Yamaha Factory Racing Team pulls off hat-trick
Yamaha Factory Racing Team won the Suzuka 8 Hours for the third successive year. The Japanese factory team crossed the finish line ahead of Kawasaki Team Green and F.C.C. TSR Honda. GMT94 Yamaha finished 11th to lift the 2016-2017 FIM EWC world championship title.
Action, performance, drama, records, champions and a large, enthusiastic crowd: the 2016-2017 FIM EWC grand finale, the 40th anniversary of the Suzuka 8 Hours, definitely lived up to its promise.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s gamble paid off thanks to riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark. The Japanese factory team will go down in the annals of the Suzuka 8 Hours as the second team to have won the race three years in a row, after Team Cabin Honda from 2000 to 2002.
After a turbo-charged start with Kawasaki Team Green’s Leon Haslam getting the holeshot, Yamaha Factory Racing Team and Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda waged a battle for the lead until Takaaki Nakagami’s crash caused Musashi RT to fall back to 4th place. Yamaha Factory Racing Team then went it alone in the lead all the way to the finish.
A blazing finale
After a long-drawn-out battle with F.C.C. TSR Honda lasting for nearly the entire race, Kawasaki Team Green’s Kazuma Watanabe, Leon Haslam and Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman surged into second place at the very end. It had looked like F.C.C. TSR Honda’s Dominique Aegerter, Randy de Puniet and Josh Hook would finish second, but the bike’s engine caught fire, forcing Randy de Puniet to make a lightning-quick pit stop a few minutes before the finish.
In fifth place behind Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda (Takumi Takahashi, Jack Miller and Takaaki Nakagami), YART Yamaha Official EWC Team ran a flawless race with riders Broc Parkes, Kohta Nozane and Marvin Fritz. The Austrian team finished ahead of Japanese heavyweights Honda Dream Racing and Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing. The latter climbed back up to 7th from the depths of the standings after an early crash. Their prodigious climb back up earned riders Sylvain Guintoli, Josh Brookes and Takuya Tsuda the Anthony Delhalle EWC Spirit Trophy.
Satu Hati Honda Team Asia, MotoMap Supply FutureAccess and Honda Dream RT Sakurai Honda rounded off the Top 10, just ahead of GMT94 Yamaha. Three other FIM EWC teams featured in the Top 20. Bolliger Team Switzerland finished 13th after a race-long duel with Eva RT Webike Trick Star, which was 14th past the finish line. After being slowed down by Sodo Hamahara’s crash, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team finished the race in 18th place.
As for the rest of the FIM EWC squads, Team Rabid Transit finished 31st and Motobox Kremer Racing 38th while Honda Endurance Racing came in 43rd, having been delayed by a crash and a clutch issue. EKO IV Racing BMW CSEU was 47th past the finishing line.
GMT94 Yamaha is world champion
The 11th-place finish by GMT94 Yamaha’s David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio enabled Christophe Guyot’s team to carry off the title of 2016-2017 FIM EWC world champion. This is the French team’s third title after their previous wins in 2004 and 2014. GMT94 Yamaha overtook Suzuki Endurance Racing Team in the championship standings, while YART Yamaha Official EWC Team took third place in the 2016-2017 FIM EWC.
A record-breaking 40th edition
Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s hat-trick was not the only exploit of the 40th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours. Alex Lowes set a stunning new race lap record of 2’06.932. The previous record, Ryuichi Kiyonari’s 2’07.943 lap, dates to 2012.
And there were 128,000 spectators at the 2016-2017 FIM EWC grand finale: a figure reminiscent of the golden years of Japan’s most famous race.