Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda riders Ryuichi Kiyonari and Takumi Takahashi rode a flawless race to the checkered flag in the Suzuka 8 Hours, the third round in the FIM world endurance championship.
The pair completed 215 laps in temperatures that reached 95 °F, but they beat the heat as easily as they did the other bikes, lapping second place at the six hour mark. The win was Honda’s 22nd in 33 Suzuka 8 Hours.
“I am so happy that I was able to accomplish a third winning of the Suzuka 8 Hours,” said Kiyonari, who dedicated the win to the memory of Manabu Kamada, winner of the 2003 8 Hours who was fatally injured in a test crash earlier in the year.
“Today’s win was a memorable moment that I will never forget. Takumi fought so hard that I’m glad I was able to pair up with him for this race. The team staff and Takumi were a big support in this victory.”
The victory is Kiyonari’s third in the 8 Hours, having won before in 2005 and 2008. The win is Takahashi’s first, and a new unofficial record for the youngest winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours, previously held by Noriyuki Haga when he won with Colin Edwards in 1996 at age 21.
The 20-year old Takahashi also has a hat trick of podiums to his credit, having finished third in 2008 and 2009.
The official record book, however, will recognize the third rider of the team, 18-year old Takaaki Nakagami, as the youngest winner, though the only motorcycle he rode on the day was the pit scooter.
“I am so glad to win today,” said a tearful Takahashi. “We were able to win the race because Kiyo worked hard to set up the machine along with the team staff. If we have another chance to race in the Suzuka 8 Hours, I will aim for the top of the podium again.”
Second were Shinichi Ito and Makoto Tamada aboard the Keihin Kohara Honda with 214 laps. Both riders had physically difficulties during the weekend that they declined to discuss.
Both riders were thus happy to finish second under there personal circumstances.
“Considering the pace in yesterday’s result of Superpole and today’s steaming hot climate, I assumed it would be a tough race,” said the 43-year old Ito said through a press release.
“However, Makoto and the team backed me up so well that we were able to get second place.
"Maybe we could have got into first place, but anyway we did our best. I must thank our fans. It was a very meaningful race for me.”
Though Ito would neither confirm or deny rumors of his retirement at the end of the year, he re-entered the race five minutes from the end to wave good-bye to his fans, and they returned a strong applause from the grandstands. But this sight has been seen before and Ito, third fastest in qualifying, looks capable of being competitive for a few more years.
“I am not satisfied with our result and also with my riding,” said Ito’s teammate Tamada. “I was hoping to support Ito-san, yet I ended up relying on him.
"I feel sorry for him and the team. I was not able to perform fully, so if I have another chance, I want the opportunity for revenge in the next Suzuka 8 Hours!”
The fastest team of the day, FCC TSR Racing Honda, finished third. Jonathan Rea and Kosuke Akiyoshi were lucky to be on the podium at all in a day when Akiyoshi ran his Honda into the rear of the Sakurai Honda at the start and nearly crashed.
Later, mid-way into his first stint, Rea collided with a slower bike at Spoon Curve and crashed.
Rea was already almost a lap behind the leaders after serving a pair of stop-and-go penalties picked up by Akiyoshi passing under the waving yellow flag.
After the crash Rea returned to the pits for repairs, and rejoined the race in 42nd place, four laps behind.
Over the next six hours Rea and Akiyoshi unlapped themselves twice due to lap times consistently two to three seconds a lap faster than the leaders.
“Today was a tough day. We had some unexpected troubles and mistakes, so to be honest I am not so happy,” said the long-face Irishman.
“Yet working well together with Akiyoshi and repeatedly telling myself ‘never give up, keep going’, we were able to get into third place. If I have a chance, I want to participate in the Suzuka 8 Hours again.”
The defending event champions, Yoshimura Suzuki, including BSB star Yukio Kagayama started from pole but finished sixth.
1 Musashi RT HARC-PRO (R.Kiyonari/T.Takahashi/T.Nakagami), 215 laps, Honda.
2 Keihin Kohara Racing (S.Ito/M.Tamada), 214 laps, Honda.
3 F.C.C. TSR Honda (K.Akiyoshi/J.Rea/Y.Takahashi), 213 laps, Honda.
4 Plot Faro Panthera (O.Deguchi/T.Yasuda/Y.Kodama), 212 laps, Suzuki.
5 Team Plus One (S.Iwata/Y.Teshima), 211 laps, Honda.
6 Yoshimura Suzuki with Enos (Y.Kagayama/D.Sakai/N.Aoki), 211 laps, Suzuki.
7 Teluru Honeybee Racing (H.Noda/T.Sekiguchi), 210 laps, Honda.
8 Beet Racing (H.Takahasi/Y.Hatano/O.Nishijima), 208 laps, Kawasaki.
9 Team Bolliger Switzerland (H.Saiger/P.Muff/R.Stamm), 206 laps, Kawasaki.
10 Escargot & PGR & Sayama & H-TEC (M.Kuboyama/T.Nakatsuhara), 206 laps, Honda.