Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

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Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Fri Jul 27 2018, 14:49

A little bit unexpected, we find ourselves back in Japan for the second time this year. It was just a bit over two months ago we were here, and now an opportunity opened up to join the Moriwaki Honda Team for the legendary Suzuka 8 Hours race! I have always wanted to go to this race, so this was really a chance not to be missed.

We arrived here on Tuesday, to the scorching heat wave that is sweeping Japan this summer. Later in the day, as we were driving to Suzuka from Nagoya, the temperature hit 41°C! Hot like hell, and I already feel sorry for the riders.

Since Wednesday we have been coming to the track every day, and it is really an experience. Being with the team, Greg99 is helping out at the hospitality, and I am sort of a guest photographer. The problem now is that we learnt yesterday that there is a typhoon heading here. From the latest forecast, it seems we will be right smack in the middle of it tomorrow afternoon, so things will get interesting. It is likely that the 4 hour race which is run on Saturday will be cancelled as a result, and we will see what is left standing for the Sunday race. If nothing else, this will be interesting. We did once suffer tornadoes at a Champ Car race at Milwaukee, but a typhoon (hurricane for the Atlantic) at a bike race will be a first!

Here are some pictures from the first day:
























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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Veze on Sat Jul 28 2018, 01:03

Wow!

Not been here since forever. Still remember my password though.

You guys stay safe ok?
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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by eso on Sat Jul 28 2018, 01:41

That sounds like an awesome time Henrik! I did not know they did endurance races with bikes. That could be grueling. Two riders per bike?

And the typhoon sounds a bit intimidating too. Post lots of pictures!

eso
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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Sat Jul 28 2018, 07:24

I will post pictures tonight when I am back at the hotel. The typhoon is to hit us as of 8pm tonight, and the race tomorrow is uncertain at the moment. Will keep updating. The 4 hour race today went well, and our team finished 7th.

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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Sat Jul 28 2018, 07:52

Managed to get a proper connection with my laptop here at the track, so I can post a better update!

Arriving this morning to the track, it was raining quite hard, but then shortly after arriving the rain stopped. The Suzuka 4 hour race which is always held on the Saturday running 600cc Supersports bikes kicked off the action at 9AM on a wet track. It would then dry out during the course of the race, with a scorching sun coming out by noon. Hot!!

So, to answer your question eso, endurance bike races are quite common, and there is a world endurance championship. They run two very famous 24 hour races in France, the most famous one being the Bol d'Or. Here at Suzuka there is the 4 hour on the Saturday, and the 8 hour on Sunday which finishes after sunset. They do several rider changes, and there is a minimum of two riders per team. Most teams register three riders either to ensure they remain in better shape, or to ensure a back-up in case of an injury.

Here are some shots from today:

Rider change for our 4 hour team A.P Honda Thailand



One of the Thai riders getting ready for his stint



Go!!!



One of the Thai riders getting some TLC


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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Sat Jul 28 2018, 08:02

We then had a pit walk organized, with our star riders Kiyo (Ryuichi Kiyonari) and Yuki (Takahashi). It was a very crowded pitlane, and these two Japanese riders are mega-stars here. Well, not just here as Kiyo is really popular in England as well after having won the BSB 3 times!



Yuki



Kiyo



From behind the scenes...



You can actually spot Greg99 helping out to hand out gifts to the fans



Moriwaki is particularly famous for their exhausts:


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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Sun Jul 29 2018, 00:53

It's Sunday morning and we are getting ready to head to the track. The typhoon blew over us during the night, and there were some serious wind and rainfall. From what we can see around here there is no damage, and the sun is actually shining right now. We shall see how things develop once we are at the track!

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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Sun Jul 29 2018, 02:52

At the track, the sun is shining and it is steaming hot! It looks like we got lucky and the typhoon passed through during the night. It seems that the race is on!!!

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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Sun Jul 29 2018, 09:16

We are now past the halfway mark, and it has been an interesting race so far. The rain came 15minutes before the start, so most teams started on rain tires. Moriwaki gambled on slicks, which turned out to be a good call! The rain didn't last and the track quickly dried.

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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Mon Jul 30 2018, 04:22

It's the morning after now, and I am still tingling from yesterday's experience. This really was something different from your normal races, and it was fascinating to follow the strategies being applied over the eight hours. As I mentioned, Moriwaki took a gamble at the beginning with the slicks, and it is likely that this would have paid out better if the race conditions would have been more normal. The problem was that the race was marked by a number of safety car interventions, and so they were not able to fully benefit from their early tire advantage. They did make it back in to the top ten (out of 64 teams!) fairly quickly, and for the most part of the race moved between 9th and 7th place.

The battle for the lead was very intense for a long while, with the WSBK stars on the Yamaha and the Kawasaki fighting like it was a regular grand prix race! They were seriously going at it, and it was all the more exciting as they were fighting each other, and also had to deal with all the back markers.

In the end, the Yamaha, as expected, kept the lead with Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, and the Kawasaki with Johnny Rea and Leon Haslam eventually falling to 3rd. Johnny made a rookie mistake while behind the safety car at one point, having a small crash. No serious damage, but it put them out of contention for the win. Instead the factory Honda bike placed second, ending the race 30 seconds behind the winner.

Moriwaki finally came in 8th, which was an outstanding performance given the competition and the size of the field!

The best part was at the end of the race though. It was night by then, but still very hot, and the fans filled the pitlane and the track. In the grandstands, the fans all had light sticks of different colours, giving a very colourful backdrop. The riders then rode back up the pitlane high-fiving the fans and doing burnouts. It was just magical, and such a friendly atmosphere. For me, it was truly a celebration of motorcycle racing!

I will get some more pictures up from the race day as soon as I have a chance.

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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Henrik on Mon Jul 30 2018, 14:50

Here are some pictures from yesterday (not by me!)








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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Danny Boy on Wed Aug 01 2018, 08:44

Sounds like you had a great time, and very good reporting and pics from the track/you, as usual.

I would put "safe journey home" but as you have already posted on FPOTM, there is no need Very Happy
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Re: Suzuka 8 Hours 2018

Post by Danny Boy on Wed Aug 01 2018, 08:46

Veze wrote:Wow!

Not been here since forever. Still remember my password though.

You guys stay safe ok?

Great to see you back, you are, still, my favorite piano player after Mose Allison and Nina Simone.
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