Yamaha Factory Racing’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith brought home the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hour win, the first victory for Yamaha in the event in 19 years. F.C.C. TSR Honda’s Josh Hook, Kyle Smith and Dominic Aegerter finished in second-place and were the only other team to complete 204 laps. Team Kagayama’s Noriyuki Haga, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Yukio Kagayama rounded out the podium.
Nakasuga led the way from pole position for the Yamaha team during the early laps and fell back in the ranks slightly. After finding his groove, Nakasuga began to pick up the pace and started putting in consistently fast laps. By the end of his first stint, Nakasuga had brought the Yamaha team back to first place as he passed the reigns to Smith.
One team was less fortunate in the initial stages as MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO saw its bid for the Suzuki 8 Hours end early after rider Casey Stoner took a massive tumble. The two-time MotoGP champion had a high-speed off which left him with a broken scapula and fractured tibia. On his official Twitter feed later in the day Stoner indicated that a stuck throttle was the cause of the crash. The MuSASHI squad was running third overall after the first hour of competition but only completed 31 laps before having to exit the race.
The F.C.C. Honda team took the lead after two hours of racing, with Yoshimura Suzuki trailing in second and Yamaha Factory in third. Soon after Yamaha regained the lead and started to build a slight gap on the field thanks to the efforts of Nakasuga and Espargaro during their turns on the YZF-R1. Espargaro gained a 30 second stop and go penalty for passing under the yellow flag, and though it cost a position, the team quickly regained the front with Smith at the helm.
At the four-hour mark Yamaha, Yoshi Suzuki and the F.C.C. Honda team continued to battle, each squad registering 101 laps at the halfway point.
F.C.C. Honda wasn’t content to go down without a fight however and regained the number one spot at the five hour mark, with Yamaha trailing close behind in second. Yoshimura Suzuki had lost ground on the front runners by that point, dropping to eighth while Team Kagayama had taken over in the number three position.
F.C.C. would retain the lead after six hours but Yamaha was able to battle back at the seven-hour mark. The Yamaha squad maintained position through final laps of the race and was able to hold the lead to the checkers, beating F.C.C. Honda by just over a minute.
“I’m so happy,” said Espargaro. “It was an unbelievable race. I have to say sorry to my teammates because I made a mistake during the race. We had a stop and go penalty and we lost more than one minute. My teammates were impressive, they were so fast. I gave 200% when I went out on the bike to recover this gap that we lost and we did. It’s impressive what Yamaha as a factory team and a family did after so many years and I’m proud of Nakasuga-san that he rode the first Suzuka 8 hours with us and also of Bradley, that we share a pit box in MotoGP. Normally we have many activities and we don’t get to speak often as friends. This weekend was so good for us. I’m happy because I found two great friends, and we got the 8 hours Suzuka race victory.”
“Since Tuesday night I went back to my hotel room and felt loaded up with pressure,” explained Smith. “We stood in front of all the Yamaha staff and mister Kimura and everyone who works inside the factory. We stood on the stage in Iwata and promised that we would come back and give our best and we promised them a first place…We had only one small mistake during the race, which in the end was no problem at all. With the speed and the pace that my teammates were able to do, we were able to overcome it. It’s very special, the 60th anniversary for Yamaha, they are leading the MotoGP championship, but second to that was a focus to on the Suzuka8H and I’m glad that we were able to show the true potential of this bike and give them that victory after 19 years that they very well deserve.”
“As a team we started the race today with a set number of laps per rider and it was a lot of pressure for me to start the race but my first goal was that I had to finish this race,” said Nakasuga. “I’ve had times when I ended the race prematurely. I want to thank all the staff, the team and all the fans for their support. I’m really glad that we have won after 19 years.”
Suzuki Endurance Racing Team worked up from 18th on the grid to finish fourth ahead of Yoshimura Suzuki in fifth. GMT94 Yamaha took sixth ahead of Honda Endurance Racing in seventh.
Suzuki Endurance Racing is the FIM Endurance World Championship points leader after two rounds with GMT94 Yamaha trailing in second. Team Bollinger Switzerland is in third followed by SRC Kawasaki in fourth and Yamaha Factory Racing in fifth.
2015 Suzuka 8 Hour Results 2015
1. Yamaha Factory Racing (Yamaha) 204 laps
2. F.C.C. TSR Honda (Honda) 204 laps
3. Team Kagayama (Suzuki) 203 laps
4. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Suzuki) 202 laps
5. Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance (Suzuki) 201 laps
6. GMT94 Yamaha (Yamaha) 201 laps
7. Honda Endurance Racing (Honda) 201 laps
8. Honda Suzuka Raicing Team (Honda) 200 laps
9. Team Green (Kawasaki) 199 laps
10. MotoMap Supply (Suzuki) 199 laps
11. Eva RT Test Type-01 Trick Star (Kawasaki) 199 laps
12. Team Bollinger Switzerland (Kawasaki) 199 laps
13. au&Teluru Kohana RT (Honda) 198 laps
14. Toho Racing with Moriwaki (Honda) 198 laps
15. Confia Flex Motorrad39 (BMW) 197 laps
2015 FIM World Endurance Championship Points
1. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, 81
2. GMT94 Yamaha, 52
3. Team Bollinger Switzerland, 50
4. SRC Kawasaki, 42
5. Yamaha Factory Racing Team, 35
6. Junior Team Le Mans Sud Suzuki, 33
7. F.C.C. TSR Honda, 29
8. Team Traquer Louit Moto 33, 28
9. Team Kagayama, 25
10. BMW Motorrad France Team Penz13.com, 22