8:00’32.959s, 216 laps and the chequered flag comes down to mark the end of the 40th Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance. Race Day dawned with ominous dark clouds gathering on the horizon. Amidst worries of rain, 69 teams gathered on the Suzuka Circuit starting grid. Among them were 17 former and current ARRC riders, some making their 8-hour debut, others seasoned campaigners in the prestigious annual event.

The race flagged off with the classic Le Mans start and Kawasaki Team Green’s Leon Haslam stole the holeshot. Behind him, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah, Dimas Ekky Pratama and Tatsuya Yamaguchi were race starters for their respective team. Hafizh, astride a Suzuki GSX-R1000 for the first time for Team Kagayama, got off to a clean start

Team MUSASHi RT Harc Pro Honda stormed into the lead at the end of Lap 1. Hafizh slotted in at P5 while Dimas was ninth in the group. However, Dimas lost position on Lap 2 when he had a close brush against another competitor. With the heavy traffic in the opening laps of the race, the Satu Hati Honda Team Asia rider instantly dropped down to P31 with a lot of ground to recover. Ryuichi Kiyonari, piloting for team Moriwaki Motul Racing, also had a rough time in the opening laps. On Lap 2, the 4-times Suzuka 8 Hour winner was down in P14.

The battle for the lead continued to be played out between three key teams – MuSASHi RT Harc Pro Honda, Yamaha Factory Racing Team and Kawasaki Team Green. The positions kept changing as the riders head in for their first pitstops. On Lap 24, Hafizh handed over to Yukio Kagayama. A lap later, Dimas tagged over to Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi. On Lap 27, Kiyonari handed the bike to Yuki Takahashi and Tomoyoshi Koyama took over from Tatsuya Yamaguchi.

Matters were further complicated by a crash on Lap 27 which brought out the Safety Car. The racing re-started on Lap 30, signifying the start of a fresh bout of intense on-track battles. Having taken over from Hafizh, Kagayama kept their race position steady in P5.

On Lap 55, Honda Team Asia, which was clearly running on a 3-rider strategy, effected another handover from Zaqhwan to Ratthapong Wilairot. Kagayama dashed into the pit a lap later, but instead of the team’s third rider, it was again Hafizh Syahrin who jumped on board.

Ryuichi Kiyonari crashed out of P10 on Lap 61 but managed to ride his bike back into the box for a series of quick repairs. But when the team managed to return on track, they were down in P54, 10 laps behind the leaders.

Meanwhile, team Honda Dream Racing trio Tomoyoshi Koyama, Tatsuya Yamaguchi and Ryosuke Iwato had been picking off one rival after another. On Lap 85, the team had reached P8.

Similarly, the combined efforts from Honda Team Asia had brought them steadily climbing up the pecking order. When Ratthapong passed the bike back to Dimas, they were up to P10. The gritty Indonesian rider rode steadily despite having injured his leg during the Lap 2 collision earlier in the day. When Dimas swapped with Zaqhwan on Lap 111, they had improved their position by two places to P8.

Soon after the 5-hour mark, Hafizh and Kagayama’s hard work crumbled when the bike had to return to the box due to a problem with the headlights. A new harness had to be fitted on to the bike. Kagayama got back onto track in P18 but was forced back again on Lap 162 when they experienced another headlights failure.

While Team Kagayama struggled to overcome their bout of bad luck, the race among the current and former ARRC riders had narrowed down to Honda Dream Racing and Satu Hati Honda Team Asia who found themselves fighting for the same piece of track. Ratthapong successfully challenged Iwato for P6 on Lap 155, prompting a pit-in for Honda Dream Racing on Lap 162. Dimas took over from Ratthapong on Lap 164 and was able to get out on track ahead of their closest rival. However, a succession of quick laps from Yamaguchi effectively whittled down on Dimas’s lead. On Lap 173, Dimas lost P6 to the Japanese rider.

An hour left on the clock, both teams got back into the box for a final change. Zaqhwan was slated to be the finisher for Honda Team Asia while Koyama will complete the 8-hour for Honda Dream Racing. 37 minutes to the finish, another crash on track brought out the Safety Car. With the riders bunched up together, Zaqhwan was unable to stop Koyama’s progress. The Japanese rider remained steady in P6 while rear number light troubles sent Zaqhwan back to the pit for a quick fix. The Malaysian dropped to P9.

The chequered flag came down for the undisputed winner of the race – team Yamaha Factory Racing’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael Va Der Mark. The three riders had executed an inch-perfect race to seal the win with 216 laps within 8:00’32.959s.

Kawasaki Team Green celebrated in second place, also with 216 laps in 8:02.42.011s. The Kawasaki outfit raced on a 2-rider strategy. Team orders had placed Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman as the reserve rider, due to the fact that the Malaysian was still recovering from a hand injury.  Team F.C.C. TSR Honda finished third with 215 laps in 8:01’58.784.

Tomboyish Koyama led his team to a 6th place finish with 212 laps. Satu Hati Honda Team Asia finished 8th with 211 laps. Unable to overcome the problems that resulted from the headlight failure, Team Kagayama eventually finished 17th with 207 laps. Team Moriwaki Motul Racing were also present at the chequered flag, finishing 27th with 202 laps.

The 2016/2017 title went to team GMT94 Yamaha who finished 11th in the race.


1. Yamaha Factory Racing Team, 216 laps, 8:00’32.959

2. Kawasaki Team Green, 216 laps, 8:02.42.011

3. F.C.C. TSR Honda, 215 laps, 8:01’58.784

4. MuSASHi RT Harc Pro Honda, 214 laps, 8:00’48.683

5. YART – YAMAHA, 212 laps, 8:01’56.136

6. Honda Dream Racing, 212 laps, 8:02’02.996

7. Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing, 212 laps, 8:02’33.935

8. Satu Hati Honda Team Asia, 211 laps, 8:01’51.771

9. MotoMapSUPPLY Future Access, 211 laps, 8:02’05.367

10. Honda Dream RT Sakurai Honda, 211 laps, 8:02’14.221