For the second year in a row the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team of Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam and Michael van der Mark won the Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance Road Race. The team prevailed in challenging conditions to extend Bridgestone’s record winning-streak as a tire supplier at the ‘8 Tai’ to nine consecutive victories.
A heavy downpour of rain just before the scheduled race start meant the start of the 37th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hour was delayed until 1235 local time, resulting in a shortened race duration of six hours and fifty-five minutes. As the rain fell, the riders lined up for the traditional ‘Le Mans’ style start and after a typically manic start, it was F.C.C. TSR Honda’s Kousuke Akiyoshi who led the field as the first lap we completed. Although the weather conditions changed from wet to dry, and back again many times during the race, Bridgestone-equipped teams led the entire duration of the 8 Hour.
In a cruel blow, for a second consecutive year the F.C.C. TSR team was hit with tragedy when Akiyoshi crashed at the 130R corner while leading the race. Despite breaking his leg, Akiyoshi bravely managed to get his bike back to his pit box by which time, the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team took over the race lead and Yoshimura Suzuki Shell ADVANCE team of Takuya Tsuda, Randy de Puniet and Josh Waters moved into second place, a position they would hold until the chequered flag. Incidents throughout the second half of the race resulted in the Safety Car being required numerous times, but in the final two stints Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi held their nerve to secure glory for their team once more. On their way to victory, the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO also set the fastest lap of the race – 2’08.620 - courtesy of their number three rider, van der Mark.
As well as securing nine consecutive victories as tire supplier at the Suzuka 8 Hour, Bridgestone-supported teams dominated the top of the results table, with six of the seven top-placing teams using tires supplied by the Japanese tyre manufacturer.
Syu Ishibashi – Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Responsible for Group Global Marketing Strategy, Bridgestone Corporation
“I would like to congratulate all members of MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO on their victory. This was a great race which attracted a dedicated audience of fans despite the unstable weather. I am really glad that we could contribute to the winning team’s victory by supplying Bridgestone tires which offered excellent performance in the challenging conditions. Also, I am very impressed by F.C.C TSR Honda successfully completing the race through hard work and determination, and overcoming their incident in the middle of the race. Our ninth successive victory as a tire supplier at the Suzuka 8 Hour is a great source of pride for me and Bridgestone will continue to fully support this event and make an active effort to keep beating our own record for consecutive wins.”
Shinichi Yamashita – General Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tire Development Department
“Congratulations to MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO for their second-straight win at the 8 Hour, the variable weather conditions made it very challenging for all the riders. The alternating periods of sunshine and rain created every type of track condition, so I am pleased that both our slick and wet tires gave the riders the ability to lap quickly and consistently. This year we developed tires specifically to cater for the new FIM regulations which dictate less slick tires can be used in the Suzuka 8 Hour than in previous years and these new prototype tires equipped the top-two teams on the podium. Once again we have proved that Bridgestone tires perform excellently over a wide range of conditions and with the tire supply regulations for next year’s Suzuka 8 Hour allowing even fewer slick tires, we will continue our development to improve durability and consistent performance at this event.”
Shigeki Honda - MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda representative – Race Winner
“We are very happy to have won the race for a second consecutive year. On behalf of all team and riders I would like to say thank you to Bridgestone for their support and delivering tires with superior performance that our riders used them to their full capability to help secure victory. I believe the performance of the tires in all conditions is major contributor to our victory today and we are very proud to share this success with Bridgestone.”
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.