The factory team of Team HRC won the 43rd edition of Suzuka 8 Hours in a dominant manner. The race was fantastically successful for Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, but it was a disaster for YART Yamaha…
Until now, few teams from Europe have come to the Suzuka Circuit to participate in this legendary endurance race, but due to logistical problems, the high cost of the transfer, and visa problems, only those FIM EWC teams that are actually fighting for the title of champion of 2022 have arrived in Japan.
There were only five of them – F.C.C. TSR Honda, SRC Kawasaki, Yoshimura SERT, YART Yamaha, and BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team. Four of them reached the finish line, only one climbed the podium.
All week Yoshimura SERT (Suzuki Endurance Racing Team) in Suzuki was plagued by setbacks. One of the strongest drivers of the team, ex-MotoGP, and Superbike driver Sylvain Guintoli suffered an injury to his left hand and was out of work on Thursday. The remaining two, Greg Black and Kazuki Watanabe could not properly qualify on Friday, because one session was dry and the other in the rain: given that the best 2 laps out of 3 are now taken in qualifying, and there were only two SERT pilots, their average lap turned out to be depressingly low – outside the TOP-20: Yoshimura SERT had to start from the 22nd position far from the beginning of the pit lane… But this did not mean that the French-Japanese team had given up!
Things developed quite differently for the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team, which showed a stable result in the TOP 3, broke the Suzuka Circuit lap record, and started the race in the group of clear leaders.
But it was SERT who made a grand breakthrough in the first laps, quickly finding themselves in direct contact with Team HRC and Kawasaki Racing Team, who started from 1-2 positions.
The 43rd Suzuka 8 Hours race was led by two factory teams created specifically for this event – Team HRC and Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT), which included World Superbike stars. Two Japanese aces, Tetsuta Nagashima and Takumi Takahashi, competed for Honda in Suzuki, and Iker Lecuona from Team HRC in WSBK joined them; the winners of the 2019 race, Jonathan Ray and Leon Haslam, entered KRT, and Alex Laws became the third.
YART Yamaha in its classic lineup joined the fight with KRT, HRC, SERT, and F.C.C. TSR.
For the Austrian team, the race almost ended ahead of schedule, an hour before the finish: Marvin Fritz did not share the trajectory with another Yamaha R1 of the Japanese team Akeno Speed (performed in the Superstock class). The Japanese bike faked YART so much that Marvin’s motorcycle was thrown into the bump, and he broke through the inflatable safety system in turn 13. The safety car helped to save the situation – YART managed to push the motorcycle into the pits, losing 4 positions on this and on the restoration.
SERT took a good pace from the very beginning and rose to the 4th position, and when Jonathan Ray from KRT caught a small low side, SERT even took the lead of the race (for a short time). Then, KRT and Team HRC regained their positions.
Team HRC was in the lead for most of the race, and KRT was on the 2nd line. YART’s accident opened the way for SERT to the podium, and Black and Watanabe took full advantage of the gift, closing the top three. YART, as a result, finished the race in 7th place.
For SERT, this finish may turn out to be the key in the fight for the 2022 championship title: they earned the maximum possible points among all regular FIM EWC participants, significantly ahead of their main rivals.
F.C.C. TSR Honda, which suffered a serious blow on Saturday – the loss of one of its fastest riders, Gino Ri (his condition is still unknown), finished the race in the TOP 10 after problems with brakes and the replacement of the master cylinder with the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade. SRC Kawasaki France finished the race in the TOP 15 due to fuel supply issues at the end of the race.
For the BMW Motorrad factory team, the race ended ahead of schedule due to an issue with the cooling system. Ilya Mikhalchik had to push the bike half a circle to the pit lane, where the team came to the conclusion that it was impossible to correct the situation – and throw out the white flag.
Final results of the 43rd Suzuka 8 Hours 2022 Race: