BRIDGESTONE Taking on the World
13 consecutive wins for Bridgestone-equipped teams Yamaha Factory Racing Team 4 consecutive wins
What is needed to win at the 8 Hours?
This year's race asked that question once again.
Champions embodying the term "rock-solid"
Only July 29, Typhoon Jongdari took a rare path across Japan moving from East to West, hitting Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, Japan during the late night to early morning with strong winds and heavy rain.
When the race got started on time at 11:30 a.m., the track was fully wet. But as the typhoon moved away, the blazing summer sun shined on the track and began to dry the asphalt.
Then, just as it looked to be drying out, the rain came again. Soon after that the safety cars came out - the first of many times - in a stroke condensing the field as the riders were forced to queue in a long line.
Though one never knows what is going to happen at the 8 Hours, this year's race was even more eventful and challenging than usual.
The team that quickly set themselves apart from the chaos was the Yamaha Factory Racing Team. This team has been on the top step of the podium in every 8 Hours since they re-formed in 2015. They continued that trend this year, taking their fourth consecutive victory.
For them to be crowned victor again seemed at first like a simple, expected result, but for Yamaha this year's win was anything but simple.
The team's star rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga injured his shoulder in a crash soon after the start of free practice on July 28, and was forced to sit out all the remaining sessions, including the race.
The rider lineup of Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, along with the machine package of a YZF-R1 with Bridgestone tires, were all unchanged from last year, when the team won their third consecutive victory.
As the centerpiece of this combination, Nakasuga not being able to ride in the race must have set off some alarm bells.
But this had the opposite effect on Lowes and van der Mark, instead firing them up even more. As they prepared to do battle, their reaction was, "We'll handle it!" Even still, they were able to keep the cool heads essential for success in endurance race.
Calm, composed analysis of the situation; a steady, stable pace; pit work with no mistakes; and putting together an adaptive strategy to stay on top of any unforeseen situation were what carried them to victory. It was a true group effort.