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Having won the legendary endurance race in 2015 for the first time since 1996, the Yamaha Factory Racing team made it two in a row by taking a dominant victory in this year’s Suzuka 8 Hours. After dominating almost every practice and qualifying session leading up to today, Yamaha Factory Racing were at the front of the traditional endurance running start for today's Suzuka 8 Hours. As temperatures rose over 30 degrees it proved to be a real endurance event for the team. All Japan JSB1000 Champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga was the starting rider, sprinting to his YZF-R1 to ride the first hour. Swift to his machine, he was third into the first corner, then dropped slightly to start the first full lap in fourth. As Nakasuga found his feet he was quick to start climbing back to second, tucking in less than two tenths of a second behind rivals Team Kagayama. The 2015 Suzuka winner settled in, keeping the gap to two tenths or less and the pressure high until taking the lead on the last chicane before heading in to lap 18. From there he was untouchable, building a lead until he came in at the end of the hour to hand the bike over to teammate Alex Lowes.
This moment cannot be explain by words, thanks for so much #Japan, thanks for so much #Yamaha! Always in my ❤️ x2 // Este momento no puede expresarse en palabras, muchas gracias por tanto Japon, muchas gracias por tanto #Yamaha! Siempre en mi ❤️ x2 ???????? @alexlowes22 #NakasugaSan we are the Winners!!!!
An impressive 17-second pitstop saw the British rider hitting the track in first place and picking up where Nakasuga left off, lapping under the 2'09 mark to stretch the lead even further. By the time he came in to hand the #21 machine over to Pol Espargaró, Lowes had built a lead of almost 20 seconds. The MotoGP rider continued his teammates' pace, upping the pressure even further to be the only rider on track lapping under the 2'10 mark. By the time Nakasuga had returned to the track an hour later the lead was nearly one and a half minutes and growing.
The team continued to be untouchable on track, delivering a masterclass in team endurance riding to stretch themselves further and further into the lead. Espargaró took one more stint, riding two hours in total and Nakasuga a further one to make three. Come the seventh hour it was the responsibility of Lowes to make the final push, riding into the darkness to seal the team's second consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory in stunning form. All three riders consistently outperformed the field for the duration of the eight-hour race, rightly earning the cheers from the nearly seventy-thousand fans in attendance as the clocked ticked down to zero. Lowes crossed the line a massive two minutes and 17 seconds clear of second place. Local hero Nakasuga also took the honour of delivering the fastest lap of the race with a stunning 2'08.411 on lap 105.
Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Nakasuga celebrated in pit-lane as Lowes brought it home, the eventual winning margin 2’17.883s. It was a great moment for the British rider, who had replaced compatriot Bradley Smith in the team, and meant Espargaro had become a two-time Suzuka winner with Yamaha before his move to KTM for the 2017 season and you could tell how much it meant to the Spaniard: “I'm very happy and very satisfied with this win, for me, for Alex and for Nakasuga-san because we really deserved it. From the start of the test we have worked so hard to get the best for us three. After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I'm sure Alex will complete the second one next year!”
The battle for the rest of the podium was a lot closer, with the Team Green Kawasaki entry of Akira Yanagawa, Leon Haslam and Kazuki Watanabe just taking the honours after a race-long battle for second ahead of the Yoshimura Suzuka machine of Takuya Tsuda, Josh Brookes and Noriyuki Haga.
Former MotoGP™ rider Broc Parkes was fourth as a part of the YART Yamaha team, while it was disaster for Honda as the Musashi team of Takumi Takahashi, Michael VD Mark and 2006 MotoGP™ World Champion Nicky Hayden had to retire. Hayden was forced to stop on track with a technical issue before the end of the third hour. Compounding things for Honda was the fact Moto2™ rider Dominique Aegerter unfortunately crashed out on the FCC TSR Honda, meaning the SatuHati Honda Team Asia squad in 8th was the manufacturers best result. The Toho Racing team, which included current Moto2™ rider Ratthapark Wilairot and former Moto2™ podium finisher Gino Rea, finished the race in 12th.
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