Endurance

Honda extends winning record in Suzuka 8 Hours

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Honda's CBR1000RR was raced to victory by the F.C.C. TSR Honda team in the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours, giving the marque its 24th win in the mid-summer classic, and second in a row in the third round of the QTEL FIM Endurance World Championship at the venerable Suzuka Circuit south of Tokyo.

Yoshimura Suzuki finished second with Musashi RT Harc Pro finishing third on a second Honda CBR1000RR, with all three teams finishing on the same lap.

The F.C.C TSR Honda team of Suzuka veterans Kousuke Akiyoshi, Shinichi Ito and Ryuichi Kiyonari became the favorites for the 34th running of the race based on a successful pre-race Suzuka test and they didn't disappoint.

But the race wouldn't be trouble-free. Kiyonari started the race, but had a small mishap early on that forced him to return to the pits for repairs, dropping the team from first to third. And Ito survived a collision in the second hour with Team Bollinger's Roman Stamm.

The F.C.C. TSR Honda team went on to complete 217 laps of the 5.807Km track in Mie Prefecture to beat the Yoshimura Suzuki team of Yukio Kagayama, Josh Waters and Nobu Aoki by 38.765s.

The Musashi RT Harc Pro team rode a mixture of youth and experience to the final podium position. Takumi Takahashi, 21, teamed with veterans Makoto Tamada, 36, and Tadayuki Okada, the 44-year-old multi-time winner, to finish third, 1m, 31.162s behind their fellow Honda riders.

The win was the fourth for both Ito and Kiyonari, tying the mark set by Wayne Gardner in 1992 for second most. Tohru Ukawa remains the all-time Suzuka master with five wins. Three-time British Superbike champion Kiyonari's four wins came in 2005, '08, 2010 and this year. Ito won in 1997 and '98, and 2006. Akiyoshi, the 36-year-old F.C.C. TSR rider who has a five-race winning streak in the All Japan Championship dating back to last season, won the 8 Hours for the first time.

The win was especially meaningful for Ito, who earlier this year announced his retirement. Ito is from Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, which suffered considerable damage from the March earthquake and tsunami. Because of the tsunami and earthquake that damaged a nuclear reactor, the race began and finished an hour earlier.

?I had decided to quit racing last year, but to be here and win again is the best way I found to support my region and my friends. It was very difficult to be prepared enough for the race, but I tried my best," Ito said.

The race began with Musashi RT Harc-Pro leading at the end of each of the first two hours, with Yoshimura Suzuki second and F.C.C. TSR Honda third after Kiyonari?s early fall.

Yoshimura Suzuki took the lead in the third hour, but it swung back and forth, depending on the efficiency of the pit stops and the riders. Musashi RT Harc Pro's Takumi Takahashi battled with pole position rider Yukio Kagayama in the early going, which allowed the Yoshimura team to hold the lead.

F.C.C. TSR Honda cut the gap to 19s in the fourth hour and erased it, taking the lead halfway into the fifth hour. With three hours remaining, F.C.C. TSR Honda had a lead of just over 1.5s having completed 136 laps. By then it was a three-team race with the fourth-placed team two laps in arrears.

F.C.C. TSR finished the sixth hour with a comfortable lead of 1m, 30s, but the Yoshimura team closed the gap back up to 11s entering the final hour. That's when the leading Honda team reversed the momentum to pull out the win by nearly 39s.

2011 Suzuka 8 Hour Results
1. F.C.C. TSR Honda: Kousuke Akiyoshi, Shinichi Ito, Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda)
2. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team: Yukio Kagayama, Josh Waters, Nobu Aoki (Suzuki)
3. Musashi RT Harc-Pro: Takumi Takahashi, Takaaki Nakagami, Ryota Kobayashi (Honda)
4. BMW Motorrad France 99: Sebastien Gimbert, Erwan Nigon, Damian Cudlin (BMW)
5. EVA RT Test Type-01 Trickstar FRTR: Osamu Deguchi, Tamaki Serizawa, Shin'ya Takeishi (Kawasaki)
6. Crown Keibihosyou Racing: Toshiyuki Hamaguchi, Koji Kitaguchi, Kazuma Watanabe (Honda)
7. Yamaha Racing France GMT94 IPONE: Matthieu Lagrive, Kenny Foray, David Checa (Yamaha)
8. Teluru HoneyBeeRacing: Iwata, Sekiguchi, Noda (Honda)
9. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team: Vincent Philippe, Freddy Foray, Daisaku Sakai, Anthony Delhalle (Suzuki)
10. TOHO Racing Hiroshima Desmo: Tatsuya Yamaguchi, Hiromichi Kunikawa, Ken Eguchi (Ducati)

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CLASS POSITIONS TO DATE
1 BMW Motorrad France 99 68,
2 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team 62,
3 Yamaha Racing France GMT 94 Ipone 46,
4 FCC TSR Honda 30, 5 Team SRC Kawasaki 28,
6 YMES Folch Endurance 25,
7 Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team 24,
8 National Motos 22,
9 Musashi RT Harc Pro 19,
10 Bolliger Team Switzerland 18,
11 Team R2CL 17,
12 Monster Yamaha YART 16,
13 Honda TT Legends 15,
14 Eva RT Trickstar 13,
15 Maco Racing Team 13.

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