Kawasaki wins Suzuka 8 Hours… from the gravel trap

Kawasaki KRT Suzuka 8 Hours

KAWASAKI won its first Suzuka 8 Hours for more than two decades in controversial circumstances after Jonathan Rea crashed less than two minutes from the end of the race and was reinstated as the winner on appeal.

A dramatic end to an eventful race – considered the jewel in the Endurance World Championship crown – Kawasaki’s decision to entrust its primary challenge to the multiple World Superbike Championship title-winning KRT outfit looked set to reap dividends as the combination of Rea and Leon Haslam stretched from the field.

With tensions already high following a red flag only 30mins from the end of the race due to rain, Rea was nonetheless on course to complete victory at the restart.

However, disaster struck with only 88secs left on the clock when Rea slid off into the gravel trap after striking oil deposited by a Suzuki moments earlier.

The incident was set to be a cruel end to Kawasaki’s bid for a first Suzuka 8 Hours win in 26 years, with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team initially declared the winners for what would have been a fifth consecutive success.

However, on review it was determined that the results be taken from the last completed lap, allowing KRT to reclaim the spoils and ensure Kawasaki got its hands on one of the motorcycle industry’s most coveted prizes for the first time since 1993 when Aaron Slight and Scott Russell were triumphant.

Notably, it is the first time the winning team hasn’t contained a Japanese rider since Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards triumphed for Yamaha in 2001. Even so, despite announcing Toprak Razgatlioglu as a late addition to a three-rider line-up, the Turkish rider didn’t get a chance to ride.

Behind Yamaha – made up of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga – Red Bull Honda secured a podium in the hands of Stefan Bradl, who is currently deputising for Jorge Lorenzo at Repsol Honda in MotoGP, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Takumi Takahashi.