Dream win for Honda at Suzuka 8 Hours
Rainy riding strategy pays off
The DREAM Honda Racing Team pair split the eight-hour race aboard a CBR1000RR to record the win July 27 in Suzuka, Japan.
An FIM Endurance World Championship race, the Suzuka 8 Hours tested the durability and ingenuity of riders and their teams as they endured mechanical problems and heavy rain to complete as many laps as they could of the 3.608 mile Suzuka Circuit.
“I was really nervous during the last hour watching Carlos riding,” says Kiyonari. “Front brake problems were there during my last stint. I was scared to watch the sparks when Carlos braked. I am so happy that I won today. From last year’s lesson, I was in the lead when back markers appeared. I was so happy because my machine was so fast.”
Though the DREAM Honda duo led for most of the race, the race wasn’t without drama with the key moment coming during the fourth hour when a sudden shower soaked a section of the track. Yoshimura Suzuki rider Yukio Kagayama came back from a one-minute deficit to pass the front-runner and gain a ten-second lead on Checa who decided to ride more conservatively on dry tires in the wet conditions.
Checa’s strategy paid off as Kagayama hit a pool of water in the first corner of the 91st lap and crashed.
“I really thought we had a realistic chance to beat Honda but then heavy rain began to fall,” says Kagayama. “I was pushing hard but within the safety margins and then I hit a large pool of water and crashed. I feel sorry for my teammate and all the Yoshimura and SMC staff that we didn’t win.”
Checa, who also races with Kiyonari as members of the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda World Superbike team, capitalized on Kagayama’s crash to regain the lead for good.
“When it started to rain, the team showed me ‘Pit In’ signal, but I decided not to come in. When Kagayama passed me, I thought ‘He is going too fast’. I decided to ride with my own rhythm,” says Checa. “One of the reasons for our win was this and also Kiyo did a good job during his first stint. I am now thirty five years old so I don’t know whether I have another chance or not, but if I can race again next year, I want to win again.”
Kiyonari and Checa fell short of their goal of running 217 laps due to the rain and a 30-second stop and go penalty for speeding in the pit lane.
“I let Checa to decide whether to come in and change the tires or not, when it was raining. We were prepared for every situation. Checa’s decision was correct,” says Dream Honda manager Norihisa Matsuura. “Both the riders did a good job. But I was surprised by the pit lane speed limit violation.”
Kagayama’s crash dropped him and partner Kousuke Akiyoshi into fourth place but the other Yoshimura team of Daisaku Sakai and Atsushi Watanabe raced their GSX-R1000 to second place.
“We were fast and strong for 214 laps but could not quite catch Honda,” says Watanabe. “We had a good plan for the race but winning and finishing is a big difference, but I’d like to win next year.”
The Harc Pro Honda duo of Yoshiteru Konishi and Takumi Takahashi finished in third with 210 laps.