Almost 20-years after his last 500cc rostrum, motorcycle grand prix legend Kevin Schwantz
returned to a World Championship podium with third place in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Just as during his epic grand prix career, Schwantz rode a Suzuki in the prestigious Japanese event, which also formed round two of the FIM Endurance World Championship.
The 49-year-old Texan was tempted out of retirement by ex-grand prix racer Yukio Kagayama, who joined Schwantz and WSBK star Noriyuki Haga in riding duties.
'Team Kagayama' finished one lap behind the winning Honda entry of Leon Haslam, Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi
, with Yoshimura Suzuki in second place.
Schwantz wore a Wayne Rainey
replica helmet during the race, in tribute to his great 500GP rival (see pictures below).
Schwantz, the 1993 500cc world champion, said: "I know this race is not easy to win. But this time Yukio made a very good team. This was the only condition that I asked of him coming to Japan to enter this race again. He has changed his Japanese Superbike team to a World Endurance top contender. Yukio's effort was great! I tested so many tyres and set-ups for the bike and we found a lot of potential.
"In the race, I only did one stint but I really enjoyed racing with the young Japanese riders. We got third place for the race and thank you to every one of our team staff. Yukio said to me 'You are my idol!,' but I would like to say to Yukio 'You are a Superstar!"
"I'm very happy to have Kevin-san on the podium and Nori has supported me a great deal!" said Kagayama. "I think so many people came to Suzuka because of Kevin and that Nori was riding our Suzuki. I hope that Suzuki, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki - all manufacturers - put power into motorsports again like in the 1990s.
"It feels unbelievable to be on the podium with my hero Kevin Schwantz!"