Yamaha Factory Racing claims Suzuka 8-Hours victory

Yamaha takes first win since 1996 as disaster strikes Honda squad

YAMAHA Factory Racing Team took the win at the iconic Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race whilst Casey Stoner crashed out on his fifth lap.

Yamaha made a dominant return to the Suzuka 8-Hours as a factory effort after MotoGP’s Pol Espargaro claimed pole position with a 2:06.000. Espargaro’s lap time was also a new lap record around the Japanese track with team-mate Katsuyuki Nakasuga also lapping faster than all other riders in the qualifying shoot out.

The race was filled with no less than six safety cars, but after completing 204 laps Yamaha took their first win since 1996 when Noriyuki Haga and Colin Edwards won.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith ad the honour of ending the race on track with the team’s reactions on the podium showing how important that endurance race was.

“It's very special, the 60th anniversary for Yamaha,” explained Smith. “They are leading the MotoGP championship, but second to that was a focus to on the Suzuka8H and I'm glad that we were able to show the true potential of this bike and give them that victory after 19 years that they very well deserve."

The 2015 Suzuka 8-Hours saw the Yamaha Factory Team struggle to get the bike started. Early on, many of the big names battled for the early lead such as World Superbikes Alex Lowes on the Yoshimura Suzuki as leading rider began their first stints.

Takumi Takahashi brought the #634 MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda into the pits and Casey Stoner began his first stint in the 8-Hours race. Unfortunately, the Australian’s return to racing ended prematurely as he fell at the Hairpin Corner due to a stuck throttle which resulted in a massive bike-destroying crash which deployed the safety car.

Stoner had completed only five laps and was stretchered to the medical centre where it was confirmed he had broken his right shoulder blade and left tibia.

The safety car returned to the pits as Bradley Smith and Australian Josh Hook on the F.C.C TSR Honda began their battle for the lead. Smith proved to be a quick learner and adapted to the features of an endurance race such as the safety car and multiple backmarkers.

The race had settled for the remaining six hours with the Factory Yamaha team battling with F.C.C TSR Honda for the overall lead, although Yoshimura Suzuki remained hopeful as they closed in.

Espargaro charged into the of 2:09’s during his first stint and built a good lead for his team before a third safety car that saw Espargaro’s lead reduced from over 20 seconds to just two.

Bad luck for the Yamaha Team as Smith was then awarded a 30 second stop and go penalty for a teammate overtaking under yellow flags which then demoted the team to second and promoted the F.C.C TSR and Dominique Aegerter to first.

"I'm so happy. It was an unbelievable race,” said Espargaro. “I have to say sorry to my teammates because I made a mistake during the race. We had a stop and go penalty and we lost more than one minute.

“My teammates were impressive, they were so fast. I gave 200% when I went out on the bike to recover this gap that we lost and we did.”

Continuing, the Spaniard explained: “It's impressive what Yamaha as a factory team and a family did after so many years and I'm proud of Nakasuga-san that he rode our the first Suzuka8hours with us and also of Bradley, that we share a pit box in MotoGP.

“Normally we have many activities and we don't get to speak often as friends. This weekend was so good for us. I'm happy because I found two great friends, and we got the 8 hours Suzuka race victory." 

With the blistering pace the Yamaha team were setting, it wasn’t long before Smith caught the former Moto2 competitor and overtook him. The two teams swapped positins occasionally due to pit stops, but it was always Yamaha who came out on top at the end with the faster pace.

Dominique Aegerter and his F.C.C TSR Honda squad finished in second, he and Josh Hook ran a two-rider strategy as opposed to Yamaha’s three-rider version. The podium was completed by Team Kagayama in what was their third podium in a row at the Suzuka 8-Hours.

In addition to Yamaha’s win, their win was also Bridgestone’s tenth consecutive win, their prototype tyres the rubber of choice for this particular race.

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