Despite mechanic troubles, Team KAGAYAMA finishes 17th at Suzuka
2016-2017 Endurance World Championship(EWC)Final Round
The 40th “Coca-cola” Suzuka 8hours Endurance Race
［Free Practice］July 27, 2017 (Thu) Weather: Cloudy/Track: Dry
［Timed Practice］July 28, 2017 (Fri) Weather: Sunny/Track: Dry
［TOP 10 Trial］ July 29, 2017 (Sat) Weather: Sunny/Track: Dry
［Race］July 30, 2017 (Sun) Weather: Sunny/Track: Dry
Spectator 128,000 (4-day total)
Venue Suzuka Circuit(5.821km), Mie, Japan
Riders Yukio Kagayama | Hafizh Syahrin | Naomichi Uramoto
Machine SUZUKI GSX-R1000 L7
［Free Practice］ 9th (Hafizh Syahrin 2’09.571)
［Timed Practice］ 8th (Hafizh Syahrin 2’08.553)
［TOP 10 TRIAL］ 9th (Hafizh Syahrin 2’08.616)
This is Team KAGAYAMA’s 5th time to challenge the Suzuka 8hours race.
In addition to team owner and ace rider, Yukio Kagayama, and, team’s regular rider, Naomichi Uramoto, the team invited the “Fastest Southeast Asian Rider”, Hafizh Syahrin of Malaysia to join the team this year. The team was well prepared for race week to be on the podium again.
Although the team had two official tests in early July, Hafizh was not able to attend the first test. In turn, Uramoto was not available for the second test, due to his race schedule in Spain. This meant that the first day of the race week was when all three riders gathered for the first time. The team started to setup the machine for the race, while having Hafizh getting used to the GSX-R1000 and the Suzuka track was a urgent matter. Although this was his first time with the team, the machine, and the track, Hafizh surprised the team and motivated the team by scoring the team’s best lap.
The first practice session began on Thursday. Starting from this year, the average lap time for all three (or two) riders will be qualifying time, rather than the best lap time of the riders. There was also a limit of tires each team were allowed to use, and the allocation of these tires were a factor in a successful qualifying.
Each rider had two 20-minute sessions for the qualification. Track temperature rose on this day, so the riders had to to pursue their best lap, but also had to decide how to allocate their tires.
In the 1st Timed Practice session, Kagayama (Rider Blue) lapped a 2’08.901, while Hafizh (Rider Yellow) marked a 2’09.605. Uramoto (Rider Red) recorded a lap of 2’09.349. In the second session, Hafizh lapped a 2’08.023, which became the best lap of the team, while Uramoto also made the 2’08s, with a lap of 2’08.737. By this, the team average was 2’08.553, placing them in 7th, and advancing to the Top 10 Trial the next day.
TOP 10 TRIAL
Two riders from each Top 10 teams ran the TOP 10 TRIAL. While many teams chose the two faster riders at the timed practice, Team KAGAYAMA chose Kagayama and Hafizh to challenge for a higher grid position.
Both Hafizh and Kagayama was to setup the GSX-R1000 for the TOP 10 TRIAL during the free practice session that took place right before the TOP 10 TRIAL. However, Uramoto had a faller at Spoon Curve. Although he was unhurt, and was able to bring back the machine to the pit, a big portion of the session was used to fix the machine. And by this, Hafizh had only 15 minutes, while Kagayama did not have a chance to run in this session.
It was the first time for Kagayama to use the qualification tires. He used the warm-up lap to feel his new tires, and went into the timed lap. Kagayama cleared sector 1 and 2 aggressively, but almost went out of the track at the end of the Spoon Curve. This made him lose some time, and ended with a 2’08.968. Hafizh ended his attempt in 2’08.616, and his time was used to secure the No.9 grid for the race.
It seemed like the rain could come any minute, as clouds overcasted the circuit on race day. It started to sprinkle during the final warm-up, and the track was wet by the end of the session. The rain stopped by the time the race came, but the temperature was not high, which was not typical of Suzuka 8hours weather.
The race started in gloomy skies. Hafizh started the race for the team. Although this was his first time to start in a Le Man format, he started relatively well, and jumped up the postion on his first lap, and came back 5th. Hafizh fought for the 5th position all throughout the stint. Rain fell in the West Course of the track, but was dry in the East Course, making it a difficult conditon on slick tires.
On lap 24, Hafizh pits and passes the baton to Kagayama. Kagayama gained a position at one point, but returns to the pit on Lap 52 and once again, Hafizh gets back on the track.
The team forecasted that the beginning of the race would be crucial for the race, and therefore had Hafizh do his first two stints early in the race. He kept P5 and 6. Uramoto took over the next stint, keeping the same position for the team. In Hafizh’s third stint, mechanical trouble hits the team. The headlight turned off, and by regulation, the team had to fix the headlight before sending Kagayama out. By the time Kagayama went out, he was only able to go out at P18. As Kagayama closed in on the riders above him, the headlight goes out again in the next pit, and Uramoto takes it out at P19. Uramoto and Hafizh continued to run, but was only able to finish the race at 17th position.
Although the team aimed to be back on the podium, and aimed for the first win at Suzuka 8hours, it became a bitter experience for the team. However, this experience has given the team a better understanding of the new GSX-R1000, and will continue on with the remaining season of the All Japan Road Race Championship. Team KAGAYAMA’s challenge will continue on.
Everyone at Team KAGAYAMA thanks the many sponsors that have supported the team to make this happen, and at the same time would like to thank all of the fans that have come to support the team at Suzuka, as well as the fans who could not come, but sent their support to the team.
“Team Kagayama’s 5th challenge of the Suzuka 8hours has ended. Although we cannot be satisfied with the 17th position, this is racing. I apologize that I could not meet our supporters expectations. All 3 riders, mechanics, and staffs did our best, but this was the result we achieved this year. We missed the podium for two consecutive years now, but this year’s experience will benefit us next year. We now have a better understanding of the new GSX-R1000, so now that Suzuka is over, I will shift my concentration the next race at Motegi. I would like to thank all of the sponsors and fans, and everyone that made this possible. We will be back next year, and hope for your continuous support then.”
“This was my firs Suzuka 8hours, my first 1000cc machine, and my first with Team KAGAYAMA, but I learned a lot from this experience. Suzuka is a difficult track, but I was able to improve each time I was on the track, and I gave it my 100%. The Suzuka 8hours is a wonderful event, and would like more Asians to know about this race. Although we were not able to achieve the best result, I truly thank the boss, Kagayama-san for giving me this opportunity, and thank my team for the great job they did.”
“I was on a good roll until the timed practice, but I fell during Saturday’s free practice, and made a setback for the team. I couldn’t pace faster during the race, and had issues with my physical strength. Seeing Hafizh go fast was a good motivation for me, and made me find out what is still missing. The setup of the machine has progressed, so I hope to make use of this experience in the remainder of the Japanese Championship season.”
Masahiko Saitoh, General Team Manager
“We were doing relatively well until midway of the race, but we lost time due to the trouble we don’t the reason to it yet. We raced in the fully model changed GSX-R1000 and the lap times have improved significantly from the first half of the All-Japan season, but I doubt that we would have made the podium even without the trouble. We had Hafizh join this year, and he showed us what a Moto2™ rider is capable of, so I am sorry for the trouble we encountered. We had more people help us out this year and was able to finish the race. I thank everyone for this.”