Alex Helps Yamaha Factory Racing Write History With Incredible Suzuka 8 Hours Victory
Rising above what has been one of the most challenging Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours weeks of recent years, The Yamaha Factory Racing Team delivered an heroic effort today to secure an incredible fourth consecutive victory in the iconic World Endurance race.
As race day dawned this morning, Yamaha Factory Racing riders Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark prepared for the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours with a huge challenge in front of them. Following a big crash in practice, it was decided that key team member and local hero Katsuyuki Nakasuga would not ride in the race as a shoulder injury prevented him from riding at 100% fitness. Undaunted by the setback, van der Mark took control for the opening stint, a race start that was itself a major challenge with rapidly changing weather bringing full wet conditions just seconds before the off.
Remaining calm the Dutchman didn’t put a foot wrong, working his way up from fifth to take his position as a race lead contender before handing over to teammate Lowes. The Brit picked up where van der Mark left off, and was leading the race two hours in. The team would quickly encounter a safety car, which proved to be the first of many over the next hours, rain, sun, crashes and spilt oil on track all causing the yellow flags and a re-shuffle of the order. The time spent in between the safety cars was a pitched battle between Yamaha Factory Racing and race rivals Kawasaki, the two racing less than a second apart for countless laps as they fought for the lead.
A combination of race strategy, safety car interventions and pure consistent race speed ultimately gave Lowes and van der Mark the edge over their rivals in green, however the final hour of the race saw the Factory Honda effort give it their best shot to close the gap. Having made it this far, the two Yamaha heroes, supported in spirit by Nakasuga-san in the pit garage, kept an unbeatable pace on their YZF-R1. Lowes eventually crossed the finish line after eight hours over 30 seconds clear at the front to record the team’s incredible fourth consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory. In doing so, he and van der Mark wrote yet another page in the history books for Yamaha Factory Racing and confirmed their status as heroes, overcoming any challenge in their path to reach the top step of the podium.
The combination of the two World Superbike riders, Nakasuga’s invaluable contribution over the race week and the efforts of the entire Yamaha Factory Racing Team have turned a Suzuka week of surprises, rain, a typhoon and unforeseen challenges into an incredible success story.
Alex Lowes – Yamaha Factory Racing
“I feel really good. Firstly, even though Nakasuga didn’t ride today, he is a massive part of the project. I really enjoy coming here, the atmosphere we have in the team is really great. In today’s race the bike was amazing; it was working really well. It was nice to have a strong fast bike; it made it easier to pass in the race, so a massive thank you to Yamaha for giving it to us. Obviously the race was quite stressful at times, lots of safety cars and lots of difficult weather conditions but it all seemed to fall when Michael was riding the bike so I certainly had a lot easier race than him so a massive thank you to him also for his effort. The second half of the race we just had to be smart and get the bike to the finish. For me to win three in a row is fantastic, its four for the team and three for me so I’m really happy, hopefully I can come back and do it again next year.”