Michael van der Mark says he faced the toughest race conditions he's encountered at the Suzuka 8 Hours during his stints helping the #21 Yamaha Factory Racing Team to a fourth consecutive victory, while securing his own fourth win at the event.

After injury ruled out Katsuyuki Nakasuga from contesting the race for the factory Yamaha squad after crashing on Saturday, the duties were split between van der Mark and his World Superbike team-mate Alex Lowes for the defending champions.

Suzuka 8 Hours 2018 Winner - Alex Lowes

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The Dutch rider started the race for the team, which was held in wet conditions following a typhoon which swept across Suzuka on the night before the race, while he was also hit in the mid-race rain storm on his third stint.

The factory Yamaha rider’s charge in the rain proved vital as he overhauled the #33 Red Bull Honda with Japan Post to retake the lead with just under three hours to go after teh Honda had been able to make one fewer stop having pitted on schedule as the rain hit while the majority of teams were forced into an extra stop to switch to wet tyres.

Van der Mark feels the added challenge of having just two riders for the race plus the wet conditions made it his toughest Suzuka 8 Hours but was thrilled to secure victory by almost half a minute ahead of the factory Honda squad.

“It was a really tough race which started yesterday when we knew that Nakasuya was not fit to ride,” van der Mark said. “They told me I was going to start the race which was a bit stressful. I think this is my worst Suzuka 8 Hours in terms of conditions as it kept changing so quickly.

“I think the first stint I did a one hour stint and I thought we were past the worst part but in my third one. I had been on the bike for an hour and 40 minutes because of the safety cars, rain and then the dry. It was really tough but in the end we had a nice gap and Alex finished it off.

“I am really happy with the weekend as the team had a plan and they never changed the plan. Even though some other bikes looked stronger we always kept doing our thing so I am really happy and hopefully I’ll be back next year with Alex and Katsuyuki.”

Michael van der Mark joins an elite list of riders with four career Suzuka 8 Hour wins including team-mate Nakasuga, who has claimed a record four straight triumphs, Wayne Gardner and Ryuichi Kiyonari.

The Dutch rider claimed back-to-back wins for #634 MuSASHi RT HARC-Pro Honda in 2013 and 2014 before repeating the feat for Yamaha over the past two years.



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