Suzuka 8 Hours
Suzuka 8 Hours But while the emphasis in endurance racing is on the performance of the machine itself, riders are certainly a major part of the equation – they just play a different role. Because so much riding is involved – 220 laps and 1,300 km over the course of 8 hours – it is split between three riders, who swap places during pit stops. Hour after hour of full-throttle racing is extremely draining for riders, and it is a monumental task to stay alert and competitive for the duration of such a long race. Many riders say it is the most challenging race of the entire year.
Riders at Suzuka aren’t typically accustomed to the long days on track because they aren’t necessarily “endurance riders.” Instead, factories usually get their star racers from WSBK or MotoGP to be on their teams at Suzuka. The unique result is that Suzuka is the only race in the world where stars from multiple high-profile series share the track in the same race – WSBK and MotoGP champions bump elbows routinely at Suzuka, which fans of both series’ love. Suzuka places the riders very much out of their element – which some enjoy, and others don’t – but it also assures that the factories have the very best talent in the world competing in the race (which, for the Japanese OEMs, is the most important race of the year.)
The Suzuka 8 Hours is so important to the Japanese manufacturers for several reasons. First, it takes place on their home turf. Suzuka, in central Japan, is known for its history in motorsports, and as the final round of the FIM Endurance Championship, it is a high-profile race that takes place in the OEM’s own backyard. But it’s also important to them because it is a true test of their equipment, not only in all-out performance, but in reliability, which is important to the Japanese. A win at Suzuka means not only that a bike, its riders, and pit crews performed well, but also, that the engineering of the bike itself was championship-level material that could go the distance.
In addition, it allows manufacturers to be creative. Endurance racing lacks many of the controls – like kit ECUs or standardized tires – that exist in other more well-known forms of racing, so manufacturers have much more freedom in how to prepare for it. They are always looking for ways to optimize performance and speed of maintenance, which involves creative solutions from tweaks in software to new quick-release latches in hardware.
Even tire choices are at the discretion of the manufacturer, so Suzuka is as much an event for tire makers as it is for the OEMs. This year’s winner wore Bridgestones, a milestone achievement for the company because it is not only based in Japan, but, – lacking a contract as a control tire in major series like WSBK or MotoGP – it is a David-vs-Goliath like struggle against Dunlop and Pirelli.
Overall, endurance racing is not well-known among Americans, but the series – especially the final round at Suzuka – is a major event for Japanese manufacturers. It is not only a source of major bragging rights among the Big Four (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki), but the creative engineering solutions and refinements achieved at Suzuka are a major source of innovation for production models that come from Japan.
It is very much a long ordeal, and perhaps not as exciting as a spectator sport as WSBK or MotoGP is – but if you’re into sport bikes, check endurance racing out! You’re sure to be amazed by this unique and different style of racing, and the unique parts and bike setups it is responsible for creating. Click Here…