A pole and a podium for Team Green
Like last year, Team Green sparkled on the Suzuka circuit for the grand finale of the World Endurance Championship. Long leader after winning pole position, the Kawasaki of the Japanese team slipped to the third step of the podium.
With Jonathan Rea riding the No. 11 ZX-RR, Team Green had no other goal than to win the Suzuka Eight Hours, the flagship event of the World Endurance Championship, at the end of July. Together with Leon Haslam, his future World Superbike team-mate, and Kazuma Watanabe, the Brit held his own in the free practice sessions by setting the track record of 2’05″168, before securing the pole position for the next day accompanied by his two teammates. With the passage of a typhoon in the night from Saturday to Sunday, the race was unfortunately held in less favourable conditions, wind and rain disrupting its smooth and orderly performance. Designated to start, Haslam lived up to the trust placed in him. Always as comfortable on a wet track, the Brit handed over the Kawasaki number 11 to Rea in first position just before the first hour of racing. Starting off with slicks on the drying track, Rea kept the lead while behind him several stars came croppers on a very tricky track. Fighting it out with the Yamaha number 21 and Honda number 33, the Team Green Kawasaki stayed in front until a fuel outage made it lose about thirty seconds. And then after five hours and twenty-five minutes of racing, Rea definitely lost contact with the leaders because of a fall with slick tires, in the rain and behind the safety car. “The team should have allowed me to come back sooner to change tires,” the triple World Superbike champion regretted afterwards. Disappointed to only make it to the third step of the podium, Rea, Haslam and Watanabe however made a date to win the race in Suzuka next season, which Kawasaki have not done for the last twenty-five years.