Kawasaki pair describe “rollercoaster of emotions” at Suzuka
Kawasaki duo Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea have described their “rollercoaster of emotions” in the Suzuka 8 Hours, as they went from losing the race on the last lap to being declared eventual winners.
With just two minutes left in the race, Rea crashed heavily at Turn 3 after being caught off-guard by the oil deposited on track by the #2 Suzuki, which had suffered an engine failure a few laps earlier.
The race was red-flagged almost immediately afterwards and initially the factory Yamaha team was announced as the winner, with race control stating that Rea didn’t complete the lap within five minutes to be classified as a finisher.
A long protest followed and stewards eventually reached the conclusion that the five-minute rule doesn’t apply in the FIM Endurance World Championship as it does in MotoGP or World Superbike.
Haslam, who secured his first victory in the Japanese endurance classic, said: “Honestly I have no words. The Suzuka 8 Hours is always one of the hardest races of the year and all the effort we put in, the team and Kawasaki.
“It’s like a big rollercoaster of emotions. And when Rea went down and obviously the situation happened, words can’t describe the lows. But then obviously when we get the good news, the highs are just as good.
“I’m so happy. I want to thank Kawasaki for the opportunity and the whole team. Yeah, we pushed as hard as we could and happy with the result.”
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team
Photo by: Jun Goto
The decision of the protest was announced more than two hours after the race ended at 7:30pm local time, and Rea said he had to rush back from the hotel after hearing the news from one of his mechanics.
“A little bit light-headed, to be honest, because we were already in the hotel bar,” he said. “I'd just ordered a gin and tonic and started to eat my dinner, so I scoffed that as fast as I could and paid the bill and we ran here.
“My mechanic asked if I was sitting down, I thought he was going to invite me to dinner somewhere else. But he told me that we won the race. No words. I feel really emotional and really happy.”
Kawasaki elected not to run rookie Razgatlioglu in the race, leaving Rea and Haslam to share riding duties between them.
Haslam had picked up a wrist injury in the US WSBK round and admitted that he struggled in parts during the race, leaving Rea to recover the time he lost.
“For my side, it probably would be one of the hardest 8 hours,” he said. “I had a small injury from Laguna, the pace was okay in the first half of each stint I did.
“Probably the second half of each stint I really struggled physically. The bike was working good but I struggled a lot.
“Fortunately Johnny made all for my times at the end of each session. Yeah, in the end the package was working strong and I was happy with what we’ve achieved. So yeah, happy with Kawasaki.”
Additional reporting by Yosuke Nagayasu
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