Race day has arrived for the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race (Suzuka 8 Hours). Rain was forecasted, but the some shone in the morning, and the race started amid humid conditions.
In the warmup session was held from 8:30 am to 9:15 am, Team HRC with Japan Post (Takumi Takahashi / Tetsuta Nagashima / Xavi Vierge) set the fastest time of 2 min 7.029s. YART Yamaha Official EWC TEAM (Yamaha) was second fastest, setting a 2 min 7.801s lap. No other teams manages to lap in the 2 min 7s range.
Other Honda teams also dominated the session. F.C.C. TSR Honda France (Mike Di Meglio / Alan Techer / Tarran Mackenzie) was third fastest with 2 min 8.031s, followed by Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing (Kosuke Sakumoto / Ryo Mizuno / Kazuma Watanabe) fourth with 2 min 8.561s, and TOHO Racing (Ryuichi Kiyonari / Takuma Kunimine / Ikuhiro Enokido) fifth with 2 min 8.708s.
The sun shone brightly by the time the race started in dry conditions at 11:30 am. Yoshimura SERT Motul (Suzuki) rider Greg Black took the holeshot, followed by Team HRC with Japan Post’s Takahashi second, Toho Racing’s Kunimine third, and F.C.C. TSR Honda France‘s Di Meglio who started 10th on the grid, fourth.
In the opening lap, Black was chased by Takahashi, Niccolò Canepa (Yamaha), and Kunimine. Canepa took the lead on Lap 3, with Black, Di Meglio, Takahashi and Kunimine in tow. On Lap 7 Takahashi takes the lead, but relinquishes his spot to Canepa, setting up a three-way battle for the lead. On Lap 11, Takahashi takes back the lead, chased by Canepa and Black. A distance back from the lead group, Di Meglio, Dan Linfoot (Suzuki), Kunimine and SDG Honda Racing (Teppei Nagoe / Naomichi Uramoto / Haruki Noguchi) rider Uramoto fought for fourth.
On Lap 15, race leader Takahashi extends his lead over Canepa to 2 seconds. Black, in third, was unable to keep up with Canepa. As Black and Canepa lap in the 2 min 10s range, Takahashi laps in 2 min 8s, growing his lead every lap.
On Lap 19, Di Meglio crashes at the chicane, but manages to pick his bike up and return to the pits for repairs.
By Lap 20, Takahashi is comfortably in the lead, Capena second, well ahead of Black third. 16 seconds behind, Mizuno moves up to fourth. Linfoot is fifth, and behind him, Kunimine, Uramoto, Honda Dream RT SAKURAI Honda (Kazuki Ito / Daijiro Hiura / Kota Arakawa) rider Hiura and Atsumi (Suzuki) battle for sixth. On Lap 25, pit lane is busy with teams entering for their first rider change. Team HRC with Japan Post finishes their pit faster than the EWC regulars, and Nagashima takes the Honda back on track.
Nagashima laps a 2 min 7s, further expanding the gap to Karel Hanika (Yamaha) who was lapping at an impressive 2 min 8s. The gap by Lap 32 was 22.901s.
At 1:05 pm, Hanika slows down dramatically. On Lap 45, Nagashima led, Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki) was second, Kazuma Watanabe third, Noguchi sixth, Kiyonari seventh, and Arakawa eighth.
Nagashima extended his lead to over a minute, pitted on Lap 53, and handed the bike to Vierge.