Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark, together with Japanese team-mate Takumi Takahashi won the Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan with the MuSashi Harc-Pro Honda team's CBR1000RR Fireblade for the second year in succession.
It was a dramatic and incident-packed race after the start was delayed by one hour because of a heavy rain storm. Further rain fell during the race and a number of crashes brought out the pace car no fewer than four times.
One of those crashes befell race leader Kosuke Akiyoshi of the FCC TSR squad, winner of the 2012 race with Jonathan Rea who was his team-mate once again for this year’s event. Remarkably, Akiyoshi managed to return his CBR1000RR Fireblade to the pits, despite fracturing his femur in the crash.
It is the second year in succession that Rea has seen a team-mate crash out of a healthy lead but the FCC TSR team managed to repair the machine and draft in the fourth Pata Honda rider Lorenzo Zanetti who was reserve rider for the team. With Rea doing the final stint in the gruelling race, the pair managed to lift the team back to 40th place at the flag.
It was World Supersport championship leader van der Mark who put the decisive move on Suzuki’s Randy de Puniet to take second place at around half race distance. When Akiyoshi crashed out, the Dutchman took over the lead which eventually built to more than a minute by the time his team-mate Takahashi took the chequered flag after just under seven hours of racing.
And it was van der Mark and Haslam who, as Pata Honda team-mates, were left to celebrate their second successive win with Takahashi, for whom it was a third Suzuka 8 Hours victory. It was the fifth consecutive success for Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade and Honda’s 27th Suzuka triumph.
Usually I enjoy my riding but for this time I felt pressure not to crash or not to make any mistakes. The team did a fantastic job and the pit-stops were very neat and quick. Michael was super-fast and Takumi was Mr. Consistent in his stints! I was really nervous watching him at the end, but he made it for our second win in a row.
Michael van der Mark
Amazing feeling! I was ready for the third hour but it start raining and team decided to go with Takumi in the rain because he has more experience. The fourth hour was for me and I got faster and faster with a steady pace and rhythm. The bike worked perfect, the team did an amazing job. My last stint was at a really good pace and I could ride quite easily. To be here again in my second year is amazing feeling. We did it all together.
It’s difficult to know what to say apart from how disappointing this is. Akiyoshi did an amazing jobto get the bike back to the pits and that allowed us to get out again but we knew there wasn’tmuch we could do. But, as I said earlier: “You win if you can, lose if you must, but you never quit.”
My first experience of the 8 Hours was incredible and I did not expect to ride, especially because Jonathan and Akiyoshi did such a fantastic job to get the team to the front and then build a strong lead. I feel very sorry for the whole team but congratulations to Mikey and Leon and Takumi of course.