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Rachit Thukral

Suzuka 8 Hours: Honda romps to dominant 1-2-3-4 finish

Takumi Takahashi, Tetsuta Nagashima and Xavi Vierge took the top spot on the factory #33 HRC Fireblade after a virtually unchallenged run in the Japanese endurance classic, beating the Toho Racing team by a full lap.

The result makes Takahashi the joint-most successful rider in the history of the Suzuka 8 Hours with five wins, tied with Tohru Ukawa, following his previous triumphs in 2010, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘22. It also marks Nagashima’s second successive win at Suzuka, as well as the first for rookie Vierge.

It was clear from the opening hour of the race that the factory Honda package was a class apart from the rest of the field, with Takahashi able to recover from a poor start to retake the lead by lap 11.

HRC’s victory chances were further boosted after its nearest challenger YART was eliminated from contention in the second hour of the race, as the #7 Yamaha stopped exiting the Spoon curve with a mechanical issue.

Karel Hanika had to push the bike back to the pits with some assistance from marshals, with the time lost in the stoppage and subsequent repairs dropping the squad 13 laps off the lead.

The #33 Honda already enjoyed an advantage of nearly 40 seconds when the YART team hit trouble, and it inherited a gap of 1m10s over the next-closest bike in the field, the Yoshimura Suzuki, once the Yamaha was out of the running.

HRC pulled out a lead of over a lap after the mid-way point of the race, which proved crucial when the safety car was called at the start of hour six for Mitsunori Okamuru’s hefty crash on the Team Nagano BMW on the straight between the Spoon Curve and 130R.

This meant the factory Honda squad able to keep its one-lap advantage going in the final three hours of the race.

Light rain in the seventh hour had the potential to throw a spanner in the works but it instead caught out the Yoshimura Suzuki of Gregg Black, the Frenchman going down at Turn 1 while running in second position.

Marshals were able to help Black get the stranded bike out of the gravel trap but the Yoshimura crew lost further time in repairing the bike, dropping the semi-works Suzuki squad outside the top 10.

With the Yoshimura team no longer in the fight, Nagashima brought the #33 Honda home as the sun set at Suzuka to record back-to-back wins in the blue riband round of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

Start (Photo by: Kusudo Aki)

Second place in the race went to the Toho Racing team, whose #103 Honda was piloted by former World Superbike rider Ryuichi Kiyonari, Takuma Kunimine and Ikuhiro Enokido.

The final spot on the podium was occupied by another Honda team, SDG Honda Racing, with Naomichi Uramoto, Teppei Nagoe and Haruki Noguchi sharing the #73 CBR1000RR-R.

The FCC TSR squad, which is locked in a tight battle with YART for the EWC title, completed an all-Honda top four.

The reigning EWC championship-winning team dropped outside the top 10 in the opening hour when Mike di Meglio crashed at the entry to the final chicane with a reported rear sensor issue, but the Frenchman and his team-mates Alan Techer and Tarran Mackenzie were able to mount a strong recovery to finish just three laps off the lead.

The top non-Honda squad at the finish was the Ube Racing Team, with Dan Linfoot and Takuya Tsuda ending up fifth on the #76 Suzuki.

The factory BMW entry shared by Markus Reiterberger, Illya Mykhalchyk and Jeremy Guarnoni finished seventh, just behind the Sakurai Honda of Kazuki Ito, Daijuro Hiura and Kohta Arakawa.

Kawasaki’s best runner was the Webike Trickstar team, with Randy de Puniet, Kazuki Watanabe and and Gregory Leblanc finishing 13th after having to make an unscheduled pitstop in the fifth hour to fix a rear suspension issue and a second trip to the garage for another technical issue.

The Yoshimura Suzuki team finished just ahead in 12th following Black’s crash at Turn 1, while the YART Yamaha team could only manage 23rd position after its early-race troubles.

Race results (Top 10):

Pos. No. Team Riders Bike Laps
1 33 Team HRC with Japan Post

Tetsuta Nagashima

Xavi Vierge

Takumi Takahashi

Honda 216
2 104 TOHO Racing

Ryuichi Kiyonari

Takuma Kunimine

Ikuhiro Enokido

Honda 215
3 73 SDG Honda Racing

Teppei Nagoe

Naomichi Uramoto

Haruki Noguchi

Honda 213
4 1 FCC TSR Honda France

Mike di Meglio

Alan Techer

Tarran Mackenzie

Honda 213
5 76 AutoRace Ube Racing Team

Dan Linfoot

Takuya Tsuda

Suzuki 213
6 71 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA

Kazuki Ito

Daijiro Hiura

Kota Arakawa

Honda 213

Markus Reiterberger

Illya Mykhalchyk

Jeremy Guarnoni

BMW 212
8 88 Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA

Zaqhwan Zaidi

Andi Gilang

Nakarin Ariratphuvapat

Honda 212

Cocoro Atsumi

Marcel Schrotter

Suzuki 212
10 17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing

Kosuke Sakamoto

Ryo Mizuno

Kazuma Watanabe

Honda 211
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