The Yamaha Factory Racing Team of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga win the Suzuka 8 Hours, making it three in a row for the boys in blue. The only other team to accomplish such a feat is the Cabin Honda team of 2000–2002, which variously featured Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, Daijiro Kato, and Tohru Ukawa.
Alex Lowes set the fastest lap of the race with a 2m 6.9s lap that was just a second slower than the pole time set by Nakasuga. This is van der Mark’s third win at Suzuka and Nakasuga becomes the first rider to win three in a row.
The Yamaha team crossed the line more than two minutes ahead of second place finishers Leon Haslam, Kazuma Watanabe, and Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman of Kawasaki Team Green. The FCC TSR Honda team of Dominic Aegerter, Randy de Puniet, and Josh Hook (replacing the ill Stefan Bradl) put the Fireblade on the final step of the podium after mechanical issues nearly forced them out of the race.
The MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda of Jack Miller, Takaaki Nakagami, and Takumi Takahashi was scrapping for the lead in the second hour of the race before Alex Lowes out-braked Miller for the lead and eked out a four-second advantage. In the third hour, Taka Nakagami, Honda’s rising star in Moto2, crashed out of the chase and had to bring the bike into the pits, negating HRC’s best shot for victory and no doubt drawing the ire of his HRC bosses. The team finished just off the podium in fourth.
The Yamaha Factory Racing Team managed its position at the top ahead of FCC TSR Honda and Team Green Kawasaki for much of the race until the final hour when de Puniet’s Fireblade (ironically) burst into flames and forced him into the pits. Fortunately, damage was minimal and the team re-entered the race a place down and were able to bring it home behind the Kawasaki.
The Yoshimura Suzuki squad of Sylvain Guintoli, Josh Brookes, and Takuya Tsuda finished four laps down in seventh place, an impressive result considering the team was way down in 60th place in the first hour because of mechanical issues. The riders’ strafe through the field represents a formidable showing for the Hamamatsu factory, even if the results were less than they had hoped for, given their second-place qualifying result.
The GMT94 Yamaha team of David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Mike Di Meglio finished in 11th place, securing the EWC title.
2017 EWC Suzuka 8 Hours Top-10
1. Yamaha Factory Racing Team (Lowes/van der Mark/Nakasuga) 8h 32.9s
2. Kawasaki Team Green (Haslam/Watanabe/Kamaruzaman) +2m 9s
3. FCC TSR Honda (Aegerter/Hook/de Puniet) +1 lap
4. MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda (Miller/Nakagami/Takahashi) +2 laps
5. YART-Yamaha (Parkes/Nozane/Fritz) +4 laps
6. Honda Dream Racing (Koyama/Iwato/Yamaguchi) +4 laps
7. Yoshimura Suzuki (Guintoli/Brookes/Tsuda) +4 laps
8. Satu Hati Honda Team Asia (Pratama/Zaidi/Wilairot) +5 laps
9. MotoMapSUPPLY FutureAccess Suzuki (Waters/Aoki/Konno) +5 laps
10. Honda Dream RT Sakurai Honda (Mizuno/O’Halloran/Stauffer) +5 laps