All three podium places were occupied by World Superbike riders, with Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu leading the way to take the win!
It was a thrilling Suzuka 8 Hours event in Japan, as WorldSBK stars made up the leading positions in an exciting and dramatic race. Ending with a red flag, Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu brought home the glory for the Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H. However, it was not achieved easily as the gruelling race was dragged out even further after a protest from Kawasaki, after the Yamaha Factory Racing Team initially took the win. It was the first win for Kawasaki since 1993 in the famous event.
With Haslam suffering with injuries in the final part of his stints, Jonathan Rea made up time and took the lead of the race in the final session, eventually pulling out nearly one minute on the opposition. Watching on as a reserve rider during the race itself, Razgatlioglu was ready to step in if needed. However, drama unfolded as Rea crashed on another rider’s oil and couldn’t get restarted, meaning that he was out and that the Yamaha team – which featured Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark – were leading. A red flag came out and it looked like Yamaha had won.
However, a long race direction decision would be taken to reinstate Kawasaki with the victory, giving Jonathan Rea his second ever win at the 8 Hours race, with Leon Haslam claiming his first. Speaking after the race, Rea said: “I cannot believe what is happening really. From being dejected and feeling that everything was out of our hands, 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 Uri called me and said, ‘Hey, are you sitting down?’ I thought he was going to ask me to go to another restaurant - but he then told me we had won the 8 Hours!”
With Yamaha in second and stopped from a fifth consecutive Suzuka 8 Hour win, Alex Lowes was magnanimous in defeat. “This is always a special race for me and today we all did our best. We pushed right up until the end, we never gave up chasing and it was a lot of fun. Thanks to my teammates, and to everyone in the team, for all the hard work they put in to chasing success here in Suzuka."
In third position, it was a welcome return to the Suzuka 8 Hour podium for Ryuichi Kiyonari with Red Bull Honda, with the Japanese rider setting strong lap times throughout the event, finishing just over a minute behind race winners Kawasaki to make it three different makes of manufacturer on the podium.
Watch the WorldSBK riders return to action at Portimao in September with the WorldSBK VideoPass!