The Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race (Suzuka 8 Hours) will be held on July 21 (Sun). A Honda win this year would extend its record to 30 victories.

Looking back at Honda’s winning records at the Suzuka 8 Hours, Tony Hutton and Mike Cole, riding a CB900, were the first Honda riders to win the event in 1979, with Honda dominating the top eight spots that year.

In 1981, Wayne Gardner made his first appearance and would later become one of Honda’s most renowned riders. He won his first Suzuka 8 Hours on an RVF750 in 1985 and paired with Mick Doohan, for one of his total four wins, in 1991. In 1997, Shinichi Ito and Tohru Ukawa became the first Japanese duo to win the event on an RVF/RC45, claiming back-to-back wins in 1998.

In 2000, Tohru Ukawa and Daijiro Kato won with the new VTR1000SPW. Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, and Gaku Kamada won the following year. In 2002, Daijiro Kato and Colin Edwards, riding a VTR1000SPW, achieved an unprecedented 6-stop race, one stop fewer than usual, setting a distance record of 219 laps. In 2004, Tohru Ukawa and Hitoyasu Izutsu won on a CBR1000RRW, giving Honda its tenth consecutive win (1997 to 2006).

Toru Ukawa, Honda’s leading rider, won the Suzuka 8 Hours five times, while Wayne Gardner, Shinichi Ito, Ryuichi Kiyonari, and Michael van der Mark have each won four times. Last year, Takumi Takahashi took his fifth win, tying him with Ukawa as the all-time leader. This year, all eyes are on Takahashi as he aims to become the outright Suzuka 8 Hours champion with six wins.

Although Takahashi showed little interest in competing solely to extend his record, he now says, “I think this is a rare opportunity, so I hope to break the record. Above all, my desire to win is greater than anything else, so I will take on the challenge to win.”

Last year, Honda’s factory team, Team HRC with Japan Post (Takumi Takahashi, Tetsuta Nagashima, and Xavi Vierge), rode their CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP to their second consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory.

In 2024, Team HRC with Japan Post will be represented by Takumi Takahashi, Teppei Nagoe, Johann Zarco, and Kohta Arakawa. Takahashi, Nagoe, and Arakawa participated in the first test held in early June. As the team’s lead rider, Takahashi led Nagoe and Arakawa through their first test session as factory riders, completing the test items.

Due to the postponement of the MotoGP Kazakhstan Grand Prix, MotoGP rider Zarco was able to join the team. Arakawa will act as the reserve rider, and the race riders have been officially confirmed.

Zarco commented, “I have always wanted to compete in endurance races, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Suzuka 8 Hours. However, I thought that I could only race after finishing my MotoGP career due to scheduling difficulties. But this year, the MotoGP schedule changed, giving me more time, so I will be able to compete.

For the Frenchman, 24-hour endurance races such as Le Mans and Bol d’Or are very familiar. The Suzuka 8 Hours piqued his interest when top riders like Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner competed.

Zarco joined the team from the second test, guided by Takahashi and Nagoe on his first long run at the Suzuka Circuit. With many HRC staff having MotoGP experience, Zarco felt relieved knowing some of the mechanics. He said, “I have no problem communicating with the staff, and I was able to learn from Takahashi, who has a lot of Suzuka 8 Hours experience.”

Takahashi said, “This was the first time I met Zarco. I thought he might be a bit aggressive, and part of me wondered if it would go well, but in person, he was very friendly. Seeing him walking around the track on the day he arrived in Suzuka, I felt he was sincere in his approach. Since I was able to ride well in the first test, I wanted Zarco to get used to the track and the bike, so I didn’t do much riding myself, and let Zarco use the time for his runs. Nagoe also did well on the long runs, so I think we had a good second test.”

Nagoe commented, “This will be my first Suzuka 8 Hours with a factory team, which I have always wanted to be a part of. I have been nervous ever since I knew I would be racing, but I will do my best to fulfill my role. In the end, I want to make sure that everyone is happy that I am a part of this team.”

Zarco said, “I’m coming back to Suzuka after completing my MotoGP races.” This year, the bike number is 30, signifying Honda’s goal of winning the event for the 30th time.

The Suzuka 8 Hours is the third of four rounds in the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC). Following Round 1, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Round 2, the 8 Hours of Spa Motos, the Suzuka 8 Hours will precede the final round, the Bol d’Or 24 hours race.