The effects of the pandemic are still apparent as everyone involved, including riders and team staff, as well as the press, demands PCR tests and access to the paddock is severely restricted. Still, fans are excited for the event to take place this weekend.
Honda has won the Suzuka 8 Hours 27 times and was invincible from 1997 to 2006. In 1997 Shinichi Itoh / Tohru Ukawa raced their RVF/RC45 to become the first all-Japanese team to win the event, and won the the next year. In 2002 Daijiro Kato/Colin Edwards rode their VTR1000SPW on a six-stop strategy, one less than their competitors, for a record-breaking 219-lap win, which has yet to be broken. Tohru Ukawa set the record for most Suzuka 8 Hours wins, five, in 2005, and has yet to be broken.
In the 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours, Takumi Takahashi/Stefan Bradl/Ryuichi Kiyonari rode their CBR1000RRW against fierce competition from factory teams Kawasaki and Yamaha, staging an epic battle as all three teams were on the same lap until the end. In the closing stages, rain and oil leaks from one of the bikes, and the crash of Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea while in the lead, signaled an early end to the race. Yamaha was declared the winner, with Red Bull Honda second on the podium. Later, Kawasaki was declared the winner, pushing Red Bull Honda to third place.
Honda hasn’t won the event since 2014, with Takumi Takahashi / Leon Haslam / Michael van der Mark on their CBR1000RR. Honda is determined to win its first Suzuka 8 Hours in eight years. Kazuhiko Yamano, former MotoGP team manager, leads the HRC team in the 2022 edition. “This team is based on the team led by Ukawa in 2019, and he will join us as well,” Yamano described. “We have seasoned MotoGP staff and new members who will learn HRC technologies in the team. After auditioning, we chose Tetsuta Nagashima, Takumi Takahashi and Iker Lecuona as riders.
The bike they will be riding is the CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP, tested since last year by Moto2 rider Tetsuta Nagashima, in preparation for this year’s event. Takahashi, in his second season in the British Superbike Championship (BSB), has won the Suzuka 8 Hours three times and is irreplaceable for the team. World Superbike Championship (WorldSBK) HRC factory rider Lecuona will race his first Suzuka 8 Hours.
Teams racing with CBR1000RR-R production kit bikes are also vital to the Suzuka 8 Hours. Many teams from the JSB1000 class of the All Japan Road Racing Championship will also be competing. HARC-PRO., with a rich history of Suzuka 8 Hours victories, will race as the #73 SDG Honda Racing. Led by Shigeki Honda as team manager, promising young riders Teppei Nagoe, Honda’s new Spanish Superbike Championship (ESBK) rider this season, Naomichi Uramoto and Ikuhiro Enokido will represent the team.
Four-time Suzuka 8 Hours winner Ryuichi Kiyonari will race for #104 TOHO Racing alongside fellow ST1000 class teammates Takuma Kunimine and Hiromichi Kunikawa. #17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing, led by team manager Shinichi Ito, enters its first Suzuka 8 Hours. JSB1000 Kosuke Sakumoto and ST1000 champion Kazuma Watanabe have already been on the Suzuka 8 Hours podium. And joining them is Taiga Hada, in his ST600 rookie season.
#9 Murayama.Honda Dream.RT will be represented by experienced Suzuka 8 Hours riders Kosuke Akiyoshi, Osamu Deguchi and Yoshihiro Konno. #72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA has Sodo Hamahara as the lead driver. Hamahara, who was Honda’s second and best in the JSB1000 class last year, will be joined by Suzuka specialist Daijiro Hiura and former Moto3 rider and current ST600 class rider Yuki Kunii for their first attempts at racing. endurance.
Team #40 ATJ will be represented by JSB1000 rider Satoru Iwata, ST1000 rider Yuki Takahashi and ST600 rider Tomoyoshi Koyama. Both Takahashi and Koyama are former World Grand Prix (WGP) riders and have Japanese championship titles under their belts. Yudai Kamei, who races for Honda’s #25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing employee Suzuka Factory team, gained momentum with his pole position in the JSB1000 class this season. He will be joined by Yuuki Sugiyama and Jun Tadokoro.
From the Asian Road Racing Championship, the #88 Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA will race with ASB1000 riders Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi and Gerry Salim, along with SS600 rider Helmi Azman. Makoto Tamada is the team manager, looking to see his Asian drivers finish in the first places.
Endurance World Championship (EWC)
The Suzuka 8 Hours is the third round of this year’s EWC calendar. Until 2019, the Suzuka 8 Hours was the last round, spreading the season over the calendar year. Due to the coronavirus, the series ended in the same year.
Although five rounds were originally scheduled for this season, the final was cancelled. The 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) and the 24 Hours of Spa (Belgium) have taken place, and after the 8 Hours of Suzuka, there remains the 24 Hours of the Bol d’Or (France).
#5 FCC TSR Honda France, the first Japanese team to win the EWC in 2017-2018, will race at Suzuka with its usual riders. Team manager Masakazu Fujii said: “We’re going for the win with Josh Hook, Gino Rea and Mike Di Meglio.” The team is currently second in the EWC.
As fierce as the battle to win the Suzuka 8 Hours, the EWC title is also up for grabs. The stronger the EWC teams become, the harder the Suzuka 8 Hours are to win. Fujii commented: “The focus needed to win the EWC is now at MotoGP level.” The battle of the EWC teams is a must see.