The most famous motorcycle endurance race takes place in Japan on July 29th, 2018. And it’s been announced young BSB star Bradley Ray will race at the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours as part of the Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing team. The Kent rider is currently challenging for the British Superbike title for the Buildbase Suzuki team run by Hawk Racing. And he’ll be teaming up with Sylvain Guintoli, Kazuki Watanabe and Takuya Tsuda.
It’s a pretty impressive team for the 21-year-old to join. Yoshimura Racing won the first ever Suzuki 8 Hours event in 1978 with Wes Cooley and Mike Baldwin sharing a Suzuki GS1000. And they’ve taken a total of four victories, most recently in 2009 with Nobuatsu Aoki, Kazuki Tokudome and Daisaku Sakai.
Yoshimura Suzuki MOTUL team manager, Yohei Kato, “It will be our 41st time taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours. Our four riders will be Sylvain Guintoli & Takuya Tsuda, the Suzuki MotoGP test riders, Bradley Ray, one of the most distinctive riders in the British Superbike Championship, and Kazuki Watanabe, new Yoshimura JSB1000 rider. Yoshimura and Suzuki have been working hard to make the GSX-R1000R as fast as possible and I promise all that support us that this year we will beat the factory teams that challenge us with great riders and powerful teamwork.”
Sylvain Guintoli will be familiar as a former BSB racer, World Superbike champion in 2014, and current Suzuki MotoGP test rider after competing in the series in 2007 and 2008. His made his debut at the Suzuki 8 Hours in 2017 with Yoshimura Suzuki. Watanabe rides in the MFJ All Japan Road Race JSB1000 championship, and previously made appearances in Moto2, while Tsuda has not only tested for the Suzuki MotoGP team for the last 3 years, but also raced at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2017 in place of the injured Alex Rins.
Ray said, “I am so honored and privileged to be invited by Yoshimura Suzuki MOTUL Racing Team to take part in the famous Suzuka 8 hours endurance race. This will be my first time taking part in the 8 Hours event and I am extremely excited. We will all be pushing hard as a team to get on the top step of the podium this year.”
Already we’ve seen Ray make an appearance as a World Superbikes wildcard.
Ray is not the only British star or BSB racer to appear at the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2018. British Superbike title rival Leon Haslam (who won in 2013 and 2014) will compete for Kawasaki alongside dominant multiple WSB champion Jonathan Rea. And Yamaha will run a team including Alex Lowes who won the Suzuka 8 hours in 2016 and 2017, alongside WSB team-mate Michael van der Mark who has won the event three times since 2013, including last year.
Not only is the Suzuki 8 Hours a chance to see various MotoGP, World Superbike and BSB stars compete alongside and against one another. It’s also famed for teams using some unusual liveries (particularly from Japanese privateer teams), and some odd creations from private tuning shops, although it’s declined in recent years. And it’s even worth paying close attention trackside. In 1990, Honda equipped marshals with the revolutionary new Honda NR750. And then did the same in 1993 with the Honda RC45.