SBK® riders tackle typhoons, safety cars and oil in endurance race
Making history in the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance race this weekend, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes took Yamaha’s fourth consecutive win in Japan, holding off fierce competition from fellow MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship riders. With the podium full of WorldSBK’s very own, Honda secured second position with PJ Jacobsen making his debut with the HRC team, whilst Jonathan Rea and his 2019 team-mate Leon Haslam suited up for Kawasaki and ended the race in third.
Over the course of a dramatic eight hours, fans were treated to thrills and spills whilst the appearance of the safety car on a few occasions made a big impact on the race itself. The heavens opened to a huge downpour just moments before the race began, making for tricky conditions in the opening stint. Haslam was first off the line from pole position, and it wasn’t long before Honda and Yamaha were in hot pursuit of the green ZX-10R machine.
It soon became clear these were the three teams in the race for the win, and Kawasaki were able to hold onto their lead in the opening hours, with Rea putting in a solid stint which saw some tense battles out on track against The Netherland’s van der Mark. With Lowes heading out for the second stint of the race and battling with Haslam, it soon became clear the Yamaha pair would finish the race without the help of their third rider, Katsuyuki Nakasuga who suffered a shoulder injury in qualifying.
Fighting through the elements, a safety car was deployed due to rain meaning riders had to tackle the iconic circuit on slick tyres. This made Kawasaki pay the ultimate price as Rea suffered a small crash, which lost the team all important seconds in pit lane. Falling behind, it was now between Yamaha and Honda for the win. Coming down to the final hour, van der Mark held onto their lead and it was Lowes who brought the bike over the line. Eventually bringing it home with a 30 second lead, it was a tense half an hour following a fight back from Honda.
Dutch rider van der Mark secured his fourth Suzuka victory overall, making him the most successful European rider in the famous race: “It’s been a really tough race today! I think it has been my most difficult Suzuka 8 Hours with all the conditions, it kept changing so quickly, and the first stint I think was one and a half stints, where I thought I had the worst but then when I did my third one I was on the bike for an hour and 40 minutes because of safety cars, rain, then dry so it was really tough. At the end we managed a nice gap and Alex finished it off really nicely. I’m really happy with the weekend!”
Whilst Lowes was delighted to take his third successive win for Yamaha: “I feel really good. In today’s race the bike was amazing; it was working really well. It was nice to have a strong fast bike; it made it easier to pass in the race. Obviously the race was quite stressful at times, lots of safety cars and lots of difficult weather conditions but it all seemed to fall when Michael was riding the bike so I certainly had a lot easier race than him so a massive thank you to him also for his effort. The second half of the race we just had to be smart and get the bike to the finish.”
Despite their best efforts at the end of the race, Honda took second position with PJ Jacobsen, Takumi Takahashi and Takaaki Nakagami after leading the way in parts of the race with the HRC team. Kawasaki’s luck didn’t play in their favour with Jonthan Rea, Leon Haslam and Kazuma Watanabe taking third position in the testing race.
Thought’s now revert back to the summer break and Portimao for our WorldSBK riders, with the Official Portimao Test taking place in just over four weeks time. You can enjoy the opening nine rounds of the season, and get ready for the final four rounds, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.