Michael van der Mark took another step towards assuring his status as a future motorcycling star by claiming a surprise victory in the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours endurance event at his first attempt.
Joining Leon Haslam and Takumi Takahashi in the Musashi HARC Pro Honda team, van der Mark belied his rookie status by lapping a strong pace in an event traditionally dominated by experienced local riders in the past.
Indeed, van der Mark's success makes him the first Dutchman to win the event in 35 years and only the fifth European (including team-mate Haslam) to take victory since 2000.
Joining an impressive winners' roll call of Valentino Rossi, Carlos Checa and Jonathan Rea, 20-year-old van der Mark – who rides for Pata Honda in the World Supersport class – couldn't hide his excitement at his success.
I'm just so excited! What a fantastic day it's been – I can't really believe yet what's happened! We won the 8-hours!! We had a really strong team and the bike was working so, SO good!
“And the teamwork during the pitstops was perfect. It was amazing to watch. I am so thankful to everybody that helped me and allowed me to be a part of this incredible experience.”
Often seen as an opportunity to impress Honda bosses on their home soil, van der Mark's success is likely to elevate his status within the manufacturer, particularly as it was his first professional outing aboard a Superbike.