The official Team Green entry for the 41st running of the classic Coca-Cola Suzuka 8-Hours World Endurance Championship race, comprising Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Kazuma Watanabe, took the second best time on their Ninja ZX-10RR at the end of the final official test session before the race itself later this month.
In a gruelling three day test against all their numerous rivals Team Green’s new look line-up, drawn from WorldSBK (Rea), BSB (Haslam) and JSB (Watanabe) headed off many more experienced teams. The official Kawasaki Motors Japan squad put in a strong showing at a critical time in the build up to race weekend itself, with just over two weeks to go before the action gets underway for real.
Leon had flown in to Suzuka direct from a win at the Knockhill round of the British Superbike Championship in Scotland, while Jonathan Rea had a similar travel experience after winning both races in the WorldSBK round at Misano in Italy.
In all, eight Kawasaki mounted teams have entered the Coca-Cola Suzuka 8-Hour race this year.
The wonderfully varied 5.182km long Suzuka circuit, built in 1962, hosted its first 8-Hour race in 1978. Kawasaki has won the event once before, in 1993, with WorldSBK Champion Scot Russell and fellow WorldSBK Superstar Aaron Slight.
The 2018 edition of the Suzuka 8-Hour race itself will take place on the weekend of the 27th to the 29th of July, and will be the climax of the overall FIM World Endurance Championship season.
The race starts in daylight and is completed in the darkness, adding another theatrical element to one of the single most important races of the year for riders and especially for manufacturers.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “The test is really positive – as this was my first test with Team Green Japan it was important to see the bike set up that Leon and Kazuma were working on. A really good sign is that I jumped on and with only a few tweaks l was up to speed. I basically worked on re-learning the track – it’s been four years since I’ve been here. Also I am learning about the Ninja ZX-10RR Suzuka endurance spec machine. I’ve ridden six of the last seven days, so it’s still fun but also hard work. The bike is working in a good window and we are competitive in all temperatures. The bike is very agile and good in traffic. At the final part of day three we did a race simulation and we had a lot of positive input. To be honest, all three of us in the team have been fast so that’s a good sign. All members of the team have been welcoming and I am looking forward to coming back for the race and doing the best we can.”
Leon Haslam, stated: “We’ve done three days of testing – the last test before the Suzuka race. It’s gone really well. I’ve done quite a lot of testing this year and it was great to have Jonathan Rea to join this final session. The pace is good and the team is positive and we are making progress with the bike. My race simulation laps are really consistent. We finished second the last two years and hopefully with the steps and improvements we have made we can climb to the top of the podium on 2018. In have another BSB race in the UK coming up then we are back to Japan for the race. I am looking forward to giving some good news after the race itself.”
Kazuma Watanabe, stated: “This is the first time for Team Green to welcome Jonathan at a Suzuka test. To my great surprise, after hard Misano race and long haul flight from Europe, he has joined the test from the very first session with good lap time. Leon, being direct from his BSB race was also fast. These guys are charged with big amount of energy! They have long been friends, which helps make the team atmosphere in the best condition looking toward the race. The impact of these guys pushes me work hard to make better lap time by studying the logger data thoroughly and carefully. You will see a new Kazuma at the race.”