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Hayden and Ukawa front Honda's entry to win the 26th Suzuka 8 hour

Hayden and Ukawa front Honda's entry to win the 26th Suzuka 8 hour

Hayden and Ukawa front Honda's entry to win the 26th Suzuka 8 hour

Honda will be trying to earn their seventh consecutive victory in Japan's premier motorcycle event this weekend and have enlisted the services of Nicky Hayden and Tohru Ukawa to front both the two-man factory teams equipped with the latest version of the VTR1000SP-W.

Ukawa is a man with a special mission, a victory on Sunday will see him equal Wayne Gardner's record of four 8-hour victories.

Hayden is making his eight-hour debut but the young American has already tested the VTR he will race on Sunday, an up-dated version of the machine that carried him to the US Superbike title in 2002.

´I'm really excited about racing the 8 hours,´ he said. ´It will be the first time for me. As a kid you read about your hero's racing the 8 hours and hope you will take part one day. I like the idea of the pit stops, race strategy, and racing at night, sounds pretty cool. It's a long duration but I like the track and doing a lot of laps will help with other races at Suzuka. There seems to be a lot of traffic to pass, which will be interesting. I'm looking forward to the experience.´

Tohru Ukawa remarked: ´We start practice on Wednesday on the revised track, the chicane has been changed again it's back to almost the old layout. Last year I didn't race the 8-hours, I broke my ankle at Donington Park and was not fit enough to race. I did the same thing this year but only cut my elbow and bruised my arm. The arm is OK now. I have full movement so I think it will not be a problem for Suzuka. I'm not thinking about equalling Wayne Gardner's record of four victories, if I win the race the record will come naturally. A podium place has no meaning, only a win matters in the 8-hours.´

MotoGP, 2003, Nicky Hayden

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