After two days of practice and qualifying for the 38th running of the Suzuka 8 Hours race, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team of Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith were the clear favorite to win. And this time the reality came out in their favor, although it was colored with a certain dose of suspense. The trio of Nakasuga/Espargaró/Smith became the first Yamaha team to win the Suzuka 8 Hours since Colin Edwards/Noriyuki Haga’s triumph back in 1996—breaking a 19-year drought. The largely overlooked F.C.C. TSR Honda squad of Josh Hook, Dominique Aegerter, and Kyle Smith took second place, while the privateer Team Kagayama squad of Yukio Kagayama, Haga, and Ryuichi Kiyonari once again grabbed third.
The Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s first problem happened at the start of the race. As Nakasuga ran over to the R1 in the “Le Mans style” start, it refused to run properly as he began to let out the clutch. It finally cleared up a few seconds later, but not until a good many riders had already got past. By the time he headed into the first turn, Nakasuga was mired down around 20th place. By the end of the first hour, the Japanese rider had scythed his way up to third.
Drama then ensued when Casey Stoner took the lead in his first stint on the MuSashi RT HARC-Pro Honda CBR, only to crash heavily several laps later in exactly the same spot as Espargaró on Friday when the bike’s throttle inexplicably stuck open. Video of the crash shows Stoner pulling in the clutch but running out of pavement, then being forced to lowside the Honda to avoid a frontal impact with the wall outside of the wide-open fourth-gear corner. Unfortunately, Stoner wasn’t as lucky as Espargaró; the …read more