The Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race (Suzuka 8 Hours), a midsummer festival, will be held again this year. Last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours was hugely successful, as it was the first time in three years the event was held due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 - 21. Without last year’s spectator restrictions, this year’s event promises to be even more exciting, back to pre-pandemic levels.
Honda has won the Suzuka 8 Hours 28 times, including 10 consecutive wins from 1997 to 2006. In 1997 Shinichi Itoh / Tohru Ukawa riding the RVF/RC45 became the first Japanese pair to win since the event became a regular fixture. In 2002, Daijiro Kato and Colin Edwards, riding a VTR1000SPW, succeeded in reducing the number of pit stops from the usual seven to six, setting a new record of 219 laps, the most laps completed, which has never since been broken. Last year, Honda’s factory team, Team HRC (Takumi Takahashi, Tetsuta Nagashima, and Iker Lecuona) was formed, and gave Honda its first victory since 2014 in a dominating manner, lapping all other bikes.
Tetsuta Nagashima Back from Injury
Two joint tests were held in June and early July, in preparation for the race in August. Team HRC brought the CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP to these tests. Riders for the team were announced before the July tests: Takumi Takahashi, competing in the All Japan Road Race Championship ST1000 class, and Superbike World Championship (WSBK) riders Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona. These three, plus HRC test rider Tetsuta Nagashima, made up the four riders for the test.
Nagashima was injured during a test at Suzuka in April, and was expected to be race-fit in 6 months; there was little hope for him to race in the Suzuka 8 Hours in August, but he was able to participate in the joint test at his request. All eyes were on Nagashima to see if he would be able to perform at Suzuka 8 Hours level. Nagashima had not ridden in two months, but as soon as he entered the track, he set an impressive lap time of 2 min 6.077s, the fastest overall for the two-day test. Nagashima also completed a complete stint test, demonstrating his full readiness as a Suzuka 8 Hours rider.
At this time, HRC was planning to replace Alex Rins with Lecuona in the MotoGP British GP, which was to be held on the same weekend as the Suzuka 8 Hours, and was about to make a decision depending on Nagashima's performance.
Tetsuhiro Kuwata, General Manager of HRC's race management, commented, "It was very difficult to select the riders for this year's Suzuka 8 Hours. No matter which rider we selected, I believe they are riders who will deliver solid results. At the time of entry, there were concerns about Tetsuta Nagashima's recovery from his injury, but judging from his performance in the official test and his physical condition afterwards, we judged that he would be fine for the race. Therefore, we were able to send Lecuona to the MotoGP British GP in place of Rins."
On July 25, Japan Post Co., Ltd. was announced as a new team partner, complete with team name change to Team HRC with Japan Post. The team riders for the Suzuka 8 Hours was officially decided as Takahashi, Nagashima, and Vierge, and these three riders will aim to defend the team’s Suzuka 8 Hours crown.
Takahashi Aims to Equal Record of Five Wins, Vierge Prepares for his First Suzuka 8 Hours
The record for the most wins by a rider in the Suzuka 8 Hours is five, currently held by Honda factory rider Tohru Ukawa. If Takahashi wins this year, he will tie the record. "There is no point in putting pressure on myself to win, so I just want to think about winning, like I always do," said Takahashi. All eyes will be on him to see if he can equal the record.
Nagashima said, "I thought the Suzuka 8 Hours was the only race I could enter this year, so I am happy to be able to participate. I will give it everything I have, and aim to win again. I also want to help Takahashi break his own record.”
Vierge, who was a reserve rider at last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours staring up at his teammates on the top of the podium, said, "I am looking forward to racing this year.”
A Crucial Round for the EWC Title
The Suzuka 8 Hours is being held as the third round of the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC), contested over four rounds this season. Unlike the Suzuka 8 Hours, Le Mans, Spa-Francorchamps, and Bol d'Or are all 24-hour endurance races. The Suzuka 8 Hours, of course, is also an important round for teams aiming for the series title.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France, the 2022 EWC series champion, will be represented by its usual riders Josh Hook, Mike Di Meglio, and Alan Techer. The team was on the podium in both rounds so far, winning the opening round, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and finishing second in Round 2, the 24 Hours of Spa. They enter the Suzuka 8 Hours in second place in the championship standings, one point behind the points leader.
All-Japan & Asian Championships Teams Vying for Top Positions
SDG Honda Racing, its parent company being HARC-PRO., a successful team at the Suzuka 8 Hours, will be represented once again by Teppei Nagoe (All-Japan JSB1000 class) and Naomichi Uramoto (Spanish Superbike Championship), but Yuki Kunii, who moved up to the All-Japan ST1000 class was injured during training and will miss the race. In his place, Haruki Noguchi (Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) ASB1000 class) joined the team at last minute, to compete in the Suzuka 8 Hours for the first time. The three promising future stars in motorcycle racing will be aiming for the top positions.
Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA, currently competing in the FIM Asia Road Racing Championship Asia Superbike 1000 (ASB1000) class, will be represented by Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi, Andi Farid Izdihar, and ARRC Supersports 600 (ASS600) class rider Nakarin Atiratphuvapat. Zaidi was last year’s ASB1000 champion, and both Izdihar and Atiratphuvapat are well versed in racing overseas. ARRC is on the rise, and the top Asian riders want to prove themselves at the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing, led by the legendary four-time Suzuka 8 Hours winner Shinichi Itoh, will be represented by All-Japan JSB1000 class riders Kosuke Sakumoto and Ryo Mizuno, and ST1000 class V2 champion Kazuma Watanabe. TOHO Racing’s lineup includes All-Japan JSB1000 rider Ryuichi Kiyonari, and ST1000 riders Takuma Kunimine and Ikuhiro Enokido. Kiyonari has won four Suzuka 8 Hours and will tie the record for most wins if he wins this event. Team ATJ will be represented by Satoru Iwata (JSB1000), Yuki Takahashi (ST1000), and Tomoyoshi Koyama (ST600). Takahashi and Koyama have experience in the World Road Race Championship and are constantly in contention for the All-Japan title. Honda DREAM RT Sakurai Honda will have Kazuki Itoh, who joined the team this season and started competing in All-Japan JSB1000 class, Daijiro Hiura, a Suzuka specialist, and Kota Arakawa, the 2022 All-Japan ST600 champion who moved up to ST1000 this season, aiming for higher positions. TTS Racing MurayamaUnso Honda Dream will be represented by Kosuke Akiyoshi, who has won the Suzuka 8 Hours three times, Yoshihiro Konno, and Sho Hasegawa.