The Suzuka 8 Hours is the EWC’s grand finale and the one race in which the Japanese manufacturers actually challenge each other. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki will butt heads in an 8-hour battle well into the night. A spectacle that leaves no one untouched.
During the qualifications, it was very clear that the competition was incredibly tight, with all big teams being very close to each other. It was the Yamaha Factory Racing team with Michael Van Der Mark, Alex Lowes and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, however, that came out on top ready to tackle the qualifying shoot-out on Saturday. On Saturday the weather conditions looked bleak though, as a typhoon made landfall not too far away from the track and Suzuka was hit with the outskirts of the storm resulting in torrential rainfall. Conditions were too dangerous to ride. All sessions were cancelled, confirming Yamaha Factory Racing as the official Pole sitter.
During the opening ceremony of the race, a moment was taken to honour the creator and team boss of Suzuki Endurance Racing Team Dominique Méliand, this race being his last one before he retired from the sport. Méliand stood at the helm of SERT for almost forty years, collecting no less than 15 FIM EWC titles – the greatest number of titles for any team. With the EWC staff, his team as well as the managers of competing teams, he was thanked by all.
Race day was held in the sweltering heat with 70% humidity, typical weather conditions for Japanese summer but extremely demanding for the riders. Once the grid formalities were over, it was time for the riders to put on their helmets and kick off for what would prove an incredibly intense Suzuka 8H race. The Yoshimura Motul Racing team immediately took the lead setting an incredibly high pace, but the Hondas, Yamaha and Kawasaki followed closely. This resulted in a five-way battle that would go on for around three hours. The race settled in a battle between the 33 Red Bull Honda, the Kawasaki team and the Yamaha Factory Racing team. In the final stages of the race, disaster struck for the Suzuki Endurance Racing team who were forced to abandon the race, putting an end to their championship hopes. With less than five minutes to go, an oil stain on the track caused the leading Kawasaki to crash out of the race, bringing out a red flag and stopping the race right there and then.
Confusion reigned in the pit lane because it was unsure who won. Was it the Yamaha who inherited the lead or was it the Kawasaki who crashed on an oil spill? On the spot it was the Yamaha Factory Racing team who was handed the win because of the crash, since the leading Kawasaki had not classified. However, after a two-hour conversation with the stewards and a close look at the rule book, it was the Kawasaki team that was eventually declared the winner. The rule book points out that in EWC, when a red flag is brought out to finish the race, the race results are turned back to the lap prior to the red flag situation. This meant the Kawasaki was in the lead and ended Yamaha Factory Racing’s winning streak.