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Suzuka 8 Hours: Why Japan’s Most Motorcycle Important Race is Unlike Any Other

It’s not well-known here in the U.S., but the Suzuka 8-hour the most important race of the year to the Japanese manufacturers. This endurance race – which is sometimes called “the last frontier of racing freedom” – just wrapped up in Japan, with Yamaha taking the top spot yet again. Check out the Suzuka 8-hour, and what sets it apart from every other motorcycle race! 

At 8 hours in length, Suzuka is actually a SHORT endurance race! These races go so long, they go well into the night and sometimes into the next day again. There is no greater test of both man and machine in road racing.

 

Motorcycle Important Last Sunday, Japan’s most significant motorcycle race, the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race, took place at the Suzuka Circuit, a famous raceway in Japan. The Yamaha factory team pulled off an incredible feat at the race, winning it for the third consecutive year with a YZF-R1 specifically customized for endurance racing.

The Suzuka 8 Hours race is the final round of the FIM Endurance World Championship, a unique style of racing that runs a single bike for 8, 12, or even 24 hours in an ultimate test of its durability. Long periods of time on the track push many things to their limits: the equipment itself; the speed of pit crews during the many pit stops that take place; and the endurance of riders, who work as a team in relay fashion to keep their team bike going.

Endurance is clearly a different kind of animal in professional motorcycle racing, which requires race teams to approach the entire competition from a perspective completely different from those seen in the likes of MotoGP or WSBK.

 

This year’s race winning Yamaha YZF-R1, at rest before being run at the limit for 8 hours straight at Suzuka.

 

First of all, the machines themselves are designed for longevity rather than all-out performance. In the case of Yamaha’s winning R1, the endurance version had a completely different tune on it, one that was much smoother than the more brutal WSBK version. The phyrical setup of the bike is an exercise in compromises, as the bike must perform well for a team of 3 riders, instead of being set up optimally for one. And the hardware on the bike is designed for ultimate speed of maintenance, allowing pit stops to be extremely fast. Changing wheels, swapping chains, even repairing crash damage (endurance bikes can continue racing even after a crash) is designed to be as fast and fluid as possible.

This means that pit crews have to train to be fast just as much as riders do. Much as in America’s NASCAR, endurance racing pit crews rehearse to get bikes back on the track as quickly as possible, and the speed of pit crews is as much a factor in who wins a race as how fast the riders themselves are. Even tasks as simple as getting a bike onto paddock stands are timed, and rehearsed to be done with split-second efficiency. The demands of lightning-fast maintenance breed a lot of ingenuity – in fact, many of the quick-release mechanisms found in the performance motorcycle market were originally developed for endurance racing. Click Here…

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