Team Suzuki Press Office – July 29.

The Yoshimura Suzuki and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team were both plagued with bad luck and hopes of victory dashed at today’s 35th-Anniversary Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship third round in Japan; although SERT came away with its series lead intact.

Early leaders and third-fastest qualifiers - Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Waters, Leon Camier and Nobuatsu Aoki - lost eight laps when they were forced to make an extra pit stop due to a mystery engine issue with the factory GSX-R1000; and defending World Champions SERT – Yukio Kagayama, Vincent Philippe and Anthony Delhalle - lost its bid to catch and pass the leaders in the final one-and-a-half hours when Philippe crashed the French team’s GSX-R1000.
The Yoshimura squad suffered a further and terminal setback in the closing stages when the 2011 Suzuka 8-Hour runners-up and four-time event winners were forced to retire after seven hours with the on-going problem, but it wasn’t all bad news for Suzuki; after pushing back to the pits for repairs, SERT mounted a comeback, despite dropping from second and losing 11 laps, to finish 15th with 204 laps and keeping its World Championship hopes alive; although the lead over Honda TT Legends has been cut from 10 points to just five.

In a drama-packed event, many of the pre-race challengers were side-lined including Monster Energy Yamaha’s pole-setter Katsuyuki Nakusuga – teamed with British Superbike riders Tommy Hill and Noriyuki Haga – who crashed just 30 minutes into the race. Another crash by Ryuichi Kiyonari after five hours also ended the Musashi RT Harc-Pro team’s bid for the podium.

There was cause for celebration in the Suzuki camp for the local Moto Map SUPPLY Suzuki team who finished a very creditable fourth place overall on their GSX-R1000 just one lap from a podium position, and in doing so, outperformed many of Japan’s and World Endurance’s top teams.
Overall victory in the Suzuka 8-Hour – which also celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Suzuka Circuit - went to the FCC TSR Honda team of Jonathan Rea, Kosuke Akiyoshi and Tadayuki Okada, who clocked-up 215 laps, four ahead of both second-placed Toho Racing with Moriwaki (Honda) and top permanent World Endurance Championship team home, Yamaha France GMT94 in third.

Yohei Kato – Yoshimura Team Manager:

“At Suzuka, just one tiny mistake can stop you from winning. Today we had a big mistake in Leon’s 30-second ride-through penalty and then suffered a mechanical problem, but we did get great satisfaction witnessing Josh’s awesome riding skills; this is only his second Suzuka 8-Hour challenge, but he rode like a long-time Suzuka professional. He put our bike on provisional Pole Position on Friday and then made a great start by holeshotting the race. I would definitely like to work with Josh and Leon again as we aim to win the Suzuka 8-Hour.”

Josh Waters:

“After qualifying, to be on provisional Pole and then third in Superpole with a great lap time was an achievement. The race started off great and we did some really quick lap times and settled-in behind ‘Kiyo,’ then we got caught-up with some lapped traffic but we were still only around three seconds behind. Unfortunately in Leon’s stint he passed a rider under a yellow flag and got penalised, but we were still there and going strong until around four hours when we had the engine issue and then spent a lot of time in the pits.

“Although we dropped way down, we got back up into the top 10 from around 18th with some really fast lap times, until we had the problem. But despite the obvious disappointment for all of us, it’s been great to be part of the team again and we’ve got a lot of positives to take from it.”

Waters flies home to Australia tomorrow (Monday) and will start gearing-up for the penultimate round of the Australian Superbike Championship on August 17-19th at Phillip Island in Victoria where the former Champion goes into the round holding a commanding 30.5-point series lead.

Leon Camier:

“Everyone’s disappointed but that’s endurance racing. It’s just one of those things… It’s like short-sprint racing but for eight hours. I’ve got to say Josh has done an amazing job all weekend, through testing and qualifying and he’s just been so fast. I had a bit of a problem as I didn’t feel comfortable on my Superpole lap. We’d changed something on the bike and wanted to try it, but it gave us a lot of chatter. It was a one-off to see if it worked, but I didn’t feel comfortable.

“The thing was with the tyres – although the Bridgestone rears were really good with lots of grip, we were getting a lot of movement with the front end and that’s what was really killing me. I had big crash on the first day and didn’t feel confident after that, but in the race I felt really good and was getting more-and-more confident as the race went on. I caught and passed Akiyoshi at one stage, then he got me back on the next lap because I pitted.
“I didn’t realise the yellow flag incident and thought it was a different situation, but I did what I had to do, slowed down; and let him pass me back, but unfortunately we got penalised. The thing is, once you come down pit lane and then zoom back out, you’ve lost far more than 30 seconds. It’s difficult to say if we had the pace to win or not, but we would have definitely been an easy second, but we can’t count that now – it’s the way it goes. I can honestly say that the team and everyone has done an awesome job to get the bike sorted for us so a big thanks to everyone; and if I get the opportunity, I’d definitely love to do it again if it fits in with my race schedule.”

Camier flies back to the UK first thing tomorrow and resumes World Superbike Championship duties with FIXI Crescent Suzuki team at the British round of Championship at Silverstone, where he and team mate John Hopkins hope for a great performance in front of the home fans. 

Dominique Meliand – SERT Manager:

“Endurance racing isn’t easy, especially the Suzuka 8-Hour race. Yukio joined us for this race and he did a great job as did Vincent Philippe, but we couldn’t forecast the result as there were so many accidents today. The important thing for us is to bring home good points for the Championship and that’s what we did: When Vincent had the big crash; our main focus was to repair the bike quickly and get back out racing. We’re now concentrating on the next round in Germany on August 12th and we’re pleased that Yuki is in the team again.”

Yukio Kagayama:

“It wasn’t an easy race today! I made a mistake at the start that dropped us from eighth to 16th, but I managed to get back with the leading group in the first hour. Vincent was riding really well and we were in a podium position until the crash, so although it wasn’t such a good result, I think we proved our performance and I just want to fight for the win in Germany now.”

Suzuka 8-Hour results: 1 FCC TSR Honda (Honda) 215 laps, 2 TOHO Racing with Moriwaki (Honda) 211, 3 Yamaha France GMT94 (Yamaha) 211, 4 Moto Map SUPPLY (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 210, 5 Honda Suzuka Racing Team (Honda) 210, 6 Honda Dream RT Sakuria (Honda) 209, 7 Teluru & EMOBILE Kohara RT (Honda) 209, 8 Team Motorrad 39 (BMW) 208, 9 BMW Motorrad France 99 (BMW) 208, 10 Honda TT Legends (Honda) 207. 15 SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) 204.

World Championship Points (after 3 of 5 rounds): CLICK HERE

High-Resolution Suzuka 8-Hour Image Gallery (by Goichi Honda/ David Reygondeau/ CLICK HERE

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