Carole Nash ambassador Jonathan Rea is set to lead an all-star, all-British line-up for Kawasaki’s defence of the prestigious Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race.
The six-time Superbike World Champion will be joined by his Kawasaki Racing Team team-mate Alex Lowes and former British Superbike Champion Leon Haslam for the 43rd running of the iconic race. All three are former winners of the gruelling race, which forms a round of the Endurance World Championship but is in many ways a stand alone race due to the swathe of wild-card entries from the Japanese factories, who enter their star riders on full factory bikes.
Kawasaki are the defending Suzuka champions, with Rea and Haslam winning the last running in 2019 in dramatic fashion, when Rea slipped off on another bike’s oil minutes from the scheduled end to the race.
The green team are the first manufacturers to announce their team for the race, which takes place between 5-7 August. The event clashes with the British round of the MotoGP World Championship at Silverstone, however we’re still expecting to see the other Japanese marques bring out their best superbike riders from the world and domestic series to do battle in the sweltering Suzuka heat.
Speaking of the event, Rea said: “I am so excited to go back to Japan. Understandably Kawasaki has always had such a great support out there. We won the race three years ago.
Kawasaki was understandably keen to defend the title and especially to continue the positive exposure WorldSBK is delivering to Kawasaki currently while extending that positivity to the eight hour and Japan. Due to Covid we weren’t able to return until now. I always feel really appreciated by the Japanese fans.
The atmosphere is incredible and I am really looking forward to going back. I think the target heading back to Suzuka is to win. We won there before and this season I feel, with Alex and Leon inside the team, we have a lot of experience together with the Ninja ZX-10RR. I am really excited to go back and see what we can do.
We are going with a huge effort, lots of testing, taking the event seriously with a strong rider line up and a team with a lot more experience. I feel the minimum we can do is compete for the podium, but of course in endurance racing everything can go right, everything can go wrong. We have to be very calm, mature, and do our best, lap-by-lap.”
Lowes, who was a member of Yamaha’s winning team between 2016 and 2018, added: “It is a race that I have had some success with in the past. I am really happy to be going back there with Kawasaki for the first time. To be paired with Jonathan, who won last time he was there, is fantastic.
I am a good friend of Leon’s away from the track so it will be nice to be in the same team as him too. I share the garage with Johnny every weekend and he obviously is a reigning champion at Suzuka because we have missed a couple of years.
I have won the event three times so I think we have a pretty good team, a strong team, and I am looking forward to seeing how we get on all together. With the test schedule Kawasaki has created we know how focused they are on this race.
As the race comes back on the calendar in 2022 they want to win and we are going there to do our best to achieve another victory. Let’s see if we can hit our target.”
Haslam continued: “For me, to go back to the Suzuka 8-Hour is fantastic. I have had a lot of success there and managed to win it three times. Johnny and I won it back 2019, the last time it was run, so to go back in 2022 I have really high expectations.
To be teamed back up with Johnny and also Alex, who was our main rival in 2019 - I think we have the dream team. I am super-excited and can’t wait to get going. The goal for 2022 at Suzuka obviously is to win, and to get back-to-back wins for Kawasaki.”