First Suzuka 8 Hours in Three Years： What to Watch For
The Suzuka 8 Hours race is the biggest motorcycle endurance race held in Japan, each year between the end of July and early August, at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie.
Since inauguration in 1978, the Suzuka 8 Hours has been held every year, except 2020-2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 2022 marks the return of the Suzuka 8 Hours, for its 43rd running.
Suzuka 8 Hours is part of the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) calendar, and teams compete at Suzuka for championship points. In addition, Japanese factory teams and privateer teams competing in the All Japan Road Racing Championship assemble their teams to compete in the endurance event. This year, Honda and Kawasaki will compete as factory teams.
Suzuka 8 Hours is also known in motorcycle racing as a summer festival, where many fans visit Suzuka Circuit every year. Here are some of the rules unique to Suzuka 8 Hours.
▽What kind of race is Suzuka 8 Hours?
Two or three riders share one bike per team. The team with the highest lap count after eight hours of racing and the checkered flag is waved, is the winner. The record is 2019 laps, set by Daijiro Kato / Colin Edwards in 2002. Although the total number of laps varies according to race developments and track conditions, 220 laps is the number to beat this year.
▽Unique Qualifying：The Top-10 trial
Suzuka 8 Hours Qualifying is held on Friday, determining 11th place onwards on the starting grid. The top ten teams proceed to the “Top-10 Trial” on Saturday, determining the fastest riders on the grid. Rather than multiple riders sharing the track during Qualifying, each rider takes their best shot on a clear track, creating a uniquely tense atmosphere.
▽Running to their bikes：Le Mans-style race start
Bikes are lined up against the pit wall according to Qualifying results, while riders wait across the track on the grandstand side. Once given the signal, they sprint to their bikes, start their engines, and the race begins.
The Le Mans-style start originated at the four-wheel Le Mans 24 hour race, but was discontinued in the 1970s due to safety concerns. Now, the Le Mans-style start is limited to two-wheel endurance racing.