2016 Suzuka 8-Hour will be an epic showdown, with former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden set to take on the cream of the crop from Grand Prix, World Superbike and the MCE British Superbike championships. The American will line up at Suzuka at the end of July alongside double winners Takumi Takahashi and Michael van der Mark – who is also Hayden’s Honda WSB team-mate. The trio will be competing on the HRC-backed MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO, the squad that fellow MotoGP champion Casey Stoner joined in 2015.
And, heading to the most prestigious race on the endurance calendar at a circuit owned by Honda for the first time, Hayden says he can’t wait for the challenge.
“For me it is a great honour to go and compete in a race such as Suzuka with a long history and a very different type of action – a running start, pit stops and working with team-mates to find the right set up for all us! With the long summer break, I am happy to have a chance to stay on the bike and stay sharp. It will be a tough challenge with many good teams but it would be great to win and add the trophy to my collection.”
Honda will also utilise the third member of the Ten Kate outfit, as World Supersport title challenger and former BSB podium finisher PJ Jacobsen joins the TCC TSR Honda squad alongside Moto2 racer Dominique Aegerter and Kazuma Watanabe.
But while Honda have as always fielded strong teams for their home race, it might still be a big ask for them to defeat last year’s all-conquering Yamaha squad.
The Yamaha team, now with Monster backing, will see last year’s winners Pol Espargaro and Katsuyuki Nakasuga joined by former BSB champion Alex Lowes, who will replace fellow Brit, Bradley Smith. The Yamaha team were unstoppable on the new R1 last year, and with the experience of Lowes joining the squad, who just missed out on a podium last year, they start as the pre-race favourites.
There’s also strong representation from the other Japanese manufacturers, with BSB title leader (and double Suzuka winner) Leon Haslam joining the Kawasaki Team Green effort alongside Akira Yanagawa and Kazuki Watanabe. And, with testing already underway for the Derbyshire racer, Haslam is convinced that he’s in a good position on the new ZX-10R to extend his wins once again.
There’s even more British interest at Suzuki, as reigning BSB champion Josh Brookes returns to the Yoshimura squad that took him to podium success in 2013. He’ll run alongside Suzuki MotoGP test rider Takuya Tsuda, with reigning Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco expected to be confirmed as the team’s third rider.
Suzuki will also field a fellow BSB winner on the satellite Team Kagayama machine, as Ryuichi Kiyonari, one of the most successful riders in Suzuka history and a podium finisher last year with the team, joins team boss Yukio Kagayama and Naomichi Uramoto.
The Suzuka 8-Hour race, which takes place on July 31 is once again garnering the same level of support and interest that it enjoyed during its 80s and 90s heyday.