#21Yamaha Factory Racing Team
In 2015, Yamaha Motor celebrated its 60th anniversary and to coincide with the release of the all-new 8th-generation YZF-R1, Yamaha brought back the Yamaha Factory Racing Team—along with its iconic #21 race number—for the first time in 13 years. Since its return, the team has won a record-setting four 8 Hours in a row.
The 38th Suzuka 8 Hours in 2015 marked Yamaha’s return to the event and the team featured All Japan star Katsuyuki Nakasuga and MotoGP riders Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith. The trio stormed to Yamaha’s fifth victory in the event and its first in 19 years since Noriyuki Haga and Colin Edwards’ win in 1996. Yamaha faced the 2016 Suzuka 8 Hours by bringing World Superbike (WorldSBK) contender Alex Lowes into its line-up alongside Nakasuga and Espargaró. The team clinched back-to-back wins, a feat not seen since the repeat wins of Martin Wimmer/Kevin Magee in 1987 and Wayne Rainey/Kevin Magee in 1988. In 2017 at the commemorative 40th Suzuka 8 Hours, Yamaha fielded an all-R1 rider squad of Nakasuga, Lowes and Michael van der Mark and the three accomplished what had eluded every Yamaha team to date: three straight victories. While carving out a new piece of racing history, they also illustrated the true potential of the YZF-R1.
Taking place two decades after the R1’s introduction in 1998, the 41st Suzuka 8 Hours was a chance to stamp the flagship superbike’s place into annals of motorcycle racing with an unprecedented fourth consecutive win. Nakasuga, Lowes and van der Mark once again teamed up to accomplish the task. Although Nakasuga was forced to sit out the race due to an unfortunate injury during the leadup, the team worked together to take a thrilling fourth win in a row, bringing added glory to the R1’s 20th anniversary.
The same three challengers will line up for the third year running to contest the 42nd Suzuka 8 Hours this year. Thanks to the vast amount of data gathered through racing in the All Japan JSB1000 Championship and in the 8 Hours since 2015, the factory-spec YZF-R1 the team will pilot has been polished in nearly every area, from reliability and fuel efficiency to raw handling and performance. Furthermore, the bike’s livery for the 2019 race is a revival of the same “Yamaha TECH21 Team” colour scheme from 1985 that gave birth to the team’s iconic #21 race number, which is all the more fitting as this year is the R1’s 21st year. In addition to the team’s principal goal of taking an unrivalled fifth consecutive win, bringing back the TECH21 livery—one of the defining fixtures of the Suzuka 8 Hours in the ‘80s—is part of Yamaha’s desire to reignite the excitement from one of the most exciting periods in Japanese motorsports history.
*This does not indicate that Shiseido Company, Limited will relaunch or resell the “SHISEIDO TECH21” line of men’s cosmetics previously sold in Japan.
- BornAugust 9, 1981
Katsuyuki Nakasuga is a legend in Japanese road racing and has won five consecutive championships in the premier JSB1000 class of the All Japan Road Race Championship, bringing his tally to eight overall. For the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2005, Nakasuga was the third rider on Yamaha’s top team at the time, but ended up not competing on race day, and instead made his 8 Hours debut the next year in 2006. Since the Yamaha Factory Racing Team made its return in 2015, he has continued to serve as the team’s anchor—even when paired with the world’s top riders—and demonstrated his skills as the driving force behind the team’s four consecutive wins.
At last year’s 8 Hours, where the team achieved their fourth straight win, Nakasuga suffered an injury in the free practice leading up to the Top 10 Trial and had to withdraw from riding in the race, but still worked hard behind the scenes along with the team to support his teammates and clinch the win. Their victory made Nakasuga the first racer in history to win four consecutive 8 Hours and propelled him to 2nd on the 8 Hours career wins list. To make up for last year’s frustration, he will lead the team in trying to stretch Yamaha’s consecutive win record to five while also seeking to put his name among the Suzuka 8 Hours’ winningest riders.
|Year||Results||Suzuka 8 Hours Results|
|2005||12th in All Japan JSB1000 class||─|
|2006||9th in All Japan JSB1000 class||DNF|
|2007||4th in All Japan JSB1000 class||DNF|
|2008||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||5th place|
|2009||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||─|
|2010||4th in All Japan JSB1000 class||─|
|2011||5th in All Japan JSB1000 class||DNF|
|2012||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||DNF|
|2013||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||8th place|
|2014||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||4th place|
|2015||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||Winner|
|2016||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||Winner|
|2017||6th in All Japan JSB1000 class||Winner|
|2018||All Japan JSB1000 Champion||Winner|
- BornSeptember 14, 1990
In 2013, Alex Lowes lifted the championship title in the highly competitive British Superbike Championship and began his challenge in the World Superbike Championship in 2014. After competing for two seasons, he was selected to ride in 2016 for the new Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team in Yamaha’s first entry into the championship since 2011. In 2017, he finished the season in a career-best 5th and clinched his maiden win in the class last year, taking 6th in the points. This season, he has already notched up several podium finishes, demonstrating that he has only gotten faster.
Lowes’ first foray into the 8 Hours was in 2015, after which he joined the #21 Yamaha Factory Racing Team in 2016. Alongside the talents of Nakasuga and Pol Espargaró, he skilfully swapped between attacking and maintaining position, making his presence felt on the racetrack and using his riding prowess to take two successive wins for Yamaha. In his second year with the factory team in 2017, he showcased his skills even when up against formidable rivals and shouldering massive pressure, playing a major part in taking Yamaha’s first-ever third consecutive victory. In 2018 with Nakasuga absent, Lowes engaged in close-quarters battles and avoided various incidents around the track alongside teammate Michael van der Mark to secure Yamaha’s fourth straight win. This year, his much-needed speed and consistency will be key as he brings his experience—both in WorldSBK and in the 8 Hours—to bear as Yamaha sets out for another Suzuka victory.
|Year||Results||Suzuka 8 Hours Results|
|2008||16th in European Superstock 600 Championship||─|
|2009||26th in European Superstock 1000 Championship||─|
|2010||12th in British Supersport Championship||─|
|2011||20th in British Superbike Championship||─|
|2012||4th in British Superbike Championship||─|
|2013||British Superbike Champion||─|
|2014||11th in World Superbike Championship||─|
|2015||10th in World Superbike Championship||5th place|
|2016||12th in World Superbike Championship||Winner|
|2017||5th in World Superbike Championship||Winner|
|2018||6th in World Superbike Championship||Winner|
Michael van der Mark
- BornOctober 26, 1992
Michael van der Mark got his start in the European Superstock 600 Championship, where he honed his skills before moving up to the World Supersport Championship in 2013. He won the title in just his second attempt in 2014 and joined the World Superbike Championship—production racing’s premier class—the next year. In 2017, he moved to the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team and the following year took Yamaha’s first World Superbike victory since its return to the championship on his way to a personal-best of 3rd in the points standing.
At the Suzuka 8 Hours, he took a win in his first attempt in 2013 and repeated it in 2014. After suffering DNFs in 2015 and 2016, he was selected for the #21 Yamaha Factory Racing Team in 2017. As a previous 8 Hours winner, his ability to skilfully alternate between offence and defence while riding contributed to helping take the team’s fourth win in a row. Last year, he faced several uphill challenges that included filling in for Nakasuga as the starting rider for the Le Mans-style start, overcoming numerous changes in the weather, and safety car entrances during key points in the race. Overcoming them all, he showed strong adaptability and decision-making well-suited to endurance racing. This year, he looks to join Nakasuga in the Suzuka record books by taking a career fifth 8 Hours win.
|Year||Results||Suzuka 8 Hours Results||2010||30th in European Superstock 600 Championship||─|
|2011||3rd in European Superstock 600 Championship||─|
|2012||European Superstock 600 Champion||─|
|2013||4th in World Supersport Championship||Winner|
|2014||World Supersport Champion||Winner|
|2015||7th in World Superbike Championship||DNF|
|2016||4th in World Superbike Championship||DNF|
|2017||6th in World Superbike Championship||Winner|
|2018||3rd in World Superbike Championship||Winner|