Yamaha Factory team completed 204 laps and came out on top at the end of the 8 hours endurance race at Suzuka, Japan. This is Yamaha’s first win at the legendary Japanese endurance race since 1996 when Noriyuki Haga and Colin Edwards last won Suzuka8Hours. Bradley Smith ended the race and brought the all new YZF R1 home and to the top step of the podium as the team’s reactions on the podium demonstrated exactly how important the race and victory was.
Prior to this, the Yamaha Factory team had earlier achieved a feat courtesy of Pol Espargaro claiming pole position with a 2’06.000 and setting the new lap record time around the iconic Japanese track as both he and teammate Katsuyuki Nakasuga set times faster than all other riders in the qualifying shootout. At the start of the 2015 Suzuka 8Hours race, the Yamaha Factory Team struggled to get the R1 started despite all the major teams starting well. Many of the big names battled for the early lead with Alex Lowes on the Yoshimura Suzuki leading as riders begun to end their first stints.
Casey Stoner made his much anticipated return to motorcycle racing, quickly making up positions after Takumi Takahashi brought the #634 MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda into the pits. Stoner’s return was short lived as the double MotoGP™ champion fell at the Hairpin Corner after his throttle stuck open, resulting in a massive bike-destroying crash that brought out the safety car. Stoner had completed five laps of his stint and was stretchered off, sustaining a broken right shoulder blade and left tibia.
As the safety car returned to the pits Bradley Smith and Australian Josh Hook, on the F.C.C TSR Honda, began a heated battle for the lead. Smith proved himself a quick learner as he adapted to the unique challenges of an endurance race such as the safety car and passing multiple backmarkers, some up to ten seconds a lap slower.
From here the race settled for the remaining six hours with the Factory Yamaha squad battling with F.C.C TSR Honda for the overall lead, although Yoshimura Suzuki remained within stiking distance. Espargaro would lead unchallenged as he set a stream of 2’09s during his first stint and built the lead for his team before a third safety car that saw Espargaro’s lead reduced from over 20 seconds to just two.
Smith was awarded a 30 second stop and go penalty for a teammate overtaking under yellow flags mid-race, demoting the team to second and promoting F.C.C TSR and Dominique Aegerter to first. This lead did not last as Smith quickly caught his former Moto2™ competitor and passed him. The two teams swapped positions occasionally around pit stops but Yamaha came out on top at the end, clearly having the fastest pace throughout the race.
Dominique Aegerter and his F.C.C TSR Honda squad finished in second with Team Kagayama securing their third podium in a row at the Suzuka 8 Hour. This is also Bridgestone’s tenth consecutive win, their prototype tyres the rubber of choice for the legendary race. The YART squad, featuring former MotoGP™ rider Broc Parkes, were one of the first retirements due to mechanical problems. Toni Elias managed 14th overall with the TOMO Racing with Moriwaki squad while Azlan Shah claimed 18th spot.