Factory Honda riders Kousuke Akiyoshi, Shinichi Ito and Ryuichi Kiyonari won this year’s Suzuka Eight-Hour endurance race in Japan at the weekend.
Former Australian superbike champion Josh Waters finished a close and commendable second place with Youshimura Suzuki team-mates Yukio Kagayama and Nobuatsu Aoki.
Teamed with the two vastly-experienced riders in the Yoshimura squad, Waters, from Mildura in Victoria, held his own and impressed in both of his race stints as he battled factory Honda riders.
The 2009 Australian Superbike Champion has competed in two World Superbike events with the team this year and proved an asset from outset as a race set-up was developed.
Kagayama qualified the GSX-R1000 on pole and the team was in the running for much of the race. The eventual margin to winners TSR Honda was just 38.765 seconds after 207 gruelling laps, making the finish the closest in the iconic endurance race’s long and celebrated history.
Waters said he was pleased to play a part in the team’s strong podium result and had learned a great deal from the experience.
“It was a great weekend and the team did a fantastic job to be fastest every day leading up to the race,” said Waters.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t bring home the win but feel we did a really good job against the two factory Honda teams.
“In both of my stints I was up against the HRC team number 1 riders and my team set me the task of keeping up with them which was a challenge, but I was pleased to be able to come into the pits right on the rear wheel of the leader both times.
“It looked like it might rain towards the end and, based on our testing results, the team had picked me to ride the final stint if the track was going to be wet.
“I was dressed and ready to go but in the end Yukio, our polesitter, was chosen to finish the race as it stayed dry.
“It’s been an awesome experience to be part of the event and race alongside two of the greats in Yukio and Nobi. I learned a lot from them and their experience in MotoGP and World Supers.”
The Honda Dream RT Sakurai Honda all-Aussie pairing of Wayne Maxwell and Jamie Stauffer were dealt a cruel blow while racing competitively within the top 5, with mechanical issues ending their charge.
Maxwell and Stauffer had battled various setup issues in the initial stages of the Suzuka 8 Hour weekend and were understandably disappointed with the non-finish.
The Aussie contingent will be back on track shortly at round 6 of the QBE Australian Superbike Championships at Queensland Raceway from the 19th-21st of August.
It will mark the second consecutive ASBK round at the Ipswich venue, and Stauffer remains the man to beat following his clean sweep of pole and both races in June.
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).