The Team Green Kawasaki entry of UK rider Leon Haslam, Kazuma Watanabe of Japan and Malaysian rider, Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman achieved a superb second place at the 40th running of the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance race held in Japan over the weekend of 29-30 July.
Missing the podium by less than one lap after eight hours of endeavour and 216 laps completed, an incredible effort by the trio of riders and their pit crew staff delivered Team Green a popular second place thanks largely to the outstanding efforts of 34 year old World and British Superbike rider, Leon Haslam.
A Suzuka veteran, Haslam helped the team to achieve a qualifying time that was within a few tenths of the pole sitter and then proceeded to set a blistering early pace. Gaining on Randy De Puniet in the final session, the race looked to be set for another sensational climax. But before Haslam could make a passing manoeuvre, Randy’s Honda suddenly caught fire and was forced into the pit lane delivering a secure second place to the Ninja ZX-10RR.
With a super-human five riding sessions in a thrill packed race, Haslam finally crossed the line following a physically and mentally draining “double stint” in the saddle. Maintaining a pace that saw the Team Green Ninja ZX-10RR never lower than fourth pace on the timing sheets at the end of each hour of the gruelling event, a further two Ninja machines were among the top fifteen finishers of a packed entry of 67 teams.
Commenting, Haslam praised the team and set his sights on improving the team’s result:
“With practice and preparation it’s been a fantastic few weeks. We had a really good race this year building on the experience of last year and the team were a lot smoother and relaxed which helped a lot. Qualifying was tough but we were only a few tenths off pole so a good place to be at the start of the race.
The race itself had ups and downs. We got a great start and battled for the lead initially but in one of the other sessions I picked had a frustrating slow puncture. The last session was really tough as I did a double stint meaning that, in all, I was on the bike for 5 of the 8 hours!
It’s probably one of the hardest 8 Hours I’ve ever ridden but understandably also one of the most rewarding to get back on the podium for Kawasaki. Big thanks to everyone at Team Green and I hope we can work together for next year to go one better and get the win”.