Short of hiring the services of Mr V Rossi or a drone strike that obliterated the entire grid, Yamaha couldn’t have done much more to secure the 2015 Suzuka 8hr victory. Flying in Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith to partner their in-house, insanely fast test rider (and MotoGP podium man), Katsuyuki Nakasuga, it was apparent from the start of the weekend that only a win would suffice.
Much was made of some pics that Rossi posted to his Instagram account, showing the #46 lapping Misano in twilight conditions, headlights and all, teasing us with a conceivable appearance. But, in truth, Rossi wasn’t necessary, and not even a stop/go penalty for pitlane speeding could halt the tuning fork charge.
The one-off ‘special’ factory Yamaha team claimed pole position, Espargaro posted the quickest ever Suzuka 8hr lap, and it was Yamaha’s first Suzuka win since 1996. The race itself was actually pretty entertaining for an eight-hour slogathon: the top three were all within a lap at the flag, an abundance of safety car outings (one caused by a Panigale ejaculating its fluids on the back straight) tightened things up a little, and watching the factory Yamaha MotoGP pairing was a sight to behold, each lap like it was a superpole frenzy and visibly faster than the rest, carving through slower traffic like a novice group trackday.
And Nakasuga was like a one of those seemingly harmless farts: quiet, unassuming to the eye (or nose) but ultimately lethal, joining his team-mates in punishing the rest of the field with military precision.
The all-new R1/M hasn’t exactly blitzed 2015, which comes as a surprise given its out-the-crate credentials. Michael Dunlop and his mid-TT antics didn’t assist the cause and the Yamaha hasn’t overwhelmed the superstock grids as predicted, but this weekend went someway to hushing gums of doubters.
Once again, if you weren’t shredding Bridgestone rubber, you weren’t going to win. Lots of riders who weren’t on Bridgestone tyres were bemoaning the fact they weren’t on Bridgestone tyres, varying from defeatist chat to straightforward excuses. This was Bridgestone’s 10th straight Suzuka victory…
Much of the pre-race babble, understandably, centred on Casey Stoner’s comeback to racing. Much of the post-race babble also centred on the Aussie’s comeback – for the wrong reasons. His MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO squad headed to Suzuka looking for a third consecutive victory but the #634 Honda literally had a mind of its own. After just a handful of laps while leading the race, Stoner entered the hairpin with his Fireblade’s throttle stuck open, ending in a naughty-looking crash that broke his scapula and fractured his ankle.
Although it took until the end of the race to confirm the cause of the crash, you could hear the bike bouncing off the limiter before touchdown. HRC established that ‘from the data, the throttle was 26 degrees open before the crash.’
Casey Stoner: “Unfortunately, we experienced some mechanical trouble as I was going through the corner leading up to the hairpin. I did not have enough time to engage the clutch and I came in with too much speed, I picked the bike up to try to slow down more but I was heading towards the wall so I decided to lay it over and hit the barrier but unfortunately, they were a lot harder than they looked and we came out of it with a broken bone in the ankle and broken scapular.”
As quite a few have already mentioned, let’s hope this acts as a catalyst for Honda to unleash a new Fireblade in 2016. With a fresh Kawasaki ZX-10R joining an all-new Suzuki GSX-R1000 next season, the Big H will be left lacking. And the crash will do nothing to remedy the already turbulent relationship between Stoner and Honda.
The highest placed permanent EWC team was Suzuki Endurance Racing Team in 4th place, two laps behind the factory R1M. Anyway, congrats to Yamaha, Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Yamadamadingdong.