Yamaha Factory Racing has clinched a hat-trick of Suzuka 8 Hours victories, with Alex Lowes finishing the event close to one lap clear of the nearest challenger Team Green Kawasaki after fending off an enthralling battle with rivals MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda.
Lowes and team-mates Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga posted 216 laps to win by over two minutes ahead of Kawasaki Team Green's Leon Haslam, Kazuma Watanabe and Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman for a historic triumph in the 40th running of the prestigious Japanese event.
FCC TSR Honda saved HRC's blushes with riders Dominique Aegerter, Randy de Puniet and Josh Hook finishing one lap behind the race winner after late mechanical issues had threatened their finishing of the event.
Yamaha’s victory on paper looks emphatic but hinged on a vital mid-race battle against the Honda of Jack Miller when the Australian was leading Lowes until the English rider made a late move to outbrake Miller at the Esses to reclaim the lead which it never let go of.
An hour later MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda's victory hopes were halted as Nakagami dropped the new Fireblade necessitating a pit stop for a change of lighting, and, later on, bodywork.
Disaster almost struck for the FCC TSR Honda squad in the closing minutes when Randy de Puniet was forced to pit with his Fireblade in flames, but after extinguishing the fire and a rigorous check over the French rider returned to action to claim the final podium spot having slipped behind the factory Kawasaki.
The YART Yamaha squad, featuring Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Kohta Nozane grabbed fifth ahead of Honda Dream Racing to make it three Fireblades inside the top six after Nakagami recovered from his fall to finish fourth.
Yoshimura Suzuki produced a spirited fightback with Sylvain Guintoli, Josh Brookes and Takuya Tsuda after early technical issues dropped then down to 60th place overall but an eight-hour charge saw them take seventh at the chequered flag.
GMT94 Yamaha's David Checa, Niccolo Canepa and Mike Di Meglio secured the FIM Endurance World Championship, thanks to an eleventh place finish.