Valentino Rossi has sent the racing rumour mill into overdrive after tweeting a picture of himself riding at night on track with the simple comment of ‘night training’.
Speculation is now building that the nine-time champ will be lining up onboard the all-new R1 at this July’s Suzuka 8-Hour, where he would lock horns with former rival Casey Stoner, who confirmed his attendance in the race for Honda two weeks ago.
Rossi has past form at Suzuka, winning in 2001 in a Honda dream-team alongside the then reigning WSB champion Colin Edwards. Rossi has expressed his desire to return to the iconic event numerous times and was reportedly close to a deal in 2013 that would have seen him partner fellow Yamaha MotoGP racer Cal Crutchlow.
Another man who could also join the mouth-watering Rossi and Stoner war is current WSB series leader Jonathan Rea. The Kawasaki man partnered Ryuichi Kiyonari to win the 2012 event while both riders were with Honda. Rea has been a Suzuka front-runner for the past two years before crashes and mechanicals ruled him out in both 2013 and 2014.
Adding to the speculation that he could be going to Suzuka this year in an official Kawasaki team, the Northern Irishman travelled to Suzuka between the first two rounds of the WSB series in order to test a Japanese Superbike spec machine, supposedly for development purposes.
Speaking to MCN, Rea said: “I rode the Japan Superbike-spec ZX-10R to try and give the team and their riders some direction with the bike. I love Suzuka, but it wouldn’t be easy with my WSB schedule this year as it’s Laguna Seca the weekend before and Sepang the weekend after. We’ll have to wait and see!”
The possibility of Rossi and Rea joining the line-up alongside Stoner would help to massively elevate the status of the 8-Hour race.
Held in enormous prestige by the Japanese manufacturers, stars of GPs and WSB are often drafted in to race it, and past winners include Noriyuki Haga, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner and Wayne Rainey.