in 26 Years at Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race
Suzuka 8 Hours, the final round of the 2018-2019 FIM Endurance World Championship, starts. Under the intense summer sun, for which Suzuka is known, the race begins in dry conditions, with thermometers registering 32°C for air temperature and 47°C for the track’s surface. The rider for the first stint, Leon Haslam, starts from second place on the grid. After 20 laps, five riders are in the lead group, and three factory teams ― KRT, Red Bull Honda, and Yamaha Factory Racing Team ― are competing fiercely, making it an extremely tight race from its very earliest stage.
Haslam chooses to pit for the first time on lap 32, and Jonathan Rea takes over. Each lap, Rea increases his speed and 2 hours into the race, on lap 58, he becomes the leader and remains so until he completes the lap and pits for the first time, with Haslam taking over. However, 3 hours into the race, Honda takes the lead, leaving KRT 7 seconds behind, and the gap gradually expands.
After 86 laps, Rea starts his second stint, nearly 60 seconds behind (unofficially-timed) the leader, Honda, but rapidly narrows the gap and finally overtakes Honda. Rea finishes first in the first half of the race, leading the second rider by 6 seconds.
In the second half of the race, conditions remain harsh, with the air temperature at 33°C (91.4°F) and the track surface at 41°C (105.8°F). Five hours into the race, Kawasaki, Honda, and Yamaha are competing neck-and-neck, with only a 1-second difference between the teams. At 6 hours, Kawasaki is in the lead, but only by 5 seconds over Yamaha and 9 seconds over Honda. The race now enters the stage where “better than perfect” is required of the riders, the machine, and the pit crew.
After 183 laps, Haslam makes his final pit stop, and Rea takes over to finish the race. Even after completing so many laps under these harsh conditions, Rea performs extraordinarily. With 45 minutes left in the event, he records the day’s fastest lap time, and again breaks the record 40 minutes before the race’s end. Honda is leading, but narrowing the gap, Rea overtakes the leader in the 201st lap and takes the lead. With 20 minutes remaining, the gap between Kawasaki and Honda has widened to 23 seconds. However, with just two minutes to go, Rea crashes in the s-shaped curve. The red flag is out immediately, and the race ends with 216 laps completed. Provisional results name KRT’s closest competitor the winner. However, after deliberations, the results are amended, making KRT the victor.
I cannot believe what is happening really. From being dejected and feeling that everything was out of our hands (because Kawasaki was not included in the provisional results), I had already gone back to the hotel, said goodbye to all the guys, with lots of tears. I was in the restaurant already, ordering dinner, when my mechanic told me we had won the 8 Hours, following deliberations. I have no words because I am really emotional and happy. The strategy was to work on fuel consumption and race consistency and make no mistakes. I feel we executed that quite well although I got quite tired and cramped at the end. During the race it is like hell, the hardest race you can ever imagine, but getting a result like this almost makes me want to come back for more. I am so proud to be part of the project and what an effort from KRT, KHI, KMJ who prepared for this race in two tests.
From everyone being in tears to getting the news sitting in a restaurant that we actually did win it, I have no words to describe how I feel. The Suzuka 8 Hours is always one of the hardest races of the year. The effort we put in to win, from us, the team and Kawasaki means it has been a big roller coaster of emotion. When the oil went down and the situation happened at the end; words cannot describe the lows we had. But when the good news came through, the highs were just as high. In the second half of each stint I really struggled physically but the bike was working well. I am so happy and I want to thank Kawasaki for this opportunity; also the whole team, Toprak and Johnny, and we pushed as hard as we could. It is a shame that we did not get to stand on the top of the podium but the result is in and we have won the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Today I am very tired after watching the race for eight hours!* But I am very happy for Johnny and Leon because that was an incredible job today. We are all happy and thank you to everyone. For me this was my first time here ― and our team won. *Toprak did not race at the Suzuka 8 Hours this time.
Team ManagerGuim Roda
This race has been outstanding, and I think for the public, the fans, and everyone it has been the most incredible Suzuka 8 Hours. Each team and the riders have been amazing, and they all achieved the greatest race. The best point is that we finally got the victory after Johnny made an incredible last riding stint. Johnny performed amazingly. In 70 (67%) of the 104 laps he rode around the approximately 6-km circuit, he finished in an amazing 2 minutes 9 seconds or less. Haslam actually wasn’t 100%, physically, but as the starting rider, he performed with great fuel efficiency, covering many laps before his first pit stop. The pit crew also performed wonderfully. The total in-pit time was an impressive 24 seconds shorter than Yamaha’s, and other precise strategies and tactics, such as fuel efficiency calculations and race development control, brought out the best in the riders. The Ninja ZX-10RR has the power to assist riders in performing their best. The passion that people at Kawasaki who are involved in motorcycle operations have is amazing and that’s why impressive control was possible even in a race as tough as the Suzuka 8 Hours, which requires intricate strategy and tactics, and as a result, we were able to win at the end.
“As a Kawasaki fan, my congratulations on its win; I’m recommitting myself to rooting for the team.”
Director of the Tohoku University Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer
Profile: Born in 1959. He earned an M.D. in 1989. He has supervised a popular Nintendo dual screen (DS) game series, “Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain?” and is the author of “No wo Kitaeru Otonano Doriru” (Brain Training Drills for Adults) and many other books.
As a Kawasaki fan, I was very moved by the victory of Kawasaki at the Suzuka 8 Hours . I have been riding various bikes since I was a college student, but from a decade ago, Kawasaki has been my bike. I like Kawasaki’s sport bikes because they offer less demanding riding positions than other brands. My first Kawasaki machine was the ZZR1400, and now I ride the Ninja H2. When the Ninja H2 was launched, I was astounded to find that it came with a supercharged engine, and was greatly impressed by the company’s boldness in tackling challenges with innovation. I thought, “Now, that’s Kawasaki!” Kawasaki’s bikes give an impression of being tough and rough and requiring boldness to ride, but the H2 is surprisingly gentle and safe to ride even at full throttle on a circuit. That is one feature I like. I support Kawasaki Heavy Industries as a company, because it is a manufacturer known for producing rolling stock and aerospace products, which means it’s supporting key industries in Japan. It makes me happy whenever I discover that the trains I ride are made by Kawasaki when I’m overseas for academic conferences. Advanced automation technology is increasingly being introduced into transportation and mobility systems, but I hope bikes will retain the joy of maneuvering even when they evolve into advanced machines, because they are vehicles that stimulate both our brains and our bodies. I expect much of Kawasaki in producing even more attractive machines.
Airplane Manufacturing Is the Foundation of Kawasaki Motorcycles