2017-2018 FIM Endurance World Championship Final Round The 41st “Coca-cola” Suzuka 8Hours Endurance Race Team Report
<< The race to the chequered flag together with Kevin Schwantz >>
2017-2018 FIM Endurance World Championship Final Round The 41st “Coca-Cola” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race
［Official Practice］Thursday, July 26th Weather: Sunny/Track: Dry
［Free Practice/Timed Practice］Friday, July 27th Weather: Sunny/Track: Dry
［Free Practice/Top 10 Trial］Saturday, July 28th Weather: Cloudy/Track: Dry
［Race］Sunday, July 29th Weather: Rain-Sunny/Track: Dry-Wet
Spectators 111,000 (4day total)
Venue Suzuka Circuit, Mie, Japan (1lap=5.821km）
Riders Yukio Kagayama, Joe Roberts, Naomichi Uramoto
Machine SUZUKI GSX-R1000
［Official Practice］ 14th（Yukio Kagayama 2’10.166）
［Timed Practice］ 13th（2’09.237）
Team KAGAYAMA’s challenge of the Suzuka 8Hours race started in 2013 with Keven Schwantz. In 2018, the team once again joined hands with Schwantz, but this time as team manager. 2018’s team concept was “U.S.A.”, so it was only natural to invite Schwantz to the team, and to invite American Moto2™️ rider, Joe Roberts to join Yukio Kagayama and Naomichi Uramoto as riders.
Although Roberts and Uramoto could not participate in the test full time due to their race commitments, Kagayama along with Dunlop tested intensively to prepare for the race weekend.
Typhoon Jongdari formed in the Southern seas of Japan as race week started and was forecasted that Jongdari would hit Japan on race day. Roberts and Uramoto did most of the running on Day 1, as they needed to fill in the laps they did not make during the Official Test in dry condition. They made laps to mature the race set-up on their SUZUKI GSX-R1000. The riders ran the Timed Practice sessions on Friday with race tires. The temperature rose above what the team has expected, and the three riders experienced difficulties in making a good lap. Both Kagayama and Uramoto ended up lapping in the 2’09s, while Roberts marked the team’s best at 2’08.843. The average of the best laps of the 3 riders will decide the qualification time, and the team’s 2’09.237 was not enough to make the Top 10 Trial. This was the first time the team did not make the cut and qualified 13th fastest. However, the rider’s average in race set-up was not apart, and the team analyzed that the race average would not be apart from the rival teams.
Typhoon Jongdari passed through Suzuka during the night, and by the morning of Race Day, Jongdari has left the area. However, the typhoon still had effect on the area, with strong winds, and bits of rain. Rain started to fall again right before green flag. Kagayama, who was well known to be fast in these bad conditions, started the race. A small delay in firing the engine, slowed Kagayama a bit, but by the end of the opening lap, he already moved up to 8th position, and by lap 4, he was up to 5th. Rain has stopped by the end of his first stint, and the track was dry. He came into the pit box in 5th position, and Roberts took over and headed out to the track.
Although Roberts was making steady laps, in spite of this being his first race at Suzuka, but a small mistake resulted in a faller at the MC Chicane. The damage to the bike was minimum and was able to restart, but had to pull into the pit box to make repairs. Uramoto goes back out on the track after the repairs have been made, but by this time, the position had dropped to 35th.
From this point, all three riders and the mechanics, worked without any mistakes. They moved up their position one by one. Due to the changing weather conditions, the race saw couple of Safety Car deployments, but Kagayama made laps equivalent to the race leaders. The team now has changed their target to make Top 10, but just missed it by finishing 11th in the race.
“The concept of our sixth challenge of the Suzuka 8Hours was “U.S.A.” and we made entry to the race as “Team KAGAYAMA U.S.A.”. We invited everyone’s hero including mine, Kevin Schwantz as Team Manager and invited American Moto2 rider, Joe Roberts to race with myself and Uramoto, who have been racing in Spain this year. All throughout the test and race weekend, we concentrated on a set-up geared for the actual race. Joe’s crash was due to his inexperience at Suzuka, so it was unfortunate, but it comes with the territory. The team changed its target to finish in the top 10, but couldn’t make it, and finished 11th. But again, this was racing is all about. We were able to fight throughout the eight hours again this year, from the overwhelming support we received from everyone. I thank you sincerely for this.”
“This was my first time at the Suzuka 8Hours, but it was an unbelievably great race. The team was nothing but a professional one, and did a perfect job throughout the race. I made a small mistake by running the same line as the rider in front of me and fell, which I apologize to the team. The experience at Suzuka together with boss Yukio and Kevin will be a valuable one in my racing career. I would like to come back again next year, if I have the opportunity to do so.”
“I am proud to be a member of the team again this year to run in Suzuka. I would have wanted to contribute to the team more, but my running did not match that feeling I had. My lack of testing in dry condition did not help me get the rhythm I needed, and that did not work well for me. But there was something I learned from the race, and I am planning to adopt that to the rest of my season in Spain, and towards the next season.”
Kevin Schwantz, Team Manager
I am very happy to be able to return to Suzuka. I believe that Joe’s crash was due to his lack of experience at Suzuka. All three riders gave 100% on track, and the team staff made no mistakes at all, so I thank all of them for that. This was my first time to participate in the Suzuka 8Hours as team manager, but it was so much easier when I participated as a rider in 2013. There were moments where I had to make decisions right away, and found out how hard the job of a team manager is. This was a valuable experience for me, and I thank Yukio for giving me this opportunity.”