Consecutive podium won by the unity of the team
2014 FIM World Endurance Championship Round 2
The 37th “Coca-Cola Zero” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race
[Free Practice] July 24th, 2014/4th (Yukio Kagayama 2’09.638)
[Qualify] July 25th, 2014/5th (Yukio Kagayama 2’08.947)
[Top 10 Trial] July 26th, 2014/6th (Dominique Aegerter 2’08.483)
[Race] July 27th, 2014/3rd
Spectators 111,000 (4days total)
Venue Suzuka Circuit Mie, Japan (5.821km)
2014 Suzuka 8 Hours. This was the second year Team KAGAYAMA challenged this prestigious race. The team prepared for the race week by filling what was missing at the pre-race tests. Dominique Aegerter, went back to Europe after the tests, and came back happily to Suzuka with his first pole position and his first win at the Moto2 World Championship in Germany. The team’s strategy was to finish the race in seven pit-ins. If they set-up the machine geared towards fuel consumption, they would lose speed, and if they geared the machine towards speed, they would lose in fuel consumption. The riders and the mechanics were having a hard time achieving both fuel consumption and speed.
Timed Practices took place on Friday, with every rider having a session of his own. The heat that haunted the riders from the first day, took its highest this day, with a temperature of more than 35 degrees, and a ground temperature of 63 degrees. The team took the strategy of having Kagayama run the 3rd session, where the temperature would go down, and this strategy worked well for the team. Kagayama marked the team’s best 2’08.947 in 5th place, and allowed the team to advance to the Top 10 Trial.
Top 10 Trial
A 45 minute practice session took place before the Top 10 Trial. The team had the two riders, Kagayama and Dominique, that would run in the Top 10 Trial, run in this practice session. This was to allow Dominique to have more time on the track before the race.
Even though this was Dominique’s first Top 10 Trial, he gives it a good run, with a lap time of 2’08.483. Kagayama, shooting for a better time, made a miss during his attempt, and did not succeed to mark a better lap time than Dominique. However, Dominique’s time secured a 6th grid, now all that was left was how to build up the race.
Blue Skies covered Suzuka in the morning, but forecast was that rain would start falling about noon. With is this forecast in mind, and considering the restriction of 15 tires during the race, the team decided to have Dominique start the race.
By the time the rider’s took the grid, drops of rain started to fall. However, the rain was not enough to wear wet tires, and the riders went out on the warm-up lap on dry tires. As the riders came back to the starting grid, heavy rain started to fall and the start was delayed. The track was now in wet condition, and the start was delayed for an hour and 5 minutes.
This was the first time for Dominique to have a LeMans start, and although he had almost no experience in the wet condition on a superbike, Dominique takes the whole shot! He would drop his position trying to get used to the wet surface, but as he found his pace, he positioned himself in 7th. As the track dried up, Kagayama went out next on slick tires. As his stint came to an end, rain starts to fall. Kagayama made a routine pit-in, but he made a quick decision and goes out again for a consecutive stint. This allowed him to move up to 2nd.
The course became dry again, and Dominique again went out on the track on dry tires. Haga continues after Dominique. Haga had to sacrifice his track time, as a third rider, but the team’s strategy was to have young Dominique do more stints. Haga was probably unsatisfied, but his trust with Kagayama made this possible. Although, Haga did not have enough practice time, he would lap in the 2’10’s and proved that he was a top rider. Around this time, the race leader crashed, and Team KAGAYAMA & Verity moves up to 3rd, making steady steps towards a consecutive podium finish. Dominique finished his third stint, and Kagayama goes out in his last stint, as the sun starts to set at Suzuka. The headlights lighting the track creates a mystic atmosphere, but it would also mean a higher chance of an accident. Kagayama kept his concentration, and finished 3rd, giving Team KAGAYAMA and Verity their consecutive podium finish.
First of all, I would like to thank Dunlop, Suzuki, and all the fans that cheered for us. A majority of our team staff have other jobs, but managed to finish the race without a mistake, and made me learn what team work is all about. One of my aim was to take Noriyuki Haga to the podium, as he wasn’t able to last year. I also wanted to prove how a young rider like Dominique Aegerter could run at Suzuka, and give good influence to the young Japanese riders. I believe that if young riders like Dominique and Michael (van der Mark) goes through Suzuka 8 Hours as a stepping stone to the World, it would influence the racing community in a good way.
This has been a precious experience for me, being able to race at the Suzuka 8 Hours and ride on a superbike. The condition changed a lot, from wet to dry to wet, but I learned a lot from this, including my first pitstops. I want to thank Kagayama for inviting me to race with him. I would be really happy if he asks me to come again next year.
I have been told that the rider’s stints would be announced on the morning of race day. When I saw the that I had only one stint, I asked Kagayama if that was true. Thanks to both Kagayama and Dominique, we were able to make the podium. I ran my only stint in full throttle, and Kagayama brought the machine back to a podium finish. Team KAGAYAMA and Verity is supported by many sponsors, and racing in the Suzuka 8 Hours with the team was a very comfortable one. I would like to thank the team for this.