WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea set to defend Suzuka 8 Hours title with Kawasaki

Jonathan Rea will return to the Suzuka 8 Hours to defend his and Kawasaki's famous - and dramatic - win from 2019, alongside Alex Lowes and Lucas Mahias

Jonathan Rea (Suzuka 8 Hours)

Jonathan Rea looks set to defend his and Kawasaki’s Suzuka 8 Hours title in November alongside stablemates Alex Lowes - who goes for his fourth success - and Lucas Mahias.

The Ulsterman, sharing the Provec Racing-run KRT ZX-10RR with Leon Haslam, scored Kawasaki’s first victory on the endurance classic in 18 years with a dramatic and controversial success in 2019 that was only decided hours after the race had concluded.

With the 2020 event cancelled, KRT - winner of seven WorldSBK titles from the last eight seasons  - will be enlisted again by Kawasaki to lead its charge on the event, which is valued particularly highly among the Japanese ‘big four’ of itself, Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki.

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Taking place on 8 November - having originally been scheduled for this weekend before being pushed back due to COVID-19 - Rea will have an esteemed co-rider in Lowes especially, who won in 2016, 2017 and 2018 while competing with Yamaha.

KRT is also set to enter a third rider in Lucas Mahias - who rides with Puccetti Kawasaki in WorldSBK - but it is not unusual for teams to focus its resources on only two riders as it did in 2019 when it included Toprak Razgatlioglu and flew him over, only to decide against running him. 

That snub is understood to have been the primary catalyst behind Razgatlioglu’s decision not to accept a deal to join Rea at KRT in 2020 in favour of a switch to Yamaha.

Kawasaki goes from joy to despair... back to joy!

Either way, Kawasaki will hope for a less contentious route to victory this time after a bizarre end to the 2019 event when Rea crashed just 88secs from the clock reaching 8 hours, which would have handed victory to Yamaha.

However, Rea had fallen on oil deposited by an expiring Suzuki and that combined with Rea’s crash brought out the red flag and saw results counted back at the last completed lap. While a red flag for Rea’s accident would have meant he wouldn’t be classified, it was decided the reason for the stoppage should be declared as oil on the circuit instead.

Despite protests from Yamaha, it meant Kawasaki could still be classified and were therefore declared the winners.