The Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race began in 1978. A mix of both production motorcycles and race machines would compete on the track, and the event allowed those without an international racing licence to participate as well, greatly opening up the field. In 1980, two years after its inception, the event was included as part of the Endurance World Championship. This led to entries from both active European endurance racing teams and top-class American Superbike riders. Each motorcycle manufacturer had established a factory racing team, and at some point, drafting in popular Grand Prix riders to strengthen their line-ups became common. As a result, several up-and-coming riders made a name for themselves. The likes of Kevin Magee, Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner and Wayne Rainey would build on their success in the Suzuka 8 Hours as they competed at the very pinnacle of the sport.
The various manufacturers poured their resources into bringing in first-class riders and continued to increase the level of their teams and machines. What resulted was the Suzuka 8 Hours becoming an endurance race but with speeds resembling an all-out sprint race. For Japanese fans the event was viewed less as a part of the Endurance World Championship and more as a standalone race that occupied its own unique place in motorsports: “The Suzuka 8 Hours.” Its popularity was uncontested and more than 350,000 fans would attend over the course of a race weekend; the event would become the No. 1 two-wheeled motorsports event in Japan. By the 2000s however, the participation of big name European and North American riders had begun to drop gradually, and manufacturers started to cease entering factory teams. Fan attendance at the races declined as a result. But even today, it cannot be denied that the Suzuka 8 Hours remains a massively influential event in the Japanese motorcycling world.
Since the very first running of the Suzuka 8 Hours in 1978, when Yamaha didn’t even have a 4-stroke motorbike suited to endurance racing, numerous riders have battled aboard Yamaha machines, clocking countless laps of Suzuka Circuit in the blazing summer sun. Yamaha’s factory effort at Suzuka began in earnest in 1984, and Yamaha teams have more than once had the bitter experience of running at the front for most of the race only to have victory snatched away in the final 30 minutes. Before 2002, Yamaha had at times fielded internationally star-studded full factory teams and had hoisted the winner’s trophy high beneath the firework-filled skies at Suzuka a total of four times.
From 2003 onward, Yamaha discontinued making full factory team entries and limited itself to a support role, assisting Europe-based Yamaha teams competing as part of the Endurance World Championship. However, Yamaha brought back the full factory team in conjunction with its 60th anniversary in 2015 and took its 5th win at Suzuka after a 19-year drought (since 1996). The factory team followed it up with a consecutive win in 2016 and then wrote a new page in Yamaha and Suzuka 8 Hours racing history by taking a third straight win in 2017. With 2018 marking the YZF-R1’s 20th anniversary, a special red and white race livery was introduced to commemorate the original R1 and the factory team secured a record-breaking fourth win in a row, bringing Yamaha’s Suzuka victory tally up to eight.
- 2ndIsoyo Sugimoto/David Emde (TZ750)Emde set a time of 2'19.23 to take pole position aboard his Yamaha TZ750. Twenty of the 43 motorcycles lining up on the grid for race day were Yamaha 2-strokes, including the TZ series. Sugimoto and Emde stood on the podium in 2nd place.
- 11thMinoru Tsutsumi/Takenori Nishikawa (TZ250); 12thJunzo Sato/Toshimitsu Soh (TZ350); 55thHideo Kanaya/Yasuaki Fujimoto (TZ750)World GP rider Hideo Kanaya entered the event on a modified TZ750. Since he withdrew from the qualifying, he ended up at the very back of the grid in 60th place at the start of the race. He fought his way to the front, but his teammate Yasuaki Fujimoto crashed, resulting in a DNF for the team.
- 48thSadao Uneme/Kazumasa Uneme (R5); 50thMiyoshi Abe/Toshihiro Wakayama (IT400)This was the first year the race was part of the Endurance World Championship. Yamaha entered two machines, including one with the Iwata Racing Family team, on race day. However, neither machine was able to make it to the checkered flag.
- 32ndMiyoshi Abe/Toshihiro Wakayama (IT465)With several top privateer teams and regular Endurance World Championship teams in contention, Yamaha's lone entry was the Iwata Racing Family team. Their race ended with a retirement on lap 144.
- 4thMiyoshi Abe/Toshihiro Wakayama (XJ750R)This year's event was reduced to six hours due to a large typhoon bearing down on the area. With heavy rains lashing the circuit, top riders on prominent teams crashed out one after the other, and the manufacturer test teams ended up taking the top positions. Among them, Yamaha's test team Moto Sport bravely fought to a 4th place finish.
- 20thTakeshi Tojo/Takashi Sugiyama (XV); 23rdToshiya Takeuchi/Kenji Yamamoto (XJ900)Yamaha entered five machines, with the best placed being 20th, followed by the Iwata Racing Family team in 23rd.
- 5thShinichi Ueno/Hiroyuki Kawasaki (XJ750R); 22ndMotoharu Ueno/Kenji Yamamoto (XJ750R)
- 13thMitsuo Saito/Keiji Tamura (FZ750); 15thKenji Yamamoto/Takashi Suzuki (FZ750); 17thKenny Roberts/Tadahiko Taira (FZR750)
- 2ndMichael Dawson/Kevin Magee (FZ750); 4thShoji Hiratsuka/Toshinobu Shiomori (YZF750); 43rdKenny Roberts/Mike Baldwin (YZF750); 49thTadahiko Taira/Christian Sarron (YZF750)The YZF750 factory machine was entrusted to the Taira/Sarron, Roberts/Baldwin and Hiratsuka/Shiomori teams, but top Yamaha honors went to the Dawson/Magee team that finished 2nd aboard a production FZ750. This was the first podium for a Yamaha 5-valved machine.
- 1stMartin Wimmer/Kevin Magee (YZF750); 3rdJohn Kocinski/Cal Rayborn (YZF750); 8thMitsuo Saito/Ryo Suzuki (FZR750)It was the 10th running of the Suzuka 8 Hours. The “Shiseido Tech21 RT” Yamaha factory team was assembled with the goal of preventing Wayne Gardner and Honda from taking a third win in a row. The combination of Martin Wimmer and Kevin Magee did just that, securing Yamaha's first victory in the event.Show Details
A Big Comeback in the Final Five Minutes Yamaha's First Victory in the Suzuka 8 Hours!
In 1987, the Suzuka 8 Hours event celebrated its 10th anniversary. Entrusted with the YZF750 factory machines were the pairings of Martin Wimmer/Kevin Magee, John Kocinski/Cal Rayborn and Shoji Hiratsuka/Kunio Machii. Among those, the top team was the Shiseido Tech21 RT squad. The original plan had been to pair Japanese ace Tadahiko Taira with Magee, but with Taira's injury at the French GP, Wimmer got the call at the last minute to stand in. Taira was given the position of team manager.
Yamaha's great rival at the time was the Honda pairing of Wayne Gardner—who already had the 500cc World GP title within reach—and Dominique Sarron. They had won the race two years in a row. Also, Suzuki's Kevin Schwantz was showing promise in World GP and he was paired with Yukiya Oshima. In the race, Schwantz was soon forced to retire. Meanwhile, the Gardner/Sarron duo had opened up a wide lead at the front as many had expected, but 4 hours and 30 minutes in, Sarron crashed out, leaving the Suzuki of Gary Goodfellow and Katsuro Takayoshi in the top spot with Wimmer and Magee close behind.
After lap 160 of 200, the difference between the two teams was roughly 30 seconds. Then, with just 10 minutes to go, there was tension in the air as the lead had shrunk to only 10 or 11 seconds. The race would see its most pivotal change with five minutes remaining. On the second corner of the 198th lap, Takayoshi fell, allowing Magee to ride through and take the checkers first. Yamaha had taken victory in only their fourth attempt since beginning to field factory teams in 1984. Furthermore, Kocinski and Rayborn had ridden a steady race to take 3rd.
- 1stKevin Magee/Wayne Rainey (YZF750); 8thMichael Dawson/Kunio Machii (YZF750); 9thTadahiko Taira/Mick Doohan (YZF750)A star-studded field of both local and international top riders, including some from World GP, featured in this event. The Kevin Magee/Wayne Rainey team got the better of their rivals as they put on a masterful display to give Yamaha its second win in a row.Show Details
Magee and First-timer Rainey Give Yamaha a Second Consecutive Victory
The Yamaha factory team was aiming for its second successive victory. To that end, the services of Kevin Magee and World GP ace Wayne Rainey had been secured for “Team Lucky Strike Roberts.” For the “Shiseido Tech21 RT” team was Tadahiko Taira, joined by a young rider who would later go on to win five consecutive World GP championships, Mick Doohan. Michael Dawson and Kunio Machii from the “Y.R.T.R.” squad completed the extravagant list of names on Yamaha's roster. Rival manufacturers were not lacking in world-class talent either; Honda's Wayne Gardner was at the peak of his World GP career and Suzuki's Kevin Schwantz was looking stronger than ever. It was a dream lineup rivaling that of a World GP event.
Though Rainey had not won a 500cc World GP title yet, he was rapidly improving and showed it by securing pole position. When the race started, it was Honda's Gardner/Niall Mackenzie duo that got off to an early lead. After the first rider change on lap 27, Magee was able to overtake Mackenzie for the lead. Following him were Dawson/Machii, who were able to catch Mackenzie and take over 2nd leading to a YZF 1-2 formation. Unfortunately, Dawson crashed out on the 58th lap, thus removing his team from contention. Then it was Gardner/Mackenzie who had machine trouble in the S-curves on the 106th lap 4 hours and 15 minutes into the race and were forced to retire. Meanwhile Magee/Rainey were clicking off trouble-free laps by themselves at the front. They topped the previous year's record of 200 laps to take the win on lap 202, setting a new record. It was the second victory in a row for Magee and Yamaha, following up on the incredible win in 1987. The Taira/Doohan pair had managed to stay with the front group throughout the race, but suffered machine trouble while running in 3rd just 10 minutes before the end of the race and ended up finishing in 9th.
- 3rdPeter Goddard/Shingo Kato (FZR750R); 44thMichael Dawson/Kunio Machii (YZF750); 45thTadahiko Taira/John Kocinski (YZF750); 50thWayne Rainey/Kevin Magee (YZF750)Yamaha aimed for a third consecutive victory with a lineup of three factory machines, but none of them were able to finish the race, leaving Yamaha unable to repeat the feat. The highest placed Yamaha was the pairing of Peter Goddard and Shingo Kato in 3rd. Finishing in 1st was the Honda France team, marking the first win for an Endurance World Championship team since 1983.
- 1stTadahiko Taira/Eddie Lawson (YZF750); 4thYasutomo Nagai/Shingo Kato (YZF750); 5thKunio Machii/Norihiko Fujiwara (YZF750)Yamaha's factory team of Tadahiko Taira and Eddie Lawson was able to overcome the formidable lineup of Honda's Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan to take its third Suzuka 8 Hours victory, setting a new record with 205 laps.Show Details
Tadahiko Taira Teams With Eddie Lawson to Finally Claim His First Win
Around this time it was very common to draft in World GP riders to bolster team strength for the Suzuka 8 Hours. The ace up Yamaha's sleeve was not a GP rider however, but immensely popular domestic Japanese sensation Tadahiko Taira. But for Taira, each of his four attempts at the event had ended in failure due to technical problems. He had never been able to see the checkered flag even once, including the time he and Kenny Roberts been on the verge of victory in 1985, only to have it snatched from right under their noses by a bout of machine trouble. The 1990 Suzuka 8 Hours saw Taira paired with Eddie Lawson, who had suffered an injury in the opening races of the World GP season that ended his championship aspirations. Their main rivals were Honda's Wayne Garder and Mick Doohan, the latter having begun to show his prowess in the World GP championship.
On race day it was the Honda of Gardner and Doohan that made a great start, taking the lead by lap 2 while Taira and Lawson struggled in the opening laps. But by the end of the first hour, the Yamaha pair had moved up to 2nd. Just past 1 PM, Gardner took a spill and Taira/Lawson were in 1st. Gardner's machine hadn't suffered much damage however, and after a short pit stop to replace broken levers he was able to re-join the race. Not only did the team re-join, but they were able to climb from 11th to 2nd position by 3 PM. They were clocking faster laps than Taira/Lawson and at that point, they looked likely to take a comeback victory. But at 3:27 PM, Garder's machine ran out of fuel and he was forced to retire.
Following that, the Taira/Lawson duo went unopposed to keep their top spot until the finish, recording a new record of 205 laps in the process. It was Yamaha's third win and Taira's long-awaited first Suzuka victory. In addition, the Yamaha factory teams of Yasutomo Nagai/Shingo Kato and Kunio Machii/Norihiko Fujiwara kept a constant pace to finish 4th and 5th respectively with 202 laps.
- 2ndKevin Magee/Doug Chandler (YZF750); 22ndPeter Goddard/Niall Mackenzie (YZF750); 54thNorihiko Fujiwara/Yasutomo Nagai (YZF750)It was a showdown between Magee/Chandler on the Yamaha factory team and Honda's Gardner/Doohan pairing. Magee crashed out of in the latter half of the race, giving up the win, but the team was able to recover and take 2nd for a well-deserved podium.
- 2ndKevin Magee/Niall Mackenzie (YZF750); 11thNorihiko Fujiwara/Yasutomo Nagai (YZF750); DNFFabrizio Pirovano/Chris Haldane (YZR750)
- 8thKatsuyoshi Takahashi/Kenny Roberts Jr. (YZF750); 9thShawn Giles/Wataru Yoshikawa (YZF750); 32ndNorihiko Fujiwara/Yasutomo Nagai (YZF750)In the TT-F1 class machine's final appearance at the Suzuka 8 Hours, Yamaha's Norihiko Fujiwara and Yasutomo Nagai put on a strong showing and battled for the win in the early stages, but lost positions due to machine trouble, something plaguing the other teams. The best-placed Yamaha team was Katsuyoshi Takahashi and Kenny Roberts Jr. in 8th. Kawasaki took its first win that year with Scott Russell and Aaron Slight.
- 4thEddie Lawson/Yasutomo Nagai (YZF750); DNFNorihiko Fujiwara/Wataru Yoshikawa (YZF750)This was the first Suzuka 8 Hours run under Superbike machine regulations. A “Special Stage” was introduced that saw the final grid decided by a one lap time attack. The race was red-flagged due to a crashed machine catching fire and a subsequent oil leak in the early stages of the race. Norihiko Fujiwara was caught up in this, crashing out. His teammate Wataru Yoshikawa re-joined the race on the team's spare machine but also retired from the race. The Eddie Lawson and Yasutomo Nagai team also took a spill, but were able to utilize the red-flag stoppage time to recover to 4th at the checkers.
- 4thNorihiko Fujiwara/Wataru Yoshikawa (YZF750SP); 5thYasutomo Nagai/Colin Edwards (YZF750SP)Norihiko Fujiwara and Wataru Yoshikawa's team was able to complete the same number of laps as the event winner with 212—a new record—for a final position of 4th, despite Yoshikawa feeling ill. Meanwhile, World Superbike riders Yasutomo Nagai and his teammate Colin Edwards finished in 5th.
- 1stColin Edwards/Noriyuki Haga (YZF750); 37thToshihiko Honma/Kensuke Haga (YZF750); DNFWataru Yoshikawa/Norihiko Fujiwara (YZF750)Setting a new record of 214 laps in the process, the Colin Edwards/Noriyuki Haga duo took Yamaha's first victory in six years and the company's fourth overall. They were also the youngest pair to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours.Show Details
Youngest Suzuka Riders Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga Bring Yamaha Its 4th Victory!
Yamaha's teams included Colin Edwards/Noriyuki Haga, Wataru Yoshikawa/Norihiko Fujiwara and Toshihiko Honma/Kensuke Haga, all riding the YZF750 factory machine. Drawing the most attention was the pairing of up-and-coming World Superbike rider Colin Edwards, and Noriyuki Haga, who was just beginning to show his prowess in the All Japan Championship's Superbike class. The two were 22 and 21 years old, respectively. They were up against Honda's dream team of Aaron Slight, then a top rider in World Superbike and Tadayuki Okada, coming fresh from his debut in the 500cc World GP. The race was shaping up to be a face-off between these two major powers.
Brutal heat awaited the teams on race day. The Slight/Okada pair fell victim first and dropped back in the order. In the free-for-all battle in the early stages of the race, it was the Honda team of Takuma Aoki and Carl Fogarty that came out on top. Attacking them from close behind were Edwards and Haga. It was neck-and-neck until the 103rd lap 3 hours and 50 minutes in that Fogarty made a mistake and crashed, allowing Haga to take the top spot. From that point the duo ran a blistering, but steady pace at the front, not allowing any other teams within striking distance. In the end, they set a new record of 214 laps, beating 1995's record of 212 by two laps. In the process they had delivered Yamaha its fourth victory and the first in six years. On top of that, Edwards and Haga also set the record for being the youngest pairing to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Meanwhile the Fujiwara/Yoshikawa duo was forced to retire due to a crash early on, and Honma/Haga crashed twice but were able to finish in 37th with 196 laps.
- 4thScott Russell/Troy Corser (YZF750); 8thWataru Yoshikawa/Norihiko Fujiwara (YZF750); 10thJean-Marc Delétang/Jean-Philippe Ruggia (YZF750)The Scott Russell and Troy Corser team battled for 2nd place, but due to a slow air leak in their machine's tyre they were forced to make an early pit stop, costing them valuable time. In the final stages, they made a push to take 3rd from Kawasaki's Akira Ryo and Shinya Takeishi, but missed the podium by just two seconds.
- 6thNoriyuki Haga/Simon Crafar (YZF750); 8thScott Russell/Norihiko Fujiwara (YZF750); DNFWataru Yoshikawa/Kensuke Haga (YZF750)It was an unlucky Suzuka 8 Hours for Yamaha. The factory riders included the three pairings of Noriyuki Haga/Simon Crafar, Scott Russell/Norihiko Fujiwara and Wataru Yoshikawa/Kensuke Haga. All three teams began the race inside the top 10, but each one had some sort of mechanical trouble and no Yamahas finished on the podium.
- 4thNoriyuki Haga/Régis Laconi (YZF-R7); 10thWataru Yoshikawa/Takeshi Tsujimura (YZF-R7); 14thJamie Hacking/Norihiko Fujiwara (YZF-R7)
- 7thNoriyasu Numata/Yukio Nukumi (YZF-R7); 16thTakeshi Tsujimura/Simon Crafar (YZF-R7); 18thWataru Yoshikawa/Noriyuki Haga (YZF-R7)Noriyuki Haga took Yamaha's third pole positon and the first since Wayne Rainey's 12 years ago in 1988. Lining up on the factory YZF-R7 was Wataru Yoshikawa/Haga and Takeshi Tsujimura/Simon Crafar. Yoshikawa and Haga crashed out in the early stage of the race while Tsujimura and Crafar experienced machine trouble, giving up Yamaha's chance at a top finish. Incidentally, this was Valentino Rossi's debut at the Suzuka 8 Hours, although his first attempt ended in a retirement.
- 7thNorihiko Fujiwara/Noriyasu Numata/Osamu Miyazaki (YZF-R7); 20thWataru Yoshikawa/Naoki Matsudo (YZF-R7); 53rdNoriyuki Haga/Aaron Gobert (YZF-R7)Yamaha's factory team of Noriyuki Haga and Anthony Gobert were pushing for the front from 10th position during the early stages, but with 20 minutes remaining, they had machine trouble and were forced to retire. Wataru Yoshikawa and Naoki Matsudo had an early crash, but recovered to 20th place. Honda's pairing of Valentino Rossi—his second Suzuka challenge—and Colin Edwards took the win that year.
- 4thWataru Yoshikawa/Takeshi Tsujimura (YZF-R7); 5thNorihiko Fujiwara/Tekkyu Kayo (YZF-R7); 9thMakoto Tokinaga/Yasuhiko Sato (YZF-R17)All Japan Superbike riders Wataru Yoshikawa and Takeshi Tsujimura made up Yamaha's only factory entry. They tried hard to reach the podium but just missed out, finishing in 4th. This was the last year the YZF-R7 would see competition as it was replaced in 2003 by the YZF-R1. It was also when Yamaha would suspend factory entries in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
- 2ndShinichi Nakatomi/Wataru Yoshikawa (YZF-R1); 6thMitsuo Saito/Takahiro Fukami (YZF-R1); DNFNorihiko Fujiwara/Tekkyu Kayo (YZF-R1)
- 8thDavid Checa/Sébastien Gimbert/William Costes (YZF-R1); 13thHorst Saiger/James Ellison/Igor Jerman (YZF-R1); 14thShinichi Nakatomi/Wataru Yoshikawa (YZF-R1)The GMT94 Team, a regular of the Endurance World Championship, was Yamaha's highest placed entry in 8th. Also, in 13th was fellow Endurance World Championship competitor, the Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART). That year, the GMT94 Team would go on to win the Endurance World Championship title.
- 9thGwen Giabbani/Igor Jerman/Horst Saiger (YZF-R1); 12thShinichi Nakatomi/Wataru Yoshikawa (YZF-R1); 50thNorihiko Fujiwara/Nobuyuki Osaki (YZF-R1)Yamaha's best finish was that of Endurance World Championship team YART, in 9th place overall. Shinichi Nakatomi and Wataru Yoshikawa entered as a factory-supported team and finished in 12th. That year the Ryuichi Kiyonari/Toru Ukawa squad took victory to give Ukawa his fifth Suzuka 8 Hours win, a new record for the event.
- 10thGwen Giabbani/Igor Jerman/Sébastien Scarnato (YZF-R1); DNFKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Shinichi Nakatomi (YZF-R1); DNFNoriyuki Haga/Colin Edwards (YZF-R1)
- 9thNorifumi Abe/Jamie Stauffer (YZF-R1); DNFKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Nobuyuki Osaki (YZF-R1)
- 4thKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Yuji Sato (YZF-R1); 11thIgor Jerman/Steve Martin/Steve Plater (YZF-R1)Now matured into a top All Japan Road Race competitor, Katsuyuki Nakasuga formed Yamaha's factory-supported team with Yuji Sato. The race was no ordinary affair as the weather went from sunny skies to thunder, lightning and heavy rain, greatly affecting the riders and machines. Nakasuga's team was able to fight through and finish 4th, while Endurance World Championship regulars team YART crossed the finish line in 11th.
- 4thIgor Jerman/Steve Martin/Gwen Giabbani (YZF-R1)While there was no entry by an official Yamaha factory-supported team, Yamaha Endurance World Championship team YART came through to finish in 4th. The team had an excellent run in the championship that year, taking their first world title.
- 16thIgor Jerman/Steve Martin/Gwen Giabbani (YZF-R1)Much like the previous year, there was no entry by an official Yamaha factory-supported team. Yamaha was again represented by the YART Endurance World Championship squad. The team finished 16th.
- 7thDavid Checa/Kenny Foray/Matthieu Lagrive (YZF-R1); DNFGwen Giabbani/Igor Jerman/Katsuyuki Nakasuga (YZF-R1)
- 3rdDavid Checa/Kenny Foray (YZF-R1); DNFKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Noriyuki Haga/Tommy Hill (YZF-R1)
- 5thDavid Checa/Kenny Foray/Matthieu Lagrive (YZF-R1); 8thKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Broc Parkes/Josh Waters (YZF-R1)Like in 2012, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Broc Parkes and Josh Waters formed the YART team for the 8 Hours. Nakasuga took pole position for the second consecutive year, but the team finished 8th overall in the race due to machine difficulties. Endurance World Championship team GMT94 was the highest placed Yamaha entry in 5th.
- 4thKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Broc Parkes/Josh Brookes (YZF-R1); 7thDavid Checa/Kenny Foray/Mathieu Gines; 10thTommy Bridewell/Wayne Maxwell/Rick OlsonThe MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA with YSP team barely missed out on the podium, coming up just short in 4th. However, all three of Yamaha's entries finished inside the top 10. The GMT94 team finished in 7th but took their second Endurance World Championship title that year, adding it to the first one they won in 2004.
- 1stKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Pol Espargaró/Bradley Smith (YZF-R1);6thDavid Checa/Kenny Foray/Mathieu Gines (YZF-R1);21stMakoto Tokinaga/Norihiko Fujiwara/Jeffry De Vries (YZF-R1)Yamaha fielded a full factory effort for the first time since 2002 with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team. Active MotoGP riders Espargaró and Smith and 3-time consecutive All Japan JSB1000 Champion Nakasuga rode the all-new 2015 YZF-R1 to Yamaha’s first Suzuka 8 Hours victory in 19 years and its fifth win at the event.Show Details
Yamaha Factory Racing Reigns at Suzuka
In 2015, Yamaha celebrated its 60th anniversary and held a conference in Tokyo to announce its plans for motorsports activities for the coming years. Branding, feedback of technology and motorsports promotional activities would form the basic policy of Yamaha’s racing activities. Among the ways these policies would be put into practice, it was declared that a factory team would once again be put together for the All Japan Championship, and that the Yamaha Factory Racing Team would contest the Suzuka 8 Hours for the first time since 2002. In 2014, Yamaha had announced it would release to the market a new version of its YZF-R1 flagship supersport model, and one major objective of the factory team would be to demonstrate the potential of the new R1 to the world with a win at the 8 Hours. This mission was entrusted to three riders: 3-time consecutive All Japan champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga and MotoGP regulars Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith.
The team started the race from the front of the grid thanks to Espargaró’s blazingly fast 2’06.00 lap for pole position. Nakasuga would run the first stint, but he had a bit of trouble getting the engine running at the start of the race. This left the team down in around 20th place on the opening lap, making for an inauspicious start to the race. But by lap 14, Nakasuga had risen to 3rd and kept his position as he rode at a fuel-conserving pace, handing the bike over to Smith after a total of 28 laps.
In the opening stages, some of Yamaha’s chief rivals like Suzuki’s Takuya Tsuda and Honda’s Casey Stoner had either fallen behind or been forced to retire, and 2nd-placed Smith moved into the lead on the 55th lap. When the bike was passed off to Espargaró, he kept up a quick pace, but he passed another rider by mistake while the safety car was on the course and the team was handed a 30-second stop-and-go penalty. But thanks to strong teamwork, the team was able to regain and keep the lead through the remainder of the tumultuous race, with the safety car re-entering the course a further five times before the finish. The team rode a total of 204 laps before the checkered flag flew. They had completed their mission by taking Yamaha’s fifth Suzuka victory and its first since 1996 (19 years prior).
- 1stKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Pol Espargaró/Alex Lowes (YZF-R1);4thBroc Parkes/Takuya Fujita/Kohta Nozane (YZF-R1);14thDavid Checa/Niccolò Canepa/Lucas Mahias (YZF-R1)In the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s second year since its 2015 return, riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaró and Alex Lowes ran 218 laps to clinch Yamaha’s first back-to-back Suzuka win since 1987–1988—a 28 year gap—and stretched the brand’s overall win total to six.Show Details
In 2015, Yamaha revived its full factory effort for the Suzuka 8 Hours for the first time since 2002 with Yamaha Factory Racing Team, and achieved its first victory at the event in 19 years. In preparing for the 2016 event, however, Yamaha retained its attitude of being another challenger—not last year’s winners.
As such, the team’s slogan was: “Be the fastest challenger.” It would be a two-bike factory effort this time. The first of the two would be the Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s YZF-R1 sporting Yamaha’s signature #21 race number and featuring riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaró and Alex Lowes. Alongside it would be the #7 YZF-R1 from the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team contesting the Endurance World Championship. Gaining expanded Yamaha support for the 8 Hours, this second bike would be piloted by series regular Broc Parkes and the two members of the Yamalube Racing Team competing in the All Japan Road Race Championship, Kohta Nozane and Takuya Fujita.
Yamaha’s stance of being a challenger for the win was not limited to just the team and rider lineups, but could also be seen in the development of the machine itself. After winning the 2015 event, the team went to the drawing board with 150 different items to improve—from technological aspects to team management—and they continued development work with the goal of creating a further-evolved and more refined machine.
- 1stKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Alex Lowes/Michael van der Mark (YZF-R1)5thBroc Parkes/Marvin Fritz/Kohta Nozane (YZF-R1)11thDavid Checa/Niccolò Canepa/Mike Di Meglio (YZF-R1)The Yamaha Factory Racing Team of Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark ran 216 laps to secure Yamaha’s first-ever Suzuka 8 Hours hat-trick of wins, extending the brand’s total victory count to seven. The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team also secured their third and Yamaha’s fourth EWC title at the race.Show Details
The 2017 Suzuka 8 Hours was the historic 40th anniversary of the event and Yamaha was mounting its second challenge to take an elusive third straight win since the inception of its factory team in 1984.
Following back-to-back wins in 1987 and 1988, the first attempt dates back to 1989. That year Yamaha fielded an incredible line-up of three factory machines ridden by Wayne Rainey/Kevin Magee, Takahiko Taira/John Kocinski and Michael Dawson/Kunio Machii, but even with these star riders on the grid, none could take the win.
Almost three decades later, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team (YFRT) paved the way for the opportunity once again by taking wins in 2015 and 2016. The brunt of the challenge of pulling off a Yamaha three-peat would be up to its squad of Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark. But seeking a third win for Yamaha alongside them that race weekend was the factory-backed YART Yamaha Official EWC Team (YART) with Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Kohta Nozane.
Meanwhile, the GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team (GMT94) and its riders David Checa, Mike Di Meglio and Niccolò Canepa, came into the Suzuka 8 Hours—the final round of the EWC season—sitting 2nd in the championship with just a single point separating them from the leaders. In all, this was a chance to take a third consecutive victory for Yamaha, clinch the EWC championship title as well as demonstrate the performance of the further-developed YZF-R1 all in a single race.
The weekend proceeded as planned with YFRT taking pole position for the third year running. The race saw Nakasuga, Lowes and van der Mark ride their stints on the R1, but then the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda machine that the team had been battling with at the front crashed during the 3rd stint, giving YFRT a big advantage. From that point the Yamaha three limited the risks and rode a steady race to complete 216 laps and claim Yamaha’s first hat-trick victory and its 7th overall.
While this was happening, GMT94 overcame a 30-second stop-and-go penalty to finish 11th. That was enough to secure them their third EWC championship win following titles in 2004 and 2014, and Yamaha’s fourth EWC title to date. YART took a top-5 finish with 5th place to bring them up to 3rd overall for the season. All in all, Yamaha’s three teams did much to illustrate the R1’s competitiveness on the racetrack.
- 1stKatsuyuki Nakasuga/Alex Lowes/Michael van der Mark (YZF-R1)6thDavid Checa/Niccolò Canepa/Mike Di Meglio (YZF-R1)DNFBroc Parkes/Marvin Fritz/Takuya Fujita (YZF-R1)The Yamaha Factory Racing Team once again fielded Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, riding a YZF-R1 sporting commemorative 20th anniversary colours. An untimely injury forced Nakasuga to sit out the race, meaning Lowes and van der Mark had to run as a duo, but the team clocked 199 laps to clinch a record-breaking fourth consecutive win, stretching Yamaha’s victory tally to eight.Show Details
At the 40th Suzuka 8 Hours in 2017, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team achieved their mission to take a third consecutive win, not only achieving a first for Yamaha but also adding their name to the 8 Hours record books as the second team ever to remain undefeated for three years in a row. The following year, another mission was entrusted to the team’s three riders of Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark: to celebrate the R1’s 20th anniversary—having been first released in 1998—with a fourth straight win.
The YZF-R1 first came on the scene aiming to be the “Fastest on Twisty Roads” and since then has undergone constant development in pursuit of more speed and power. Taking form with the 8th-generation introduced in 2015, this model signified a big shift for the R1, moving from twisty roads to being “Fastest on the Racetrack”. In addition to winning the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row, this R1 has put its strength and performance potential on display at racetracks around the world. But in the year of its 20th anniversary, its fourth win at Suzuka in front of thousands of fans and millions watching worldwide sent out a loud reminder of its place in motorcycling.
Each YZF-R1 for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team since its return in 2015 featured liveries based on the brand’s signature Yamaha Racing Blue, but in 2018, the factory R1 took to Suzuka Circuit with special red and white colours commemorating the 1st-generation model from 1998, complete with its “YZF” and “R1” logos.
However, rival teams had assembled impressive rider line-ups with the goal of stopping Yamaha’s winning streak and claiming glory for themselves. The Red Bull Honda with Japan Post team featured All Japan frontrunner Takumi Takahashi and Takaaki Nakagami from MotoGP, while reigning three-time World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea had joined the roster for Kawasaki Team GREEN.
On top of that, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team also faced an additional challenge; Nakasuga had a rare crash during free practice the day before the race and injured his shoulder, meaning the eight-hour race on Sunday would have to be run by just his two teammates.
Come race day, light rain began falling just before the start. Michael van der Mark was tasked with the Le Mans-style start and first stint. He stayed calm while reeling off laps, also handling an emergency tyre swap without issue. He stayed in the top group with Kawasaki before pulling in after just under an hour and 40 minutes to hand the machine over to his teammate Alex Lowes. The Brit took the lead around the two-hour mark, after which it was a closely-fought battle with Kawasaki until a fall dropped Team GREEN down the order. That still left Honda to contend with, but Lowes and van der Mark were able to keep them at bay, completing 199 laps in total and setting a new record for Yamaha and the 8 Hours with four straight wins.
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team finished 6th despite a veritable barrage of weather-related accidents out on track, earning them 2nd overall for the EWC season. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team had an unfortunate crash in the early stages and were forced to sit out the race, finishing the season in 16th.