KRT winners, SRC Champions!
At the end of a crazy final won by Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, the Kawasaki SRC team won its first World Endurance Championship title.
All the action happened five minutes from the finish. Jonathan Rea had just taken control of the race after overtaking the official Yamaha ridden by the trio Nakasuga, Lowes and Van der Mark and the Honda with Takahashi, Kyonari and Bradl in the saddle. Stuck in thirteenth place, the SRC Kawasaki team had lost all hope of taking the title. Handicapped by tyre problems, delayed by the unfortunate entry of a pace car and a fall by Nigon, Gilles Stafler’s team had more or less accepted their fate. And then the Suzuki of the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), placed ninth, broke its engine … “It was a crazy end to the race,” said the boss of the Kawasaki team. “We thought we’d lost the title for one point, and we ended up winning it with a five-point lead. It’s true we had a stroke of luck this time round, but it was so bad at the Bol d’Or that I think we deserve the crown.” It was a first for the Kawasaki SRC team, but also the first for Erwan Nigon and Jérémy Guarnoni, in tears at the arrival of this incredible Japanese final. “Everyone has done a great job this season,” said Davi Checa, the third man on the SRC. “Our success is well deserved.” Shortly after Etienne Masson broke his engine, Jonathan Rea skidded on the oil left by the SERT Suzuki, forcing the race management to fly the red flag. The four minutes that remained in the race prevented the entry of the pace car, and the ranking of the Eight Hours of Suzuka was therefore based on the bike positions in the lap preceding Rea’s fall. The last time the Kawasaki team KRT won at Suzuka was 26 years ago.
Jonathan Rea: “I cannot believe what is happening really. From being dejected and feeling that everything was out of our hands, I had already gone back to the hotel, said goodbye to all the guys, with lots of tears. I was in the restaurant already, ordering dinner, when my mechanic Uri called me and said, ‘Hey, are you sitting down?’ I thought he was going to ask me to go to another restaurant – but he then told me we had won the 8 Hours. I think common sense prevailed in that one. I have no words because I am really emotional and happy. The strategy was to work on fuel consumption and race consistency and make no mistakes. I feel we executed that quite well although I got quite tired and cramped at the end. But we prepared the best way possible with the limited time we had. I am so proud to be part of the project and what an effort from KRT, KHI, KMJ who prepared for this race in two tests. During the race it is like hell, the hardest race you can ever imagine, but getting a result like this almost makes me want to come back for more. The emotional roller coaster is unreal.”
Leon Haslam: “From everyone being in tears to getting the news sitting in a restaurant that we actually did win it, I have no words to describe how I feel. The Suzuka 8 Hours is always one of the hardest races of the year. The effort we put in to win, from us, the team and Kawasaki means it has been a big roller coaster of emotion. When the oil went down and the situation happened at the end; words cannot describe the lows we had. But when the good news came through, the highs were just as high. In the second half of each stint I really struggled physically but the bike was working well. I am so happy and I want to thank Kawasaki for this opportunity; also the whole team, Toprak and Johnny, and we pushed as hard as we could. It is a shame that we did not get to stand on the top of the podium but the result is in and we have won the Suzuka 8 Hours.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu: “Today I am very tired after watching the race for eight hours! But I am very happy for Johnny and Leon because that was an incredible job today. We are all happy and thank you to everyone. For me this was my first time here – and our team won.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team manager: “This race has been outstanding and I think for the public, the fans and everyone it has been the most incredible Suzuka 8 Hours. Yamaha, Honda and Kawasaki – the riders and the factories – have been amazing everybody and they all saw a great race. The best point is that we finally got the victory after Johnny made an incredible last riding stint. The strategy we planned was very good so at the end we got the victory.”