers, Rossi now regards 8 Hours as too risky. “We knew last year that he was done, he wouldn’t come back,” said Edwards. “I don’t blame him. It’s so f***ing dangerous. It’s gotten to the point where it’s not fun, like it used to be. It used to be a whole lot of guys here on factory bikes. Our friends: GP guys, World Superbike guys. Now, realistically, it’s only me and Barros. We’re the only round eyes on the factory stuff. It’s just a joke. I still want to win it, but you’re passing guys and it feels like 50 mph over them. Unbelievable. It’s okay to be ruthless in a race, and generally they’re looking out for you then anyway, because blue flags are abundant. [In practice] you never see any blue flags, and the guys are just having a wank while they’re going around the track.”

One would not expect Edwards to need a lot of practice on an RC-51 Superbike these days and could be tolerant of slower bikes in practice. However, for the 8 Hours, riders generally have to search for new settings that compromise the needs of the two riders. This was especially difficult for Edwards, as his teammate Daijiro Kato was arguably the smallest rider in the race. “That’s another thing that’s kind of causing me a little trouble,” Edwards said. “Thursday we had the bike basically exactly like I would race it. I mean, set up perfect for me. He complained about the front, not being able to lead it enough. So we went to another setting that I’ve run – he tried something to keep the front down that I’ve run before, but I don’t necessarily like it at this track, it just pushes the front. Thursday, he said he liked a setup that he tried before, but I didn’t like. So now we’ve gone halfway – and we both don’t like it. I’m 15 kilos [33 pounds] heavier than he is, so, obviously, I’m going to load the front, and his light ass isn’t going to load it. Basically, it’s kind of in the middle right now where he can’t load it, and I’m loading it too much. It’s right in the middle just enough to screw us both up. I mean, I understand – ahh, it’s okay, we’re still going to win this thing.”


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