Yamaha Factory Racing Team Aiming for Historic Hat-Trick at Suzuka
The Yamaha Factory Racing Team of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga are aiming to make history this weekend at the Suzuka 8 Hours – the final round of the 2016/107 FIM Endurance World Championship – by becoming the first Yamaha team ever to complete a hat-trick of wins at the legendary Japanese endurance race.
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team head to the season’s grand finale trailing the championship leaders by just one point and are the favourites to lift the title after winning the last three races. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team are also in with a chance of becoming champions, as they are just 27-points behind the leaders with 45 points up for grabs during the race.
The 2017 Suzuka 8 Hours is the 40th edition of the iconic endurance race that was first held back in 1968 and over the years has not only become one of the biggest highlights of the racing calendar – with MotoGP and WorldSBK riders from all over the world taking part in factory teams alongside the usual competitors – but it has also established itself as the ultimate test of man and machine. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team are determined to make history themselves as they aim to achieve Yamaha’s first hat-trick of wins at Suzuka and to become the first team since 2002 to win the race for three years in succession.
Nakasuga-san also has the chance to earn his place in history as the first Japanese rider to win the race three times in a row. The 35-year-old has emerged victorious with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team for the last two years and is focused and ready to bid for his third win with the team. Lowes was also part of the victorious team last year, so the 26-year-old British rider knows what it takes win at Suzuka and is hungry for more. Van der Mark is new to the team for 2017, but the 24-year-old Dutch rider has tasted victory at Suzuka before, winning in 2013 & 2014. All three riders took part in a very positive test recently at Suzuka and confidence is running high in the team. They feel they have the pace to challenge for victory, with both Lowes and van der Mark relishing the chance to race with each other instead of against each other, and Nakasuga-san determined to complete his dream of a hat-trick of wins at Suzuka.
The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team of David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio want to leave Suzuka as 2016/2017 FIM Endurance World Champions. They missed out on the title by just one point to rivals SERT in 2016 and after enduring the pain of missing out on the title by such a small margin for the last 12 months, the team are out for revenge this year. They have bounced back brilliantly after a disastrous start to the season that saw them finish ninth at the Bol D’or, missing out on vital stage points after a crash and trailing SERT by 40 points. Since then they have been simply unstoppable, winning all three races since to closed the gap to championship leaders SERT by just one point coming into the grand finale. GMT94 are the only European team to have secured a podium at Suzuka in the last 30 years, when they finished third in 2012, and are solely focused on ensuring they finish in the points and ahead of their rivals SERT, knowing that if they do, they will be crowned World Champions.
The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team of Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Kohta Nozane currently sit third in the championship standings, just 27-points behind SERT with 45 up for grabs in the race. Despite the championship standings YART have been the biggest challenge to the GMT94 team in 2017 with less than 30 seconds separating them across the line as they finished in second place at Le Mans and Oschersleben. They were the favourites to win at the last round in Slovakia, before a faulty chain tensioner saw them have to pit from the lead, losing vital time towards the end of the race and the team had to settle for fourth. YART’s excellent rivalry with GMT94 has been even more intriguing because of the fact they share almost identical machinery, with the only difference being that YART run Bridgestone tyres while GMT94 use Dunlop’s. After a promising test, they feel confident they can challenge for the top five during the race and know that if the SERT and GMT94 teams fail to score points, and they can finish in fourth place or better, they would lift the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship.
The iconic Suzuka Circuit was originally built in 1962 as a test track, but became the first international race track in Japan and held its first 8-hour race in July 1978. It is 5.821km long, with 17 corners and is one of the few circuits around the world to have a ‘figure eight’ layout, meaning the 1.2km back straight actually crosses over an earlier part of the track thanks to an overpass. The Suzuka 8 Hours on-track action kicks off on Friday with Free Practice at 8.30am local time in Japan, with the Top Ten Trial scheduled for 15:30pm on Saturday and Sunday’s 8-hour race kicking off at 11.30am.