In Japan, the 42nd running of the Suzuka 8 Hours produced one of the most dramatic and intense battles ever which went right down to the wire. Nearly one third of the grid were campaigning the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, but all eyes were on the officially-supported teams of, amongst others, Red Bull Honda, reigning World Champions F.C.C. TSR Honda France, MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO and KYB Moriwaki Racing and Honda Endurance Racing.
There was forecast to be showers today, after yesterday’s typhoon cancelled the Top 10 qualifying shootout, but the race got underway in typically hot and humid Suzuka weather – 30 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity.
With a blistering opening lap, F.C.C. TSR Honda France took the lead for the first time across the line from 6th on the grid, with Red Bull Honda close behind. And so an incredible battle raged between the top five, who were split by less than a second after the first hour of racing.
As the race unfolded, and F.C.C. TSR Honda France held fourth, the top three battle intensified as. After five hours, 140 laps and nearly 1000km of racing, the top trio were split by just 1.5seconds as the pace was unrelenting.
At the seven hour mark, Red Bull Honda’s Takumi Takahashi rode brilliantly to overhauling a near-10sec deficit and take the lead of the famous race.
This duel continued through the last round of pitstops, and just in case there wasn’t sufficient drama the rain that had been forecast finally arrived in the final 30minutes and the teams waited nervously to see whether a final stop for wet tyres was required. Takahashi, who was at the end of a gruelling double-stint, dug deep in a remarkable display of grit and determination to finish third.
But the double-twist was still to come, as the leading #10 machine crashed on the final lap on a patch of oil, just as the rain worsened, causing a red flag. After an initial provisional result put Red Bull Honda second and F.C.C. TSR Honda France third, an investigation into the incident resulted in a reinstatement by the FIM of #10, leaving Red Bull Honda in their on-track position of third.
Fourth overall for F.C.C. TSR Honda France secures them second in the FIM Endurance World Championship, and the middle step of the Championship podium at this season finale event.