Factory Yamaha team mates Michael Van der Mark and Alex Lowes steer their team to another win at prestigious Suzuka 8H Endurance race.
Yamaha Factory Racing team, who was running without battered Katsuyuki Nakasuga, managed to fend off challenges from Red Bull Honda with Japan post and Team GREEN Kawasaki to win 2018 edition of Suzuka 8H race. In a wet start to the race, it was #33 Red Bull Honda who got the best start, leading the race until track dried up enough to use slick tyres. After the change from wets to slicks, factory Yamaha and Kawasaki squads made light work of the leading Honda and opened a healthy gap to it, making the race their own to lose. Everything started to go in the wrong direction for Kawasaki at the fourth round of scheduled pitstops, as Jonathan Rea stretched his fuel too much in his desire to keep the #21 Yamaha behind him, almost running out of it and limping back to the pits as a results. This decision proved to be very costly as they lost 40 seconds, dropping not only behind leading Yamaha, but also behind Honda. Things got even worse when rain returned and Rea crashed at Spoon Curve while trying to bring his slicks mounted Kawasaki ZX-10RR back to the pits on completely wet track under safety car conditions, which came as a result of heavy rain and several crashes that followed. All this put an end to Kawasaki win challenge at the race, eventually finishing a lap down in third position.
Rain put Honda back in the lead, with PJ Jacobsen put against Michael Van der Mark on a Yamaha in a battle for the lead when safety car pulled in after more than an hour on track. 25-year old Dutchman soon managed to find a way past 24-year old New Yorker and quickly began distancing him, building a healthy gap in the process. But only 10 minutes after that happened safety car made a return as conditions on the track started to worsen again, this time staying out until the penultimate hour of the race. During that time Alex Lowes took over from Van der Mark and after the restart he was comfortably quicker than the rest to the field on a drying track, even though he had to come to the pits for a quick splash and dash at the end.
In the end Van der Mark and Lowes managed to win by 30.974s, which ensured Yamaha to stay unbeaten for the fourth year in a row at the race since their factory return to Suzuka in 2015. It was also Lowes’ third consecutive win, having been member of the team in 2016 and 2017 editions of the race. Also third member of the team, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, was declared a winner, even though he didn’t race due to collarbone fracture. Honda had to settle for second place, having fielded Takaaki Nakagami, Takumi Takahashi and PJ Jacobsen on #33 Honda in their full factory return since 2008 edition of the race. #11 Team GREEN Kawasaki rounded up the podium, unable to recover after mid race issues.
Best of the rest was #95 S-Pulse Suzuki squad, who finished 2 laps down on third place Kawasaki. They were also the best placed Suzuki team, after #12 Yoshimura Suzuki hit trouble after Sylvain Guintoli crashed with one of the backmarkers in the second hour of the race. Fifth was F.C.C. TSR Honda squad of Josh Hook, Freddy Foray and Alan Techer, who managed to win the EWC title with that result, finishing one place ahead of their title rivals GMT94 Yamaha. Honda Asia team, Moriwaki Honda and Honda Endurance Racing finished seventh, eight and ninth position, with Yoshimura Suzuki squad recovering to tenth position, courtesy of late charge from Bradley Ray and rounding up the top 10.
Featured Image Credit: motorcyclistonline.com