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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.
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Bridgestone lent their support to Yamaha's fourth consecutive win from the ground level. Company man Hiroshi Yamada looked back on the race. "With Nakasuga's injury I'm sure there was some nervousness in the team. In motorcycle racing, even small changes in the overall feeling can lead to mistakes.

"But the Yamaha Factory team had mental strength on their side. They did a great job of using all their accumulated knowledge in the race."

The same could be said of Bridgestone, who achieved their 13th consecutive victory this year. Since 2006, Bridgestone has been the "winner's tire" at the 8 Hours, and has continued to build on their store of technology and results from the past to form an unshaking level of confidence in their craft.




The champion's rivals grow stronger. A re-match is set for next year.
Even before the start of the 41st Suzuka 8 Hours this year, a peculiar excitement was growing. Put into words, that feeling was: "Defeat Yamaha."

"They've won three in a row from 2015 to 2017. We have to stop them from getting number four!" With this in mind, rival teams began to show their cards.

The first was Honda. In recent years, they had partnered with a privateer team for the 8 Hours, but this year they brought back the full factory squad after a 10-year absence to form the "Red Bull Honda with Japan Post" team.
This is the manufacturer that had created a Golden Age by amassing 10 consecutive 8 Hours wins. Signing up a major sponsor was a sign of a strong will to win this year, and showed that Honda had no desire to continue to stay in Yamaha's shadow.
Another team that attracted attention was Kawasaki's "Team Green." Last year they came a very close 2nd to Yamaha, and this year they decided to bring in star World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea, who last season became the first ever rider in the class to win three championships in a row.

Rea also had experience at the 8 Hours as he was a part of the winning team in 2012. Having a rider like him, who has both dominated sprint racing and won in endurance racing, was supposed to be a major barrier to Yamaha winning again.
Until the race started, it looked like Suzuka 8 Hours victory was Rea's for the taking. In the practice session on Friday he set an unbelievable lap time of 2'05.166.
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That was the fastest ever lap set at the 8 Hours, and although Rea worked hard to get it, he did not appear to be riding aggressively. As he set his blistering time, his riding was smooth and calm.

Bridgestone's Yamada shared his thoughts on Rea's lap time. "The tires he had on the bike were not special qualifying tires. They were race-spec tires. So to get into the 2'05s, and not only that, the low 2'05s is incredible. I was surprised at his amazing machine control, and at the same time happy as the team's tire supplier."。

Team Green led the race in the early laps and it looked as if Kawasaki's first win since 1993 was going to happen. Small mistakes made over the course of the race resulted in the team finishing one place lower than last year, 3rd. It was yet another example illustrating that speed is not the only factor in winning the 8 Hours.

Meanwhile Honda's rider lineup was thrown into disarray when Leon Camier crashed and injured himself in the pre-event test, ruling him out of participating. Testing duties were then left to his teammate Takumi Takahashi.

In the end the team was All-Japan JSB1000 contender Takahashi, MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami, and last-minute replacement PJ Jacobsen. Their strong riding showed no signs of a lack of preparation. In fact, the team's precise pit work led to pit stops on average 4 seconds faster than Yamaha's.
Honda's 2nd place finish came only 30 seconds behind winners Yamaha. They put on a strong performance that brought them very close to their strongest rival, highlighting the potential of the revived factory squad.

Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki. Every team on the podium had used Bridgestone tires - the seventh Bridgestone podium monopoly in 8 Hours history.
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Bridgestone's Yamada looked back on the company's success. "From the outside it looks like we just keep on winning, but behind the scenes there are plenty of bad times to go along with the good. That's racing.
When there have been problems, we've faced them head on and dealt with them. That's how we've gained the trust of the top teams."

Once again, the iconic red Bridgestone winners' caps could be seen on all three steps of the podium, worn by riders from three different Japanese manufacturers. After all, in this competition between high-spec machines, success in the high-paced Suzuka 8 Hours is built on trusted relationships.
Source:RIDERS CLUB October 2018

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