2017 Suzuka 8 Hour Motorcycle Endurance Race Preview

An all-star cast returns for the historic event’s 40th anniversary on July 27–30.

Suzuka 8 Hour
Traditional Le Mans start at the 2016 Suzuka 8 Hours.Photo: Suzuka

The 2017 running of the Suzuka 8 hours is the 40th anniversary of the iconic race, which remains arguably the most important racing event in Japan, regularly drawing six-figure crowds and major sponsorship dollars. For the Japanese manufacturers, it is the ultimate showcase of their production-based race machines. Not only is it the final round of the FIM Endurance Word Championship (EWC), but it also features riders from MotoGP, Moto2, World SBK and domestic series, as manufacturers take advantage of all their resources to exert their authority on their home turf.

Over the years, the best riders from the Grand Prix paddock have participated—from Schwantz and Gardner to Rossi and Edwards. While the race’s prestige can’t be questioned, it is a shame that MotoGP front-runners like Marquez and Viñales are no longer called upon to fly the flag of their employers, and run head-to-head with World SBK stars like Rea and Sykes. There’s too much at stake in those series to risk injury to championship contenders, but manufacturers still bring out plenty of big names and exotic machinery.

Yamaha is looking to win three in a row and is fielding an armada of world-class racers. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team consists of World SBK teammates Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark and MotoGP test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who won last year’s event with Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaró. That team will be brought in to fight for the win, and to relieve pressure from the EWC teams currently fighting for the championship. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team of Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz, and Kohta Nozane currently reside 3rd in the EWC championship standings and the GMT94 team of David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio, are in 2nd, just a single point behind the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team.

Suzuka 8 Hour
Former World SBK champ Sylvain Guintoli joins Yoshimura Motul Racing for the 40th running of the 8 Hours. Yoshimura has won the event five times including the inaugural race of 1978.Photo: Suzuka

The Suzuki Endurance Racing Team will be joined by a bevy of top-notch Suzuki squads, including Yoshimura Motul Racing, fielding former World SBK champ Sylvain Guintoli, BSB and TT racer Josh Brookes, and Suzuki test rider Takuya Tsuda. Yoshimura won the inaugural running of the 8 hours forty years ago, so the team has some extra motivation to fight for what would be an historic win. Journeyman racer Yukio Kagayama will run his own team, alongside Moto2 racers Naomichi Uramoto and Hafizh Syahrin. Former GP regular Nobuatsu Aoki will also be racing the 2017 GSX-R.

Suzuka 8 Hour
Ryuichi Kiyonari, Yuki Takahashi, and Dan Linfoot will race for legendary Honda performance firm Moriwaki.Photo: Suzuka

Honda’s new CBR1000RR has failed to live up to expectations in World SBK and at the Isle of Man TT, so there will undoubtedly be a lot of pressure for it to come good at Honda’s own circuit. Jack Miller will take time away from his mid-season MotoGP break to team with rising Moto2 star Takaaki Nakagami and HRC test rider and former GP racer Takumi Takahashi. Current World SBK racer Stefan Bradl will partner with Moto2 racer Dominique Aegerter and former MotoGP regular Randy de Puniet. Ryuichi Kiyonari, who’s seeking his fifth Suzuka victory, is joining famed Honda specialists Moriwaki, following the team’s nine-year absence from Suzuka.

Kawasaki’s biggest stars, of course, will not be present, but BSB rider Leon Haslam will anchor Team Green, alongside Kazuma Watanabe and former Moto2 racer Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman.

Factory testing has already begun at Suzuka in preparation for what will no doubt be another memorable 8 hours of motorcycle racing. Stay tuned.