F.C.C. TSR Honda overcame early troubles to win the Suzuka 8 Hours event in Round 3 of the 2011 WEC.
The F.C.C. TSR gave Honda its 24th win in the 2011 Suzuka 8 Hours event over the weekend in Tokyo. The team captured its second victory in a row during the third round of the 2011 FIM World Endurance Championship, finishing just ahead of Yoshimura Suzuki team by less than 39 seconds. Musashi RT Harc Pro grabbed the final podium position, with all of the top-three teams finishing on the same lap.
Kousuke Akiyoshi, Shinichi Ito and Ryuichi Kiyonari of TSR Honda were favorites heading into the contest after successful pre-race tests. Kiyonari was the first rider to start for the team but had early trouble and was forced to return to the pits after a crash, which dropped the team out of the lead.
“After my crash at the beginning of the race I felt obliged to do my best to get the victory for my team,” said Kiyonari.
Ito also had problems after colliding with Team Bollinger’s Roman Stamm during the second hour. But the team recovered in the remaining hours to take the lead the Yoshimura Suzuki team of Yukio Kagayama, Josh Waters and Nobu Aoki. For Ito and Kiyonari it was their fourth win, which tied them with Wayne Gardner for the second most.
“I had decided to quit racing last year, but to be here and win again is the best way I found to support my region and my friends,” Ito said. “It was very difficult to be prepared enough for the race, but I tried my best.”
Yoshimura Suzuki made up ground on the leaders in the final hour but finished more than 30 seconds behind at the finish.
In the third hour Yoshimura Suzuki took the lead, but it was only for a moment. There was battling between Musashi RT Harc Pro’s Takumi Takahashi and Kagayama for the lead as TSR Honda broke into the lead halfway into the fifth hour. With three hours to go and 136 laps completed, TSR Honda was leading just 1.5 seconds ahead of Yoshimura Suzuki with Musashi RT Harc Pro not too far behind. In the final hours it was a battle between the top-three teams as fourth place remained more than two laps behind. In the final hour Yoshimura Suzuki fought back against the leaders and closed the gap to just over 10 seconds. In the end, however, the team couldn’t topple them and had to settle for runner-up. Meanwhile Musashi RT Harc Pro finished more than a minute and a half behind the leaders.
“We are very proud of our fight for victory but obviously disappointed that we could not reach it,” said Musashi RT Harc Pro rider Makoto.
The BMW Motorrad France team of Erwan Nigon, Sebastien Gimbert and Damian finished fourth in the event. Aboard their BMW S1000RR, the team never dropped outside of the top-six and was the only team to keep pace with the Japanese factory teams.
“I had a fantastic weekend and it’s the first time I have had such a good result here,” said Gimbert. “Everything went well for us. Michelin brought a good tire choice, Steven made some changes on the bike that improved the set-up and my teammates were as fast and consistent as always. This was a perfect result, but what is important for us is that we are now top of the Endurance World Championship standings. The team is well organized now and we can approach the 24 Hours of Le Mans with confidence, even if it’s not won yet.”
2011 8 Hours Suzuka Results:
1. F.C.C. TSR Honda: Kousuke Akiyoshi, Shinichi Ito, Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda)
2. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team: Yukio Kagayama, Josh Waters, Nobu Aoki (Suzuki)
3. Musashi RT Harc-Pro: Takumi Takahashi, Takaaki Nakagami, Ryota Kobayashi (Honda)
4. BMW Motorrad France 99: Sebastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon, Damian Cudlin (BMW)
5. EVA RT Test Type-01 Trickstar FRTR: Osamu Deguchi, Tamaki Serizawa, Shin’ya Takeishi (Kawasaki)
6. Crown Keibihosyou Racing: Toshiyuki Hamaguchi, Koji Kitaguchi, Kazuma Watanabe (Honda)
7. Yamaha Racing France GMT94 IPONE: Matthieu Lagrive, Kenny Foray, David Checa (Yamaha)
8. Teluru HoneyBeeRacing: Iwata, Sekiguchi, Noda (Honda)
9. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team: Vincent Philippe, Freddy Foray, Daisaku Sakai, Anthony Delhalle (Suzuki)
10. TOHO Racing Hiroshima Desmo: Tatsuya Yamaguchi, Hiromichi Kunikawa, Ken Eguchi (Ducati)
2011 FIM Endurance World Championship Points:
1. BMW Motorrad France 99, 68
2. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, 62
3. Yamaha Racing France GMT 94 Ipone, 46
4. FCC TSR Honda, 30
5. Team SRC Kawasaki, 28
6. YMES Folch Endurance, 25
7. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team, 24
8. National Motos, 22
9. Musashi RT Harc Pro, 19
10. Bolliger Team Switzerland, 18