WATCH: Rea crashes out of Suzuka 8 Hours lead with 88secs to go

Ride the rollercoaster of emotions as Kawasaki loses the Suzuka 8 Hours win with 88secs to go... before getting it back on appeal

Kawasaki KRT Suzuka 8 Hours

Four WorldSBK titles, 80 victories and 156 podiums, to say Jonathan Rea is a steady hand on a motorbike is a powerful understatement. 

To put this into another context, Rea has finished off the WorldSBK podium on just 12 occasions since the start of 2015 when he joined the Kawasaki Racing Team and became such a force of nature. That’s 117 podiums in 129 races.

As such, who better than to anchor the final victorious leg for Kawasaki in this weekend’s Suzuka 8 Hours race, its first success in the famed event since 1993! 

What happened to Jonathan Rea?

Well, you’d think that but then this happened…

Rea crashes out of the lead with just 88secs (1min 28ecs) left on the clock after precisely 7 hours 58mins and 32secs of racing, during which the team had already dodged the potential disaster of rain 30mins from the end – forcing a red flag delay – and loose backmarkers crashing around them.

As it transpires, Rea committed the unthinkable sin of an unforced error but had slipped on oil dropped by an expiring Suzuki at the same turn shortly beforehand, as evidenced by the wiggle of grip loss just before he crashes down.

(Ed: Quite why the Suzuki rider felt the need to go three full corners knowing smoke and oil is billowing from his bike without pulling off is beyond me!)

Why the controversy?

With heads in hands, different languages uniting in a unison of ‘argh’ and hearts breaking in real-time, KRT was not classified as a finisher and thus initially looked to be dealt the cruellest of blows a la Toyota at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2017.

However, though KRT is perhaps better used to WorldSBK rules where the order in the event of a red flag declaration determines the results, in EWC it’s the final completed lap… which Rea and KRT led. Since the red flag was confirmed for track contamination rather than because of Rea’s crash, the team was reinstated on appeal and confirmed as the winner.

Going in the other way, joy turns to heartbreak for Yamaha’s factory effort as Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga go from second to first to second.

Why does Suzuka 8 Hours mean so much to Kawasaki?

A direct head-to-head between Japan’s four big motorcycling manufacturers in a prestigious Japanese race is reason enough even before you consider marketing power and cultural honour of using speed, teamwork and durability to get one over your big rivals. 

More so for Kawasaki which, despite its WorldSBK success in recent years, had only won Suzuka 8 Hours one and that was way back in 1993. By comparison Yamaha has 27 wins, Honda 8 and Suzuki 5.

It took the best to win though with Kawasaki putting its mostly Spanish KRT (Provec) outfit forward with a rider line-up of Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu (though the latter didn’t ride a stint in the race). It’s the first time a Japanese rider hasn’t stood atop the podium since 2001 when Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards paired up to win for Yamaha.