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  • For the SAC Riders: Kagayama takes podium at Suzuka

    June, 2017. The third round of the 2017 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship was held at Suzuka Circuit in Mie, Japan. Yukio Kagayma found himself racing the Supersports 600 category (SS600), the pinnacle category of the Championship.

    Kagayama started the SUZUKI ASIAN CHALLENGE (SAC) in 2015, SUZUKI’s rider development program for young Asian riders. At the same time, he entered a team in the Supersports 600, a team where the SAC riders can step-up in the future. However, due to several reasons, the 600 squad came to a halt this season. SAC this season has 16 riders from 9 countries, all learning and challenging their skills, in the dream of one day stepping up to World Championships. The single-platform SUZUKI Satria F150 has been changed to new sports bike, the SUZUKI GSX-R150 from this season. But Kagayama was feeling a sense of guilt, not being able to show the SAC riders how a top team operates up close. From the beginning of the season, Kagayama was thinking a way to show this, so that the riders can continue to dream and imagine how it would be when one day they become a top rider. “To race by himself” was the answer.

    Kagayama called the mechanics from Indonesia and Singapore that he worked with in ARRC last year, and preparation only started on Wednesday of the race week. The mechanics worked in full throttle, made no mistakes, and made it possible for Kagayama to run from Practice 1 on Friday morning.

    Practice 1 was the first time ever for Kagayama to ride a SUZUKI GSX-R600. However, he felt comfortable from the first lap out, and continued the session to understand the GSX-R600 better. He was 11th fastest in Practice with a lap of 2’14.791, 6th fastest in Practice 2 with a lap of 2’14.156, and 15th fastest in Practice 3 with a lap of 2’14.250. It was not a laptime that was satisfying, but Kagayama learned more and more, lap after lap.

    Come qualifying on day 2, Kagayama lapped his personal best at 2’13.436 to secure the 10th grid for the race. Race 1 took place in the afternoon of day 2, and Kagayama dropped a few spots at start, not typical of him. He gained position slowly, and finished 8th. Although he did want a better finish, that was the best he can do. “I now fully understand what the GXR-R600 can do”, said Kagayama after Race 1. “I know what I need to do for Race 2 tomorrow.”

    Kagayama’s weekend was not only racing in SS600. He spent his weekend, also as General Manager of SAC, where he watched all of the SAC sessions, and gave advices to the riders. In SAC’s Practice 1, Kagayama ran together with the SAC riders, testing the new RCB rear suspension system. In addition to that, Suzuka being a local race, Kagayama took care of the sponsors and guests that visited, and attended meetings with the staff. He had literally no time to rest.

    On the first SAC briefing held on Friday morning, Kagayama told the riders about his 600 ride, “You are a part of this too. We are all doing this together.” The riders at first, probably did not understand what Kagayama meant by that. But as they witnessed the 600 squad, Kagayama’s riding, and how he coached them even when it was immediately after his session, they began to understand what he meant by “You are a part of this too. We are all doing this together.”

    Kagayama’s aim became a reality by Race 2 on Sunday. While the riders just watched Kagayama on the monitors in Race 1, the riders gathered around Kagayama’s pit to send him off to the starting grid when Race 2 came. They all, including their mechanics, went to Kagayama’s starting grid to cheer for their leader, proving that they understood Kagayama’s message. “I was really happy to see them all at the grid”, said Kagayama. “At that moment, I knew I had to give it all I can.”

    Kagayama moved up one position to P9 on the opening lap in Race 2. He moved up the position slowly, and on lap 6, he recorded the fastest lap of the race at 2’12.737. Maintaining speed, he pulled out from the 2nd group, an positioned himself in P8. He started to catch up with the top group quickly, and in lap 9, passed two riders for P5.

    The SAC riders, Kagayama’s crew, and everyone in the pitbox watching was starting to show excitement by this time. Everyone was cheering “Kagayama!! Kagayama!!” everytime he passed a rider in front of him. When Kagayama moved up to the 3rd, the pitbox was as loud as a beginning a rock concert.

    The race was now in the final lap. Kagayama dropped to 4th at one moment at the final chicane, but took the 3rd position back at the exit of the chicane, went on to finish 3rd and took the podium for the SAC riders. Kagayama could not see the cheering of the riders, but this was the moment when they all understood what Kagayama meant by “You are a part of this too. We are all doing this together.”

    Yukio Kagayama | Team KAGAYAMA #71
    “I decided to race in the SS600 last minute, so that I can “race with the SAC riders”. The GSX-R600 we used last year, came back at this timing, and the mechanics worked for 2 days to bring it back to life.

    I have long history in racing, but never have ridden a 600 machine before. I was worried if I could ride well but the help and cheering I got from the SAC riders encouraged me, and I was able to ride in my fullest.

    I believe that by being on the podium, it taught the riders the spirt of not giving up, how the race week should be spent, and how to improve after each session. It should be an experiencethat would benefit them in the future. I also thank everyone that made this possible.”