MotoGP past and present prepare to take on Suzuka 8 Hour race
Multiple current and former MotoGP World Championship riders will compete in the 2015 edition of the legendary Suzuka 8 Hour race in Japan this weekend.
In years past the likes of Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi, Shinichi Itoh, Mick Doohan, Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey have all competed in, and won, the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race. The race holds legendary status in Japan and the 2015 edition looks to be of a particularly high caliber as Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith forego their summer break to do battle alongside MotoGP podium finisher Katsuyuki Nakasuga. The trio will run under the Yamaha Factory Racing Team banner, mounted on Yamaha’s new R1M Superbike that takes advantage of technology developed in MotoGP.
This will be the first official factory entry made by Yamaha at Suzuka since 2002, but they will have stiff competition, especially from the MuSAHi RT HARC-PRO Honda team. In both 2013 and 2014 the HARC-PRO team claimed victory with Takumi Takahashi, now a three-time Suzuka winner, and WSBK star Michael van der Mark, but in 2015 the pair will also be joined by 2007 and 2011 MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner, who makes his return to racing. Both teams have been towards the top in various testing sessions in wet and dry conditions in the build up to the race.
They will be joined on track by Dominique Aegerter, who will swap his 600cc Moto2 Kalex for the factory backed F.C.C. TSR Honda. He will race alongside Australian Josh Hook, a former Red Bull Rookies Cup contender. This is Aegerter’s second year competing in the Suzuka 8 hour, last year claiming third place with Team Kagayama & Verity on a Suzuki, and will be looking to improve this year and continue to raise his profile in the quest for a MotoGP ride. Fellow Moto2 rider Azlan Shah will also compete in the 8 Hour with Satu HATI Honda Team Asia.
Stoner is not the only ex-MotoGP rider in the race as Toni Elias and Ivan Silva will also compete. Silva is, like Smith and Espargaro, mounted on the new Yamaha Superbike but for the Monster Yamaha – YART team, a front-running team in the World Endurance Championship. Meanwhile, Elias will compete on the privateer TOHO Racing with Moriwaki team alongside Ratthapark Wilairot.
The Suzuka circuit was last on the MotoGP World Championship calendar in 2003, making it a completely new circuit for Smith and Espargaro, while Stoner only has limited track knowledge from the smaller classes.
Very few of the current MotoGP riders have ever competed in an endurance race of this caliber, as most are more familiar with the intense sprint of a MotoGP World Championship race; the full eight hours of racing, bike swapping and refuelling will be a new experience. Suzuka is also famous for grueling conditions, with riders frequently diving into ice pools as soon as their stint on the bike is over due to the high heat and humidity of Japan in late July.
While the conditions, race distance and format may be new to many of the rider riders, for the likes of Stoner, Smith and Espargaro, the tires will not as both their teams run with Bridgestone tires as in MotoGP. Riders of the Suzuka 8 Hour often praise the Bridgestone tires for their similarity to the ones used in MotoGP, offering high levels of grip and safety even in the wet. The last nine years have seen Bridgestone dominate in the race, with nine consecutive victories.
Last year’s winner MuSAHi RT HARC-PRO completed 172 laps in a race that was delayed and slightly shortened due to conditions.
Visit motogp.com for more from the Suzuka 8 Hour race.