VAN DER MARK AND 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.
Michael van der Mark – Yamaha Factory Racing Team: “It’s been a really tough race today, it started yesterday when we knew that Nakasuga was unfortunately not fit to ride, then I was told I was going to start the race, that was a bit stressful! I think it has been my most difficult Suzuka 8 Hours with all the conditions, it kept changing so quickly, and the first stint I think was one and a half stints, where I thought I had the worst but then when I did my third one I was on the bike for an hour and 40 minutes because of safety cars, rain, then dry so it was really tough. At the end we managed a nice gap and Alex finished it off really nicely. I’m really happy with the weekend, the team had a plan and they never changed it. Even though some other bikes looked stronger at times we always kept doing our thing and the results are clear. Next year I hope to be back with Alex and Katsuyuki riding here again!”