November 5, 2018—Round 9 of the All Japan Road Race Championship’s JSB1000 class was held at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture on November 4, 2018. It was a special round, as it marked the 50th holding of the Motorcycle Federation of Japan Grand Prix (MFJGP). The Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who contests the championship aboard a YZF-R1, took 2nd in Race 1 and in doing so secured his 8th All Japan premier-class title to add another jewel to the crown of the YZF-R1 in its 20th anniversary year.
To celebrate two decades of Yamaha’s iconic superbike, both Nakasuga and his teammate Kohta Nozane campaigned on machines adorned with blue liveries closely resembling those of the original R1 that debuted 20 years ago. Nakasuga won both races at the opening round at Twin Ring Motegi and again at the following round at Suzuka Circuit, making it four straight wins. He finished 9th at a wet Autopolis International Racing Course in Round 3, but soon got his season back on track by taking commanding leads and winning both races at Sportsland Sugo in Round 4. After that, he took part in the Suzuka 8 Hours where his team took a fourth successive win. While still recovering from his injury from the 8 Hours, he then went on to win Round 6 at Motegi and Round 7 at the Autopolis for a total of three race wins. The next race, which had been scheduled for Okayama International Circuit, was cancelled due to a typhoon, but Nakasuga would still come into the final round with a 43-point lead over his closest rival, Honda’s Takumi Takahashi.
To bring the R1’s 20th anniversary year to a memorable close, Nakasuga took to the track in a special red/white livery at the MFJGP season finale. In qualifying, he set circuit record laps one after another before taking pole position for both races. The day after saw a wet Race 1 in which Nakasuga was 3rd after the first lap before quickly taking over 2nd, where he stayed until the finish. That was enough to take an 8th championship title without having to wait for Race 2, adding another number to the record of series wins he has. He finished 2nd once again in Race 2 to cap off his season with a truly dominating record of 10 podium finishes with eight on the top step.
As for Nozane, he finished his season with three 2nd places and four 3rd places for a total of seven podiums. And in a season that saw him in 1-2 finishes with Nakasuga, he improved on his results from last year by finishing the season in 4th overall.
“I joined Yamaha’s top team in 2006, the predecessor to today’s current factory team. Since then I’ve won eight titles in twelve years, but I can’t race by myself and it’s the desire and hard work of everyone involved that goes into winning a championship. That’s why I’m truly grateful not only to Yamaha but also to our sponsors, the team and of course all the fans. Looking back on the season, there were some races where we couldn’t win, but the ones that we did were all great memories. One time that comes to mind is how I hadn’t completely recovered from my injury at the 8 Hours, but I still managed to go and win at Motegi. If I hadn’t won there, the season might have gone another way. With Honda reviving their factory team I knew it was going to be tough this year but taking wins while our rivals were struggling was a major reason I think we were able to win this season. I’m 37 now, but as long as I’m still competitive I want to keep fighting for championships, so please keep on cheering for me! Thank you so much!”
Team Manager Wataru Yoshikawa
“This year the Yamaha Factory Racing Team took a fourth consecutive win at the 8 Hours, and now we’ve brought the championship title back to Nakasuga. I think he was faster and stronger this year than he’s ever been in the past, but Nozane has also steadily improved alongside him this season. Our overall teamwork has also definitely gotten better, but of course there are a number of points we can reflect and work to improve on going forward. We’ll further polish up our teamwork and I’d like for us to be able to have both riders in the hunt for the title next season. I want to say thank you to the fans who cheered for us all season, the sponsors who have supported our racing effort, and to our entire team and staff.”
Katsuyuki Nakasuga’s 2018 Season Results
||Round 1 Motegi (Tochigi Pref.)
||Round 2 Suzuka (Mie Pref.)
||Round 3 Autopolis (Oita Pref.)
||Round 4 Sugo (Miyagi Pref.)
||Round 6 Motegi (Tochigi Pref.)
||Round 7 Autopolis (Oita Pref.)
||Round 8 Okayama (Okayama Pref.)
||Round 9 MFJGP Suzuka (Mie Pref.)
*No JSB1000 races were scheduled for Round 5.
*The final race at Round 8 was cancelled, but half points were awarded based on qualifying positions.