Yamaha Dominates 8 Hours of Suzuka at Home of Honda


Honda’s plan to use top level talent to make up for their machine’s shortcomings didn’t work. Again. Ian G

This just in from Yamaha

Yamaha Factory Racing Team Writes History with Third Consecutive Suzuka Victory

The Yamaha Factory Racing Team wrote an incredible page in the endurance racing history books today, taking their third consecutive win at the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours. The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team was also celebrating, having secured the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship title after a strategic race performance. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team pushed to the team’s maximum potential to finish in fifth at the line and secure third in the World Championship.

Lead rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was initially swallowed by the lead pack into turn one as the race got underway, but quickly began fighting his way back to the front to sit just behind the #634 bike going into the second lap. Never more than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds behind, the hunt ran on until lap 16 when the local hero took the lead briefly before hitting heavy traffic with backmarkers and some light rain on parts of the track.

The first hour was soon up and Nakasuga returned to the pits to hand the YZF-R1 over to teammate Alex Lowes. The young British rider was quick to get up to pace and was soon leading a highly competitive pack by a little over a second. Hard work saw that build to nearly four seconds before it was time to hand over to the team’s third rider, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman put his head down and was working hard to maintain the lead built by Lowes when disaster struck for the chasing #634 bike, giving the Yamaha Factory Racing Team a big time gap at the front.

From then on, the trio were never troubled by the competition, keeping up their dominant weekend-long pace and building up to a lap clear of the rest of the pack by the end of the race. Lowes took the honour of the last hour’s ride, slightly calmer than his previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 2:07.943 with a 2:07.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 2:06.932 lap. The factory YZF-R1 crossed the line in 1st to the delight of the thousands of Japanese race fans present, writing a historic page in the endurance racing book with the second ever consecutive triple race win by one team in the history of the race. Nakasuga added to the honours by becoming the first Japanese rider to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row.

The GMT94 Official EWC Team started the eight-hour race from 15th on the grid with Niccolò Canepa lining up for the Le Mans dash to the #94 YZF-R1. The Italian started climbing through the order just 30 minutes into the race despite the less-than-ideal conditions with intermittent rain falling in sections of Suzuka Circuit’s west course. The Italian then came in for the first pit stop, passing the bike to his veteran teammate David Checa, who kept up the pace set in the first hour.

As the hours wound down, the French team were able to reel off consistent laps in the 2’10s as they focused not on winning the race, but on controlling the point difference to their championship title rivals.

Third team rider Mike Di Meglio made a strong impression on his Suzuka debut in the Endurance World Championship, bringing the team as high as 8th before a 30-second stop-and-go penalty relegated them back to 11th. This was still well ahead of their main title rivals, however, and the team carried on with their strategy and focused on maintaining their pace. As evening fell on the track, Checa went out for the final stint, coming in for a brief pit stop before taking the checkered flag and clinching the Endurance World Championship title, the third one to the team’s name.

The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team have consistently remained the top performers outside of the top five teams this weekend, and today’s race proved no exception. Broc Parkes was the first man on track, initially dropping to 9th in the first hour. Nozane then took over, and from there the team took turns to fight back, upping the pace until they were able to hold 5th position. A last minute technical issue with a chain adjuster cost a place but Nozane was able to bring it back to fifth and ensure that YART secured third place in the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championsip.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

Yamaha Factory Racing Team – 1st

“It’s the 40th anniversary of the Suzuka 8 Hours and I think we got a result befitting of the occasion. My teammates were great and really helped me do my best. The track conditions for my first stint were difficult. I wanted to go faster but I knew that I had to hold it in, keep calm and bring the bike back to my teammates. It was easier for me ride because I knew that even if I fell behind a bit, they would definitely be able to make up the difference. We made eight pit stops and the strategy worked very well to bring us the win. I’m also very happy that I was able to set a new record as the first Japanese rider to win the race three consecutive times.”

Alex Lowes

Yamaha Factory Racing Team – 1st

“I’m really happy to win the Suzuka 8 Hours again, it’s a fantastic event. I was a little bit nervous in the last hour; because these two guys did a fantastic job, we had a little bit of a lead which makes you a little bit more nervous because it’s easy to lose your concentration. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team did a fantastic job, I really enjoyed the bike, I enjoyed the experience again and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to do it again!”

Michael van der Mark

Yamaha Factory Racing Team – 1st

“I’m really happy to be here with a different manufacturer and also win the Suzuka 8 Hours. I had two incredible years the first years I came here and two really difficult ones. This year to win with Yamaha is really special and even though the conditions today were not like usual, it was quite a lot cooler than normal so we were able to be faster! Alex and Nakasuga-san had a great pace and I also felt really good on the bike. We had a fantastic team, all three good on the bike with good pace. Yamaha did an amazing job to prepare the bike and team for this event so I will be really happy to come back next year again!”

Wataru Yoshikawa

Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager

“It is the best feeling, the best! To be honest it was 50/50, as our competitors were very strong. I am really proud to have achieved three consecutive wins with Yamaha, which is an incredible feeling! Now we must look forward and try to build on this. Getting three consecutive wins was a lot of pressure for me, but now I feel that that chapter is closed, so now maybe we can go for four wins in row!”

David Checa

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