Suzuka 8 Hours: A lap around legendary Suzuka

There aren’t many circuits as challenging as the Japanese track. So what's the key to a quick lap?

Suzuka is a real roller coaster racetrack. The unique figure-of-eight layout ensures that it is unlike any other circuit on the racing calendar. But the Japanese venue isn't a gimmick; it's a true test of skill and bravery for every rider. As riders come across the start-finish line, it’s a rare chance to catch their breath as they look across for their pit board – and the Suzuka 8H is not a short race.

The mental challenge of Suzuka is huge, and it's easy to get fatigued. The heat and humidity play havoc with the riders, but the 20 corners, most linked together, mean that mental errors are heavily punished. With such a long lap and stifling conditions, the lap counter seems to grow at a snail’s pace.

As the riders start the laps they'll grab sixth gear as they come across the line but it's all about getting ready for Turn 1, a fast right hander, where the bikes approach in sixth and start braking just before the 200m board. Turn 1 is the beginning of the Suzuka Snake, where the track winds around the contours of the land, one turn leading directly to the next. If you're wide at one corner, it can affect the next three.

Having snatched back three gears, the key thought when peeling into Turn 1 is about being in the right part of the track for Turn 2. Riders clip the apex just outside the kerb for Turn 1 and run the bike wide for 2, where they hook back another gear on the entry. Trying to square off Turn 2 and use the power of the Superbikes, riders slide the bike on the exit to get into the right position on the track for the first left-handed corner of the lap.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Out there with the big boys – part 1

Mat Oxley's account of his foray into the biggest race on the endurance calendar: the Suzuka 8 Hours. This story is one of many that appear in Mat’s The Fast Stuff, available on Kindle

The Suzuka 8 Hours race celebrates its 40th anniversary this Sunday. I contested the race several times in the 1980s and 1990s, with a best finish of sixth in 1986, riding with Vesa Kultalahti for Team Howard Lees. This story, written at the time, tells the tale of the 1989 race, when I partnered French journalist Gilbert Roy to 12th. They were the boom years of the 8 Hours, when you got to share the track with Rainey, Schwantz, Doohan, Gardner and the rest

The weather is typical of Japan in July: so steamy hot that the air you breathe feels second-hand and rivulets of sweat run down every part of your body.

I shouldn’t care though: I am lying on a couch with two women draping nicely chilled towels across my legs and torso. I have an ice-cold drink in one hand and a bowl of sliced orange and banana within reach of the other. A Japanese doctor massages my body and an electric fan blows a cooling draft at my face, rustling the leaves of the nearby palms.

Heaven surely couldn’t be a much more delightful place but the pleasure of this visit through the pearly gates is tainted by the knowledge that soon I must return to the fiery torment of hell.

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Suzuka 8 Hours Preview: The heat is on, the pressure's high

When Glenn Frey released one of the biggest hits of the 80s the Suzuka 8 Hours was on the verge of its glory days. Those days are now being repeated

In 1984 the Suzuka 8 Hours was on the cusp of being the biggest race of the season for the Japanese manufacturers, and that year's edition was won by double WorldSBK champion Fred Merkel and 500GP rostrum finisher Mike Baldwin. The win was Baldwin's third and final victory but started a run of success by the world's biggest names in racing. The following six years saw riders such as Wayne Gardner, Kevin Magee, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson all have their name etched on the winners’ trophym and in 1991 the first “Suzuka Super-team” emerged victorious.

With Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner winning, the all-Australian team was a 500GP dream team taking on the rest of the field. With Doohan sidelined by his horrific Assen crash the following year, Gardner nevertheless claimed his third win in Japan with Daryl Beattie as his teammate. The run of Grand Prix winners then came to an abrupt end in 1993 with Superbike stars Scott Russell and Aaron Slight delivering Kawasaki’s only victory in the race. It was an era of exotica with the Japanese manufacturers using incredible machinery to try to win the race; an era of big budgets and no holds barred racing - a true golden era of motorcycle racing.

In the following years the fortunes of the race ebbed, though some Superbike riders remained. Colin Edwards would put his name on the trophy on three occasions, winning for two different manufacturers, Yamaha and Honda. His 2001 win alongside Valentino Rossi, when the Italian was en route to his first premier class title, was another invigorating moment for the 8 Hours that saw interest in the race spike once again - but for much of this century the race was an afterthought of the racing calendar.

That changed in 2015 when Yamaha upped the ante and brought their MotoGP riders to the event. With Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith riding alongside Katsuyuki Nakasuga on a “Suzuka Special”, the race was relevant once again. Casey Stoner made a one-off racing return in that year's edition, and with Kevin Schwantz on the grid, the relevance and interest in Suzuka was huge. It became a spectacle again, and showed the power of having some of the biggest names in racing back at the event.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How to fire up a MotoGP star

You would think that gold and glory would be enough to get them fired up, but a little extra always helps…

Journalists sit very low in the feeding chain in MotoGP. We have little or no use to the riders and teams, or at least that’s what they tell us.

But occasionally we do have our uses, because the pen can be a mighty thing.

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World Superbike Silly Season - All Quiet On The WorldSBK Front

It looks set to be a quieter year on the rider market for WorldSBK with the leading seats already filled for 2018 but there will still be some significant deals announced in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri are all secure in their seats for next year but Sykes had been linked with a move away from Kawasaki earlier this summer. Prior to winning two races before the summer break the 2013 World Champion had been touted as a potential target of Yamaha but with wins in the bag it looks highly unlikely that he will make a switch.

For Ducati there is little reason to change their status quo and the only change in their ranks could be the addition of a second bike to the Barni squad. The Italian entry has thrived with Xavi Fores in the last year and came close to adding a second machine for this year. If there is a fourth Ducati on the grid it will likely have a rider bringing money to the table for Barni.

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Press Release Interview: Yamaha's Alex Lowes On Using A Sports Psychologist

The Pata Yamaha team issued the following press release, containing an interview with Alex Lowes. In it, the rider talks about something others are not keen on discussing, using a sports psychologist in search of better results. An interesting read:


Alex Lowes Q&A: Working with a Sports Psychologist

Sports psychologists are becoming more and more common in motorcycle racing, with people curious about the affect they can have. Yamaha-racing.com caught up with Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team's Alex Lowes to discuss his use of a sports psychologist and the difference it has made.

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team's Alex Lowes has had a positive start to the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship season. The British rider has recorded two podiums so far this season and has added consistency to his undeniable pace to currently lie fifth in the championship standings. One of the things he attributes this new attitude to has been his work with a sports psychologist. In modern sport, most professional athletes will use a sports psychologist in some way or another, and with motorcycle racing being a sport that places so much mental demand on a rider, some people find it a shock that more people don't use them. Lowes answered our questions ahead of the WorldSBK summer break:

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 56: Shaking Things Up At The Sachsenring

After a rather excessive delay (for which you have our apologies) caused by technical issues, the latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is finally here. This episode Neil Morrison and David Emmett discuss the events of a thrilling Sachsenring MotoGP race.

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MotoGP Silly Season Update - Summer Break Means Feverish Negotiations

The MotoGP bikes have fallen silent for over a week now, the teams and riders dispersed to the four winds, nominally for "vacation". And while riders relaxed on a beach somewhere for a week before returning to their training for the second half of the season, teams and rider managers have been anything but dormant. There has been a hive of activity in preparation for the latter half of the season, and for some of the satellite teams, for 2018 as well.

For the Silly Season That Wasn't Supposed To Be has stepped up a gear. The summer break has so far seen extensive negotiations going on over the MotoGP seats which will be free in 2018, and in some cases, whether a seat will become available or not. Phone calls to team staff start with pleasantries about vacation time, but quickly reveal that vacation consists of at best a day or two taken in between meetings and preparations for the remainder of the year.

The first shoe to drop in the summer edition of MotoGP's 2018 Silly Season is the revelation by Motorsport.com that Jack Miller will be joining Danilo Petrucci at Pramac Ducati for next season. After losing his direct contract with HRC – that contract going to Cal Crutchlow instead – the Australian had been in talks with the Marc VDS squad about a contract directly with the team. However, a failure to agree terms over money, and a better offer from Ducati, pushed Miller towards Pramac.

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Romano Fenati Moves Up To Moto2 In 2018 With Snipers Team

Romano Fenati is to move up to the Moto2 class with his current team, Snipers Team, in 2018. The press release, shown below, implies that the team will consist of a single rider, Fenati, in Moto2. The team have yet to agree terms with a chassis supplier, but state that they will probably field a Kalex.


Romano Fenati Moves Up To Moto2 In 2018

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Subscriber Only Feature: Which Direction For WorldSBK?

After Laguna Seca the future of WorldSBK was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer immediately

“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status-quo.

While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading. It's always easier to swim with the tide but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive in making the wrong decision.

Since Imola the paddock WorldSBK has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec ECU? Will there be concessions for different manufacturers? Will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams? The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How do you solve a problem like Andrea?

Suzuki is having a nightmare MotoGP season; who to blame: the riders, the factory or the team?

I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again, I like Andrea Iannone, mostly because he’s funny. MotoGP is lucky at the moment, not least because the grid includes a full rainbow of characters, from angelic assassins and gritty little boxers to scary old men and (pantomime) gangsters.

It’s not me suggesting Iannone is a wannabe gangster. A journalist recently asked the Italian what he would do for a living if he didn’t race bikes and he immediately replied he would be a gangster.

Meanwhile Iannone still races bikes and right now he’s got a problem. His performances with Suzuki have plotted a steadily downward path since he first got on the GSX-RR last November: from quietly promising to loudly disappointing.

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Interview: Aspar's Gino Borsoi On Creating A Pathway To MotoGP For Young Talent

The world of motorcycle racing is undergoing a major change behind the scenes. Increasingly, teams are working on creating a path for bringing on young and talented riders. Where once individual teams would merely scour the classes below the one they competed in for talent, and engage in bidding wars for the most promising riders, now, they take a very different tack. Talent scouting starts at the very lowest level, and a path created all the way from Pre-Moto3 to MotoGP.

One of the first examples of teams creating such a pathway came about when Marc VDS teamed up with Monlau for the 2015 season. Monlau had an existing racing structure in Spain, reaching down to regional championships, as well as a technical academy for budding race engineers. Marc VDS had a successful Moto2 team which could take over from the Monlau operation, and a newly created MotoGP operation. Suddenly, the team had a complete package they could offer riders, with sponsorship and consistent support starting in Pre-Moto3 and carrying on through the FIM CEV, Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP. All with the backing of Spanish beer giant Estrella Galicia.

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