HONDA TAKE 1-2 AND FIVE SUZUKA 8-HOUR WINS IN A ROW
Endurance World Championship Suzuka - Japan, August 5
Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi rode a superb race over 217 laps of the
classic 5.864km Suzuka grand prix circuit to take the win in the prestigious
8-Hour Endurance race. Their win gave Honda five consecutive 8-Hour victories,
and was the highlight of an almost immaculate performance from the three factory
Cabin Honda squads entered in the race.
Edwards, who had the pleasure of riding the last leg, was ebullient and praised
his team and fellow rider ceaselessly after the marathon test of man and racing
machine. "I had the best riding partner and the best bike and it's great to win
my second 8-Hour. I couldn't be happier."
Rossi, in his second Suzuka endurance race, was relieved with his team
performance, having crashed out while leading last year. "To race and win an
event like this is very exciting. When I asked Honda if I could do this race
last year they said I should do it for two years because it is such a difficult
race to win at your first attempt. That's the way it turned out but because I
had a stupid crash while leading. So to win it the year, after such
disappointment in 200, is fantastic. Thanks to everyone and especially Colin."
Honda's decision to roll out their Grand Prix and World Superbike big guns paid
rich dividends throughout the grueling race, with all three of the factory Honda
teams taking turns to lead.
In second place, a mere 14.268 seconds down on the winners, were Cabin Honda
riders Alex Barros and Tady Okada, who fought tooth and nail with the eventual
winners for almost the entire race distance, with frequent on-track tussles
forming the highlight of a sometimes dramatic race.
Third was the only official Suzuki Superbike entry, a three man team comprising
of Akira Ryo, Yukio Kagayama and Atsushi Watanabe, who came home 1m 13s down on
the leading Honda duo. The intervention of the Pace Car, after an accident
which resulted in a privateer machine being set ablaze on the racing line,
allowed the Suzuki squad to catch, and subsequently pass the eventual fourth
place Cabin Honda pairing of Daijiro Katoh and Tohru Ukawa.
Suzuki rider Akira Ryo, starting from pole position, got away first into turn
one but was soon caught and passed on the second lap by both Valentino Rossi and
Kawasaki factory rider Akira Yanagawa. Colin Edwards's first session benefited
from Rossi's sterling work, as he led by over a second after the first rider
The best fight of the race occurred in the second Edwards/Barros session with
the SBK and GP rider overtaking each other at will, swapping the lead at
frequent intervals. Only a pit stop for Edwards, on lap 101, ended their titanic
Near disaster for Tady Okada saw him crash as he led Valentino Rossi on lap 117
although his low-speed spill at the chicane left his machine undamaged and he
carried on, some 15 seconds down on the departing Rossi, who had to take to the
grass to avoid Okada's machine.
The race itself settled into a routine for the next 40 laps or so, with the
three factory Hondas leading in the order of Rossi/Edwards, Barros/Okada and
Ukawa/Katoh, with the factory Suzuki of Ryo/Kagayama and Watanabe ahead of
Yamaha duo Gobert and Haga. Fifth place Gobert and Haga were moving on up in
pace, but they were to exit in the very final section of the race, having
completed 7 hours and 38 minutes of racing.
Five hours and 42 minutes into the race a private machine crashed and caught
fire at the last corner of the Esses, just before the Dunlop corner. The pace
cars brought all the top four teams, the three Cabin Honda efforts and the
factory Suzuki, onto the same 161st lap, and allowed the top Suzuki team to get
onto terms with the number 4 Honda.
Barros was similarly fortunate and took advantage to close up to Edwards,
negating his ten second lead. With the final stint looming for each rider, Rossi
showed how determined he was, extending his lead over Okada by 14 seconds at the
turn into the final hour.
With the American Edwards riding well as darkness fell, he kept his margin of
victory after 217 laps of hard and punishing racing. Edwards' second 8-Hour win
was Valentino Rossi's first, with Okada and Barros in second and the Suzuki
factory team in third. Rossi's win was the first y an Italian rider in the 24
year history of the race.
A battling race finish gave Daijiro Katoh and Torhu Ukawa fourth, with fifth
going to the first 1000cc four-cylinder NK machine, the Suzuki of Kitagawa,
Arakaki and Toda.
HONDA TEAM QUOTES:
I am the first Italian rider to win the Suzuka 8 hrs race so I am very happy.
When Okada crashed in front of me, I was a bit surprised because I could only
see his machine. I thought we could win easily then, but #33 caught up again
when the Pace Car came onto the track. So during my last run, I was determined
to get some advantages and hand the machine to Colin.( He marked the fastest lap
2'08"855 ).Last year, I was disappointed so I am really happy to win the race
today. This race was really important for me.
I had the best team mate this year. When I was racing with Alex Barros, I
enjoyed it very much. Then I was angry when the Pace Car reduced the gap between
me and Barros. But Valentino was riding superbly soon after that and I was
confident of winning then. Valentino is really splendid rider. I have been on
the podium many times in the past but being on the top is something special.
RACE RESULTS (top ten finishers):
1. Valentino Rossi, I; Colin Edwards, USA; Manabu Kamada, J Cabin Honda 217
2. Tadayuki Okada J; Alex Barros, Bra; Shinichi Itoh, J Cabin Honda 217 laps
3. Akira Ryo, J; Yukio Kagayama, J; Akira Watanabe, J Suzuki 217 laps
4. Tohru Ukawa, J; Daijiro Katoh, J; Makoto Tamada, J Cabin Honda 217 laps
5. Keiichi Kitagawa, J; Toshiyuki Arakaki, J; T Toda, J Suzuki 213 laps
6. Yuichi Takeda, J; Tetsuya Yamaguchi, J; Sakurai Honda 212 laps
7. Norihiko Fujiwara, J: Noriyasu Numata, J; O. Miyazaki J Yamaha 211 laps
8. Daisaku Sakai, J; Hiroki Noda, J; Honda 209 laps
9. Stephane Mertens, B; Warwick Nowland, AUS; Suzuki 208 laps
10. Hideo Senmyo, J; Kenichio Nakamaru, J Honda 206 laps
Fastest lap: Edwards. 2m 08.855s = 163.89km/h. (lap record for 8 Hours)