Top 10 Storylines From 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

The 2015 edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race has come and gone, and while the event doesn’t hold the same prestige it once did, there was still plenty to talk about this year. The racing was as dynamic as ever, but also interesting were the bikes, teams and characters that show up to this event. Nearly every rider who has spun a lap around Suzuka sings its praises, though most of them also acknowledge how dangerous the circuit can be with its lack of runoff (just ask Casey Stoner). Still, this year’s race has offered plenty of talking points, and now that I’ve had some time to absorb everything the iconic Japanese race has to offer, here are my Top 10 storylines surrounding the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours.

10. Suzuka 4 Hour

You know all about the 8-hour race, but did you know there’s also a Suzuka 4 Hour? You’re excused if you didn’t – many on the MO staff didn’t know either. It’s a race for Supersport machines instead of the liter-class Superbikes and it runs on the same weekend as the main 8-hour race. Other than the smaller displacement, another difference is the lack of tire changes; each team must use the same set of tires for the entire race. There’s a mixed bag of riders who compete, from young teenage hotshots looking to move up, to semi-retired veterans who still want to exercise their competitive juices every now and then. Close to 80 entries took part this year, including one very special team that occupies the next spot on this list.

9. All-girl Racing Team

American racer Shelina Moreda (left) and Kiwi Avalon Biddle (right) rode a Honda CBR600RR racebike prepared by Moriwaki Engineering in this year’s Suzuka 4 Hours.

It’s cool enough just to have an endurance racing team comprised entirely of women riders, but the Moriwaki Racing team is especially cool because it features an American: Shelina Moreda. The team actually features two Americans, as Melissa Paris was supposed to team up with Moreda this year, but was forced to withdraw due to illness. Thanks to an effort from the FIM Women in Motorcycling commission, Shelina and Melissa competed in the 4-hour race in 2014. They did well enough (and were a fan favorite) to get invited back to take part in the race again for 2015. Unfortunately, Melissa was forced to withdraw from the 2015 race, but taking her place on the team was young Kiwi prospect, Avalon Biddle, who received the call to pack her leathers and fly to Japan only five days before the race. Biddle and Moreda started 51st out of 78 entries and finished in an impressive 26th place.

8. Keanu Reeves

Neo … errr … Keanu Reeves was in attendance at Suzuka, and he even suited up to ride a demonstration lap of the circuit aboard his Arch KRGT-1 Motorcycle. Ever the motorcycle racing fan, Reeves was given the honor of waving the green flag to start the race. In TV interviews following his demo lap, he seemed to really appreciate the rich history of the Suzuka circuit and the bravery racers display each weekend. Kudos to you, Keanu, though I don’t know what was more comical: the racers who were star-struck to meet one of Hollywood’s elite, or the pace car leading Reeves around at an agonizingly slow speed, presumably to keep him from doing anything dangerous. Nonetheless, the spectators, racers and Keanu himself seemed to have a good time.

7. Funny Team Names

One of my favorite aspects about races in Asia are the team names, whose meanings clearly get lost in translation. Make no mistake: I’m sure every team that fielded an entry at Suzuka this year are professional outfits (if not in resources, then in talent), but maybe consulting with a native English speaker would have been a good idea before pulling the trigger on team gear, banners and paraphernalia. Some of my favorites this year include: Y’s distraction Dog House, 360.1 Motor Sports + Samurai Factory (ok, that one’s pretty cool, actually), Honda Sayama & PGR Escargot & H-TEC(E), Team Favorite Factory and Honda Blue Helmets.


Being that it’s a Japanese race, it may not come as much of a surprise that, of the 70 finishers of the Suzuka 8 Hours, an overwhelming majority of the machines entered were from the Big Four. However, there was one lone KTM RC8R, of Team Hooters KTM (above). Fielding an outdated and underpowered Austrian V-Twin in an 8-hour race is a brave feat unto itself, but one benefit of racing an old bike is having all the kinks sorted well ahead of time. The Hooters team may not have been a threat to the front runners, but at least it completed all eight hours, crossing the line in 31st place.

5. The Rest Of The Euros

As for the other European brands at Suzuka, there were eight BMW S1000RRs and two Ducatis; one an 1199 Panigale, the other a 1098R, shown above. Despite a few of the top World Endurance teams running the S1000RR, it turns out the highest-finishing BMW was from the Confia Flex Motorrad39 team, who came home in 15th place, seven laps behind the winning Factory Yamaha team. Of the two Ducatis, the 1199 Panigale of Banner Racing H.K.C. blew an engine, spilling oil on the track, causing an extended yellow flag period to clean up the mess. The other Ducati, the 1098R fielded by seasoned All-Japan Superbike team Sugai Racing Japan, successfully finished the race in 37th place.

4. The Caliber of Riders Was as High as Ever

Sure, you know about MotoGP stars Casey Stoner, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith taking part in the race, but the depth of the field continues well beyond this superstar trio. For example, the race featured former British Superbike champ and current World Superbike competitor Alex Lowes, former Australian Superbike champ Josh Waters, fan favorite and former WSBK star Nori Haga, former British Superbike champ Ryuichi Kiyonari, MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 pilot Sheridan Morais, Moto2 stars Dominique Aegerter and Azlan Shah, former Moto2 champion Toni Elias, World Supersport champion Michael Van Der Mark, and fan favorites Yukio Kagayama and Akira Yanagawa, just to name a few.

3. Return of Suzuka prestige?

Earlier I mentioned Suzuka not placing as high on the importance meter as it used to. But is the tide turning? As the number 4 spot illustrates, there are still top-quality riders racing at Suzuka, and the event seems to be experiencing a bit of a resurgence in popularity. As production bikes go, sportbikes are edging closer and closer to racebikes with lights and license plates, and considering Honda’s Fireblade is getting long in the tooth, Team Red might one day recruit its MotoGP hot shots Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to join Casey Stoner in piloting a new version (minus stuck throttle!) to Suzuka victory. If that happens, perhaps Yamaha might tap Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to mount a challenge? This could have a snowball effect that triggers a host of other manufacturers, including the Europeans, to bring their top guns to the Suzuka party. It would be one hell of a race if this dream becomes a reality, and if it does, we, the fans, will be the greatest beneficiaries.

2. Stuck throttle for Casey Stoner

At first there was speculation that maybe Casey had lost some of his racecraft after this nasty spill that resulted in injuries to his shoulder and tibula. It’d been a few years since Stoner last raced, and though he was leading the race when he fell, maybe the pressure of this prestigious race was getting to him. Turns out, this big crash wasn’t the Australian’s fault at all. HRC was hesitant to reveal what caused the spill, but after Casey himself posted on his social media channels that the throttle (which was a special part and not the standard CBR1000RR/Fireblade unit) was partially stuck open, Honda had no choice but to admit fault and apologize to Stoner. Let’s hope Casey wants to redeem himself next year and comes back for another go.

1. Yamaha’s first win in almost 20 years

Yamaha last won the Suzuka 8 Hours race with Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga in 1996. In the 19 years since, Honda has dominated, winning 16 times. Yamaha is placing a lot of stock in its most important flagship bike in several years, the new R1, and instead of just writing about its attributes in marketing brochures and advertising, the Tuning Fork brand felt it was time to put its money where its mouth is. Rest assured, there was a lot riding on the shoulders of Bradley Smith, Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pol Espargaro for these eight hours, as nothing short of a victory would suffice. But the fact Yamaha brought a factory effort, recruited two of its MotoGP stars and a five-time and current All Japan Superbike Champion, means Team Blue were serious about doing everything it could to win. How that translates into global sales is yet to be seen, but bragging rights among the OEMs is a nice feather to have in your cap.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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