Jonathan Rea became the first British rider ever to win the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race with the F.C.C. TSR Honda team this weekend. Rea, alongside Kousuke Akiyoshi and Tadayuki Okada, finished four laps ahead of the TOHO Racing with Moriwaki squad to give the home-based manufacturer their 25th win at the event.
There was disappointment for reigning British Superbike Champion Tommy Hill who didn't even get a chance to race in the 8-Hour. Hill was competing with his BSB teammate Noriyuki Haga and Katsuyuki Nakasuga for Monster Energy Yamaha and between them had secured pole position, but Nakasuga crashed out with barely half an hour gone.
F.C.C. TSR Honda's lead was coming under threat in the closing stages but SERT's Vincent Philippe crashed out of second, losing eleven laps. MuSASHi RT Harc-Pro were also in contention in with two hours to go but Ryuichi Kiyonari also tumbled, giving Rea a clear run to the chequered flag. The Ulsterman was elated to have won such gruelling race and paid tribute to his experienced teammates.
“I'm so happy to get a win in such a huge race as the Suzuka 8-hours. I really appreciate the efforts of Kousuke Akiyoshi, Tady Okada, Honda and all the F.C.C. TSR team staff. Kousuke was riding very, very fast, and Tady gave me a lot of really useful advice. I want to thank them both so much.”
Yamaha France GMT94 claimed the final place on the podium with Moto Map Supply in fourth ahead of Honda Racing Suzuka and Honda Dream RT Sakurai. British outfit Honda TT Legends took advantage of SERT's problems to narrow their championship lead to five points with tenth place, five places ahead of their title rivals, and team manager Russell Benney felt their cautious approach paid off.
“We've held on to second place in the world championship, and not only that, we have closed the gap on our closest rival SERT, who suffered some problems in the race. We had another smooth run and the softly, softly approach has paid off. We take a strong second position in the championship to the next round at Oschersleben, where we hope to compete at full gas for the best result possible.”