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Yamaha Claims First-Ever Third Consecutive Victory at
the 40th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race
July 31, 2017
July 31, 2017 ― The 40th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race got underway on July 30, 2017 at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, Japan, and saw the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark stretch Yamaha’s string of wins from 2015 and 2016 at the prestigious event with another. This marks Yamaha’s first-ever third consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours win and the seventh in the company’s history.
After claiming pole position in the Top 10 Trial the day before, lead rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was initially swallowed by the lead pack into turn one as the race got underway, but quickly began fighting his way back to the front to sit just behind the #634 bike going into the second lap. Never more than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds behind, the hunt ran on until lap 16 when the local hero took the lead briefly before hitting heavy traffic with backmarkers and some light rain on parts of the track.
The first hour was soon up and Nakasuga returned to the pits to hand the YZF-R1 over to teammate Alex Lowes. The young British rider was quick to get up to pace and was soon leading a highly competitive pack by a little over a second. Hard work saw that build to nearly four seconds before it was time to hand over to the team’s third rider, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman put his head down and was working hard to maintain the lead built by Lowes when disaster struck for the chasing #634 bike, giving the Yamaha Factory Racing Team a big time gap at the front.
From then on, the trio were never troubled by the competition, keeping up their dominant weekend-long pace and building up to a lap clear of the rest of the pack by the end of the race. Lowes took the honor of the last hour’s ride, slightly calmer than his previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 2’07.943 with a 2’07.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 2’06.932 lap. The factory YZF-R1 crossed the line in 1st to the delight of the thousands of Japanese race fans present, writing a historic page in the endurance racing book as the second consecutive triple race win by one team in the history of the race. Nakasuga added to the honors by becoming the first Japanese rider to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row.
The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team have consistently remained the top performers outside of the top five teams this weekend, and today’s race proved no exception. Broc Parkes was the first man on track, initially dropping to 9th in the first hour. Nozane then took over, and from there the team took turns to fight back, upping the pace until they were able to hold 5th position. A last minute technical issue with a chain adjuster cost a place but Nozane was able to bring it back to 5th for the final run home, earning YART 3rd in the series standings.
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team also competing full-time in the Endurance World Championship overcame a 30-second stop-and-go penalty late in the race to finish in 11th and clinch the EWC title, adding a third to the French team’s crowns from 2004 and 2014.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team
Race result: 1st (8:00’32.959, 216 laps)
“It’s the 40th anniversary of the Suzuka 8 Hours and I think we got a result befitting of the occasion. My teammates were great and really helped me do my best. The track conditions for my first stint were difficult. I wanted to go faster but I knew that I had to hold it in, keep calm and bring the bike back to my teammates. It was easier for me ride because I knew that even if I fell behind a bit, they would definitely be able to make up the difference. We made eight pit stops and the strategy worked very well to bring us the win. I’m also very happy that I was able to set a new record as the first Japanese rider to win the race three consecutive times.”
“I’m really happy to win the Suzuka 8 Hours again, it’s a fantastic event. I was a little bit nervous in the last hour; because these two guys did a fantastic job, we had a little bit of a lead which makes you a little bit more nervous because it’s easy to lose your concentration. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team did a fantastic job, I really enjoyed the bike, I enjoyed the experience again and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to do it again!”
Michael van der Mark
“I’m really happy to be here as a Yamaha rider and also win the Suzuka 8 Hours. I had two incredible years the first years I came here and two really difficult ones. This year to win with Yamaha is really special and even though the conditions today were not like usual, it was quite a lot cooler than normal so we were able to be faster! Alex and Nakasuga-san had a great pace and I also felt really good on the bike. We had a fantastic team, all three good on the bike with good pace. Yamaha did an amazing job to prepare the bike and team for this event so I will be really happy to come back next year again!”
Team Manager Wataru Yoshikawa
“It is the best feeling, the best! To be honest it was 50/50, as our competitors were very strong. I am really proud to have achieved three consecutive wins with Yamaha, which is an incredible feeling! Now we must look forward and try to build on this. Getting three consecutive wins was a lot of pressure for me, but now I feel that that chapter is closed, so now maybe we can go for four wins in row!”
YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
Race result: 5th (8:01’56.136, 212 laps) EWC ranking: 3rd
“We have to be happy, the four works bikes were the only bikes in front of us in the end. I think we all rode very well, we were very consistent, the times were very good and we couldn’t have hoped for any more at this race. Unfortunately, we missed out on 2nd in the championship by one position today. In general, I think we have to be positive for the season. It’s a brand-new team, with Marvin and Kohta coming in, we also had new tires, so I think next year we will be even stronger. I think this year we were the strongest team in most races, so hopefully we can eliminate the problems and be stronger for next year. From this race, we could not have achieved anything more.”
“I feel really good. Fifth place was the best we could achieve and we made a really good race. Broc did three great stints and that was great. The start was really good and in my first stint I was a bit nervous, but I made good lap times, was consistent and didn’t make a mistake. In my second stint when we had the small problem I showed the mechanic who was standing on the pit wall, so that when I came in they could fix it very quickly. That was really good and we didn’t lose the position with Kohta fighting really hard at the end. That was the maximum we could do. When you look at the season, we were the strongest team for most races, but we didn’t have the luck to put everything together. It was a good first season for me in endurance racing and with Bridgestones, and the fact it was only Kohta’s first season as well makes us confident for next season.”
“Both my teammates Broc and Marvin did a very good job today and were very competitive. I felt my pace was ok in the race but I am a little disappointed as I felt before that I could have been a little quicker this weekend, but this is something to work towards. In the end I am very happy for the result for the team, and I want to thank YART and Yamaha for giving me this opportunity and my teammates for their hard work. Of course, I also want to congratulate Yamaha and also the Yamaha Factory Racing Team for their important third consecutive victory, and Nakasuga-san for his record of three consecutive wins for a Japanese rider.”
Team Manager Mandy Kainz
“To be honest, I am really happy this season is finished because we have been one of the strongest teams and so we think we can win next year! I hope we left all the bad luck in this season. The performances have been there, we have just been unlucky. Anyway, here we couldn’t really do much for the championship, as GMT94 didn’t make any mistakes, so even though we were quicker here, we had no chance to catch them in the championship unless they made a mistake. They deserved the title. I am very happy for Yamaha and Christophe Guyot. Next year I think we are one of the hottest contenders for the title!”
2017 Suzuka 8 Hours Race Results
Michael van der Mark
Yamaha Factory Racing Team
Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman
Kawasaki Team Green
Randy de Puniet
F.C.C. TSR Honda
MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. Honda
YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
Honda Dream Racing
YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING
Dimes Ekky Pratama
Md. Zaghwan Zaidi