WorldSBK KRT riders Rea and Lowes, plus regular BSB rider Haslam, put in an epic effort on their Number 10 Ninja ZX-10RR but finished one lap behind eventual winners HRC Honda.
Having qualified second fastest KRT led the race on lap nine, and from lap 29 to 30 during a gruelling race of attrition.
An unfortunately timed appearance by one of the pace cars split KRT from the leading team at one stage of the race. Later, a small crash from Rea, while trying to pass two slower riders in his effort to trim the leaders' margin, lost some more seconds that proved to be impossible to make up again before race end.
All three riders put in a strong ‘shift’ behind the handlebars of the Number 10 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR, with even Lowes (who is still trying to shake off the effects of a recent illness) riding two sessions to Rea and Haslam’s three apiece.
The final on-track stint was put in by Haslam, but with an entire lap to make up in the closing stages of the race it was an impossible task for any rider.
Kawasaki Plaza Racing Team, with riders Ryosuke Iwato, Yuta Okaya and Naoki Kiyosue, placed 13th overall and won the Superstock category that runs alongside the full EWC spec machines. The team led the Superstock race-within-a-race on four separate occasions, but once they had regained the lead on lap 31 it was retained all the way to the end. They set 205 laps in all.
After two years with no Suzuka 8 Hours on the calendar the enthusiastic crowd witnessed three different manufacturers on the final EWC podium.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “It has been a really enjoyable week here in Suzuka with my team. All the team staff, plus my team-mates Leon and Alex, meant that the atmosphere has been incredible. We have worked really well together, everybody from back room staff, strategy people, caterers, nutritionists, doctors - every single person in the team worked so hard with a busy schedule to get here. It is not easy to have two goals in a single season - the WorldSBK championship and also the Suzuka 8 Hours. We had huge competition here, and did our best. I feel we just came up short but we can be proud, and really proud of my team-mates and everyone else for their hard work. It is a little bit bitter sweet coming second best but I think we can fly home knowing we gave it our best shot. There were a few mistakes in the race, a few issues, but that is Endurance racing and we can stand on that podium and be proud of our efforts. Thanks to Kawasaki and all of our sponsors for making this happen and no doubt we will be back again to try and go one better.”
Alex Lowes, stated: “It was a tough race but it has been a tough ten days for me, coming from the Most WorldSBK round, where I did not feel at my best. In the race I did the best I could. I am a little bit disappointed because I feel I probably could have done a little bit better but we were not fast enough today. Second was about the best we could do. I want to say a big thanks to the whole Kawasaki Racing Team. They have had a tough schedule, including the tests we have done here, and it is a big challenge to take on such a big event as the Suzuka 8 Hours. A massive thank you to all of them for the hard work and big respect to Leon and Johnny my team-mates, who have done a great job all week. It has been a pleasure to be here with them. Thank you very much guys. I hope we can come back in the future and do one better.”
Leon Haslam, stated: “The Suzuka 8 Hours is always a pleasure to come to. The team this year was absolutely fantastic. The effort from every single person - both my team-mates Johnny and Alex - was great. I think we maximised what we did and we can go home proud. For sure we wanted to win and there are a few areas we want to obviously try to improve on to do that. But for this 8 Hours we all gave our maximum; the atmosphere was great, the team was fantastic so big thanks to everyone. I am happy to stand on the podium again at the Suzuka 8 Hours.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager, stated: “It has been a very good experience here at Suzuka. Thanks to KMC for trusting in the KRT WorldSBK project to manage the 8 Hours race. We did it with big support and big help from all the KMC engineers, and we took hundreds of notes where we need to improve. Only when you stay in the action can you really learn perfection. Honda did very well, and we have to congratulate them. The second Pace Car appearance threw away the show in this 8 Hours, because for just few seconds we could not pass them to stay in the same slot as Honda. We missed nearly 40 seconds there and then it was impossible to recover the time to Honda given the level they rode at. Jonathan’s fall while trying to put pressure on them, when passing two slow riders, finally made us lose all our possibilities. Alex, in fairness, was not in his best shape after his illness. Leon made a great job and added his speed and experience. Massive thanks to all the KRT and KMC guys; they made an incredible job. And special thanks to Mr. Nishiyama, KMC Senior Engineer responsible for the WorldSBK project, who made massive efforts. Let's see if we have second chance in the future.”
The #11 Ninja ZX-10RR of Webike SRC Kawasaki France with riders Randy de Puniet, Etienne Masson and Florian Marino finished 15th overall, in a tough race with 34 finishers from 45 starters.