Suzuka 2017: How to make endurance race history in 8 hours

By Mike Van Cleven

Aug 18 2017

A close-up visual of a motorcycle racer putting on his gloves

As the winner of the two previous editions, the Yamaha Racing Team’s 2017 victory marks the team’s third consecutive win. The runner-up, GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team, was also celebrating, as they secured the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship title after a strategic race performance. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team pushed to its maximum potential to finish fifth at the line and secure third place in the World Championship.

Racing for the top spot

The Suzuka 8 Hour began with the top 10 teams from the provisional qualifying round competing against the Top 10 trial to decide the first 10 grid positions. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team proved unbeatable, taking pole with a scorching lap of 2'06.038 seconds. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team, also running on Bridgestone endurance tyres, were in form as well, achieving the fastest of the non-factory teams with a 2'07.634 seconds lap to place sixth on the grid.

As soon as the race began, lead Yamaha Factory rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was swallowed by the pack, but he quickly fought his way back to the front to sit behind bike #634 going into the second lap. Never more than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds behind, the hunt went on until lap 16, when Nakasuga took the lead before hitting heavy traffic with backmarkers and some light rain on parts of the track.

Image of Alex Lowes, a racer on the Yamaha Factory Racing Team

Keeping the lead

After the first hour, Nakasuga returned to the pits to hand the YZF-R1 over to teammate Alex Lowes. The young British rider quickly got up to pace and was soon leading a highly competitive pack by a little over a second.

Lowes’ hard work on the track saw that lead increase to nearly four seconds before it was time to hand over the bike to the team’s third rider, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman continued to maintain the lead built by Lowes, when disaster struck for the chasing #634 bike, giving the Yamaha Factory Racing Team a significant time gap at the front.

From that moment on, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team managed to stay ahead of the competition and keep up their dominant pace until the end of the race. Lowes took the honour of the last hour’s ride, which was slightly calmer than the previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 2:07.943 with a 2:07.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 2:06.932 lap.

When the factory YZF-R1’s endurance tyres crossed the finish line, many Japanese racing fans at the event began celebrating the big win.The Yamaha Factory Racing Team became the second team in the history of the race to achieve three consecutive wins. Nakasuga added to the honours by becoming the first Japanese rider ever to win the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row.

An image of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team at the Suzuka 8 Hours finish line

An image of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team celebrating at the podium

Dashed hopes for Yamaha YART

The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team consistently remained the top performers outside of the top five teams this weekend, and today's race proved no exception. Broc Parkes was the first man on track, initially dropping to ninth in the first hour. Nozane then took over, and from there the team took turns fighting back. A last-minute technical issue with a chain adjuster caused the team to come in fifth place in the Suzuka 8 Hour and third in the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship.

"We have to be happy the factory bikes were the only bikes in front of us in the end,” said Broc Parkes, one of the three racers for Team YART. “I think we all rode very well, we were very consistent, the times were very good and we couldn't have hoped for any more at this race. Unfortunately, we missed out on second in the championship by one position today. “

In the end I am very happy for the result for the team, and I want to thank YART and Yamaha for giving me this opportunity and my teammates for their hard work.
Kohta Nozane , Racer for the Yahama YART Team