The 40th Suzuka 8 Hours Motorcycle Race

2017 sees Yamaha crowned as winners for the third consecutive year.

For years the Yoshimura Suzuki team were a family run effort with minimal support from the factory. That's changed in recent years and with Suzuki's MotoGP test rider, Takuya Tsuda, on the bike it was clear what the goal was for this weekend; to win the Suzuka 8 Hours.Photo: Steve English

The 40th Suzuka 8 Hours was historic in many ways. Apart from it being a milestone event it also saw Yamaha crowned as winners for a third consecutive year. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team had an incident free race and there was a sense of inevitability to their success for much of the race. Having broken the circuit record in the Top Ten Shootout they also smashed the lap record during the race. It was a victory that owed as much to consistency as their blistering speed. The HARC Honda team was their main competition for the race but an early crash for Takkaki Nakagami and a puncture later in the race ruled the 634 machine out of contention.

Unable to get back to podium contention the HARC team were able to find company with the Yoshimura Suzuki squad. The crack outfit set the second fastest time in The Shootout but their race was effectively over in less time than a qualifying lap. A crash on the opening lap saw them forced to pit for repairs and as a result they played catch up for the remainder of the race. It was a disappointing outing for the new GSXR-1000 but their speed will give them hope for the future.

For Yamaha the future is now. They are the team to beat at the biggest race of the year for any Japanese manufacturer. With their trio of rirders-Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark-all having said in the immediate aftermath that they would love to defend their crown in 2018. Sometimes meeting expectations can be difficult when you are expected to win. Lap records and flawless execution will however quieten even the harshest of critics. Crucially it also wins support from the upper echelons of the Japanese manufacturer's boardroom.

When the sun goes down the tension really mounts at Suzuka. Michael van der Mark, pictured during night practice, lights his way around the fast Suzuka circuitPhoto: Steve English
Michael van der Mark, a two time Suzuka 8 Hours winner, was making his debut for the Yamaha Factory Racing team this year.Photo: Steve English
Attention to detail is the key in racing and the Yoshimura Suzuki team certainly spent their time ensuring the best solutions were found on their bike. This wing shaped crash protector set tongues wagging initially with thoughts of winglets.Photo: Steve English
It's easy to underestimate the team work needed to win any motorcycle race but it comes to the fore at Suzuka. The Number 21 Yamaha team became a tight bunch over the course of the weekend.Photo: Steve English
As is often the case in Japan there is always something a little bit different around the corner...Photo: Steve English
Jack Miller sat out the Superpole session and was second on the Number 634 Honda in what would prove to be a very difficult day for the team.Photo: Steve English
The Number 21 Yamaha has proved a noble steed in recent years. Under threatening skies it awaits the start.Photo: Steve English
Baloons are released from the main grandstand and amidst the excitement it's easy to be swept along; unless you're Katsuyuki Nakasuga.Photo: Steve English
Sitting on pole position Katsuyuki Nakasuga gets himself in the right mindset for the start of the running start of the 8 Hours.Photo: Steve English
The 8 Hours endurance race starts with a sprint!Photo: Steve English
Arguably the three most advanced Superbikes on the planet; the "Suzuka Specials" of Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki.Photo: Steve English
Everyone is always thought you'll go where you're looking. Michael van der Mark was eying the top step of the podium all weekend.Photo: Steve English
Just like Tron, Yamaha are very persistent in reaching their goals.Photo: Steve English