July 28th, 2013 – Musashi RT HARC-PRO Honda’s Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark finished on top of the podium in the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours World Endurance race in Japan, completing a total of 214 laps during the tough competition. The Yoshimura Suzuki team of Takuya Tsuda, Nobo Aoki and Josh Brookes took second-place followed by Team Kagayama, which is comprised of riders Yukio Kagayama, Kevin Schwantz and Nori Haga, in third.
The HARC-Pro Honda team took the lead early in the race at Suzuka but was passed after the initial stages by FCC TSR Honda rider Jonathan Rea, who was a part of the winning team at Suzuka in 2012. Three hours into competition, though, the FCC team ran into trouble when Rea’s teammate, Ryuichi Kiyonari, crashed the CBR1000RR. Damage to the bike was quite severe for the team to continue, opening the door for the HARC –Pro team to take over out front. The Honda riders built up a gap on the field over the subsequent hours of competition, holding the front to the checkers. Van der Mark was especially thrilled, as he is now the first Dutch rider to ever win the event. It was also his first time competing on a Superbike-sized machine, as he regularly competes aboard a CBR600RR in the World Supersport championship.
“I’m just so excited,” said Van der Mark. “What a fantastic day it’s been – I can’t really believe yet what’s happened! We won the 8-hours!! We had a really strong team and the bike was working so, so good! And the teamwork during the pit stops was perfect. It was amazing to watch. I am so thankful to everybody that helped me and allowed me to be a part of this incredible experience.”
As the Honda squad pushed ahead for the victory, Yoshimura Suzuki and Team Kagayama went back-and-forth in the battle for second-place. At the three-hour mark, Team Kagayama moved into the runner-up spot after Yoshimura Suzuki rider Nobu Aoki was given a stop-go penalty for a pit-lane speeding violation. Soon after, the Yoshimura team faced another set-back when Brookes came off the bike. He was able to pick the machine back up and return to competition though, finishing his stint and keeping his team in the hunt for a spot on the podium. At the four-hour mark Yoshimura Suzuki caught and passed Team Kagayama for second, holding there to the finish.
Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 500cc World Grand Prix champion, last raced the prestigious event in 1992, but was unable to finish due to mechanical issues. He’s never won the Suzuka 8 Hours, but was excited to have the opportunity to race at the circuit since it’s the site of his first 500cc GP race win, which came in 1988. The 49 year-old rider did one stint in the 2013 event before handing the reigns to Kagayama and Haga, riders that have both won the 8-Hour previously.
“I know this race is not easy to win,” said Schwantz. “But this time Yukio made a very good team. This was the only condition that I asked of him coming to Japan to enter this race again. He has changed his Japanese Superbike team to a World Endurance top contender. Yukio’s effort was great! I tested so many tires and set-ups for bike and we found a lot of potential. In the race, I only did one stint but I really enjoyed racing with the young Japanese riders. We got third place for the race and thank you to every one of our team staff. Yukio said to me ‘You are my idol!,’ but I would like to say to Yukio ‘ You are a Superstar!”
Finishing hot on the tails of the Kagayama squad was Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) in fourth. SERT riders Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Julien Da Costa earned the World Endurance Championship lead after their fourth-place finish, which when added with their third-place points gained in Round 1 at the Bol d-Or 24-Hour, gives them a total of 49 points overall. Yamaha France GMT94 finished in fifth-place, followed by Honda Team Asia in sixth and TOHO Racing with Morwaki in seventh.
Honda TT Legends, with Simon Andrews, Michael Rutter and John McGuinness, faced a number of mechanical issues throughout the competition and crossed the finish in 22nd. BMW Motorrad France Team Thevent also ran into trouble when Damien Cudlin was forced to withdraw due to a fractured left tibia which he sustained during practice. Remaining riders Erwan Nigon and Jason Pridmore set to competing as a duo, but both sustained crashes during the race and after Pridmore’s off mid-way into competition, the machine was determined too damaged to continue.
Suzuka 8-Hour Results 2013:
1. Musashi RT HARC-Pro (Honda) 214 laps
2. Yoshimura Suzuki (Suzuki) 214 laps
3. Team Kagayama (Suzuki) 213 laps
4. SERT (Suzuki) 213 laps
5. Yamaha France GMT (Yamaha) 212 laps
6. Honda Team Asia (Honda) 211 laps
7. TOHO Racing with Moriwaki (Honda) 211 laps
8. Monster Energy YART (Yamaha) 210 laps
9. Honda Kumamoto Racing (Honda) 208 laps
10. Team R2CL (Suzuki) 207 laps
WEC Points 2013:
1. SERT, 49
2. Monster YART, 46
3. Yamaha France GMT, 42
4. SRC Kawasaki, 40
5. Musashi Honda, 35
6. Team R2CL, 32
7. Yoshimura Suzuki, 29
8. Team Kagayama, 25
9. Bolinger Team Switzerland, 23
10. National Motors, 19
2013 Suzuka 8-Hour podium with Musashi RT HARC-Pro (center) in first, Yoshimura Suzuki (left) in second and Team Kagayama (right) in third.