26 July 2015
Suzuka 8 Hours: Espargaro, Smith, Nakasuga win for Yamaha
They've done it! MotoGP team-mates Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith claim Suzuka 8 Hours glory alongside Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga have won the Suzuki 8 Hours, Yamaha's first victory in the event since 1996.
The all-star line-up of Tech 3 MotoGP team-mates Espargaro and Smith, plus factory test rider and Japanese champion Nakasuga, took the chequered flag 1m 17.411s clear of the field - having overcome a 30-second stop-go penalty in the middle stages.
Yamaha was making its first factory Suzuka entry since 2002 and the long awaited triumph in Japan's most prestigious race is sure to boost both Smith and Espargaro's hopes of a 2016 MotoGP contract.
Second place went to the TSR Honda of Moto2 star Dominique Aegerter, Josh Hook and Kyle Smith, with the Team Kagayama line-up of Yukio Kagayama, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Noriyuki Haga completing the podium, one lap behind the #21 Yamaha.
The Musashi Honda team's hopes of a third straight victory ended in dramatic fashion when retired double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner, competing in his first motorcycle race since 2012, suffered a fast fall due to a 'stuck throttle' while leading the race just after the one hour mark.
Suzuka 8 Hours: Results
1. Nakasuga/Espargaro/Smith Yamaha Factory Racing #21 204 laps
2. Aegerter/Hook/Smith FCC TSR Honda #778 +1m 17.411s
3. Kagayama/Haga/Kiyonari Team Kagayama Suzuki #17 -1 lap
4. Philippe/Delhalle/Masson Suzuki Endurance Racing Team #30 -2 laps
5. Tsuda/Lowes/Waters Yoshimura Suzuki #12 -3 laps
6. Checa/Foray/Gines GMT94 Yamaha #94 -3 laps
7. Costa/Gimbert/Foray Honda Endurance Racing #111 -3 laps
8. Hiura/Kamei/Yasuda Honda Suzuka Racing Team #25 -4 laps
9. Yanagawa/Yudhistira/Watanabe Team Green Kawasaki #87 -5 laps
10. Konno/Aoki/Ogata Motomap Supply Suzuki #32 -5 laps
Starting on pole, Nakasuga plummeted down the order after struggling to fire-up the #21 R1 during the 'Le Mans' style start, which sees riders run across the track to their bikes when the lights turn green.
Alex Lowes quickly passed Takahashi to confidently led the early stages for Yoshimura Suzuki. But Nakasuga was scything his way through the field and, in a sign of things to come, superior fuel consumption allowed the Japanese to stay out longer than his rivals and take the lead.
Takahashi gave the #634 Honda to team-mate Stoner at their first pit stop and the Australian moved into first place when Nakasuga finally pitted and handed over to Smith. But disaster struck for Stoner at the 1 hour 10 minute mark, before third rider Michael van der Mark had a chance to ride.
With their main rival eliminated, Smith overtook Australian Josh Hook (TSR Honda) and remained up front before handing over to Espargaro.
The Spaniard, who had set a record pace to hand his team pole on Saturday, built an ever increasing lead before yet another safety car - for a major oil spin on the approach to the 130R.
Espargaro pitted behind the safety car, giving Nakasuga his second run and briefly putting Moto2's Dominque Aegerter into the lead for TSR Honda.
After Aegerter pitted, Nakasuga kept the #21 up front through yet more safety car periods during the middle of the race.
The Yoshimura Suzuki podium challenge came undone when repairs were needed after a fall for Tsuda. Meanwhile Nakasuga remained trouble free up front, building a lead of over 1 minute to the TSR team before giving the bike to Smith.
But drama immediately followed when the team were given a 30-second stop-go penalty for an earlier overtake under a yellow flag by Espargaro, which put Hook into the lead ahead of Smith.
Smith kept his cool and began hunting down the one-minute deficit to Hook, which was slashed to just seven seconds when Hook pitted and handed over to Aegerter.
Smith swiftly bridged the gap to Aegerter, passing the Swiss shortly after the 5 hour mark.
Smith pulled a 17s lead by the time he pulled in and gave Espargaro his second run. The Spaniard emerged 43s behind Aegerter, which was reduced to 30s by the time Aegerter handed back to Hook with two hours to go.
Espargaro rode to a 47s lead over the TSR Honda before pulling in to give Nakasuga his final run. But with 1 hour 15 minutes still to go, Nakasuga didn't have enough fuel to reach the finish and thus both Yamaha and TSR Honda needed to make one more pit stop.
Hook duly made TSR Honda's final stop with exactly one hour to go, handing over to Aegerter and meaning the pair had shared riding duties for the entire race, Kyle Smith not being utilised.
Nakasuga continued one-minute clear of the field until making the Yamaha team's final pit stop, handing over to Smith with 25 minutes remaining. Smith rejoined a 'safe' 20 seconds ahead of Aegerter, but there was one final twist when another safety car was needed.
That could have allowed Aegerter to close right in on Smith - but Suzuka uses more than one safety car and Aegerter was queued up behind a different car to Smith, meaning Yamaha's lead actually grew.
The safety car came in with eight minutes to go, leaving Smith to battle the backmarkers in the darkness.
Despite the alien environment, Smith did a perfect job and brought his R1 home safely to victory!
After missing out on Superpole, it was fitting that Smith got to ride the final stint. The Englishman was mobbed by his jubilant team-mates when he arrived back in the pits, before making their way up to the podium.
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