With 25 days to go until the Suzuka 8 Hours Grand Finale, teams are putting the final touches to their preparations and line-ups. The provisional entry list has 67 machines at the start of the 42nd edition in Japan on Sunday 28 July.
Some recent races and test sessions have offered insights into the way teams are shaping up for the Suzuka 8 Hours. With only a single victory at Suzuka in 1993, Kawasaki are making a comeback with a factory KRT team sporting the number 10, 11 being the preserve of world title contender Team SRC Kawasaki France. Kawasaki Racing Team are looking focused and competitive: their three riders Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu recently monopolized the podium at the second race of the FIM Superbike championship in Misano.
Honda targeting 28th win
Honda hold the record for most wins at the Suzuka 8 Hours, with 27 victories. Honda HRC returned to the track last year to cut short Yamaha’s winning streak and are even more determined to return to the top of the Suzuka podium. Red Bull Honda dominated the latest series of manufacturer tests at Suzuka in late June. Takumi Takahashi posted a 2:06.117, not far off Jonathan Rea’s 2:05.168 lap record in the 2018 qualifying, even at this early stage. The Japanese rider will team up with Ryuichi Kiyonari and Stefan Bradl in the saddle of the Honda #33. Another heavy-hitter in the Honda ranks, Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda, have confirmed the arrival of Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter to partner Japanese rider Ryo Mizuno and Spanish BSB rider Xavi Fores.
Uncertainty regarding Yamaha
A glitch has cropped up in the well-oiled machine of Yamaha Factory Racing Team, who had announced they would be fielding their victorious 2017 and 2018 trio comprising Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes. Michael van der Mark sustained a wrist injury at the World Superbike race in Misano a fortnight ago and it has not been confirmed whether he will be in the saddle of the Yamaha sporting the historic Tech 21 Shiseido livery of the first-ever factory Yamaha to compete at Suzuka in 1985. Yamaha have notched up eight victories at Suzuka, including four successive wins since 2015.
Suzuki have scored five Suzuka 8 Hours wins, with the last one dating to 2009. Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing have been mandated to get the machine back up and running with riders Sylvain Guintoli, Yukio Kagayama and Kasuki Watanabe.
The official tests at Suzuka from 9 to 11 July will offer further clues as to the likely pecking order of the heavy hitters among the Japanese factory teams.