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August 10th, 2023

2023 FIM EWC Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race: 10th place finish earns seeding for next year's race

On August 4–6, Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing took part in the 2023 FIM World Endurance Championship’s 44th Suzuka 8 Hours, held at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture.
In the qualifying rounds on August 4 and 5 the team placed 4th overall, and in the subsequent Top 10 Trial the team placed 6th, starting from 6th position in the race. On August 6, the race day saw clear skies, with over 25,000 fans watching the Le Mans style race start at 11:30 a.m.
Starting off for Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing was Ryo Mizuno. At the beginning of the race the engine did not start and Mizuno fell back to 24th position, but a furious pursuit brought the car back to 4th position. Kazuma Watanabe, the next rider, showed a great performance to move up to the podium position. However, a lack of gas due to refueling trouble and Sakumoto's crash dropped him back to 19th. The three riders then worked their way back to 11th, and at 19:30 the team crossed the checkered flag in 10th*. As a result, Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing was seeded for the next year's Suzuka 8 Hours.
*Car 104, which took the checkered flag in 2nd position, was disqualified after post-race inspections, and its final ranking is confirmed at 9th position.

■Team Comments
- Team Director Shinichi Ito
Thank you again for your support this year. My second Suzuka 8 Hours race as team director ended with a disappointing 10th place finish. This year, we received even more support from Hitachi Astemo than last year, and our overall strength as a team has improved, so I felt we could aim for a podium finish. However, while we were able to address each issue one by one based on our past experience, there were also many issues that became apparent after we started, which reflected our relative inexperience as a team that resulted in a series of mistakes and accidents. This year, I was even more disappointed than last year because we were running in the podium range, and I realized once again how difficult Suzuka 8 Hours is. With the results of this race, we have earned the right to be seeded for next year's Suzuka 8 Hours, so we will start our preparations for next year by reviewing this race as a team. Then we will work to grow into a team that can win, and next year we will aim for the podium. Thank you very much for your support and encouragement this year.

- Rider Kazuma Watanabe
I am just honestly disappointed. The three of us were able to ride at a good pace in both qualifying and the race, and I feel that we were able to show the speed of this team because the three of us were able to work well together. However, due to incidents such as running out of gas and crashing, we ended this year's Suzuka 8 Hours in 10th. I’m regretful that I could have done more, both as a rider and as a team member. However, although it was a disappointing result, we were all able to realize that this team has the potential to be a podium contender. It has been a disappointing 8 Hours for the second year in a row, so next year we will try to make it to the podium and finish with smiles on everyone's faces. I would like to start preparing for next year with the team so that we can grow as a team and as riders to the next level.

- Rider Kosuke Sakumoto
As a team, we were making good progress from the test, but personally, I was not able to prepare for the race due to a series of crashes and other problems. However, Watanabe and Mizuno were able to recover from these crashes, and I felt that I was in good condition going into the race. In the final race we had a bad start and I crashed, but the three of us recovered and somehow managed to finish the race in 10th place. I would like to thank Watanabe, Mizuno, and the team staff for helping me reach this point, and I’m looking forward to finishing the race so that I can aim for the top positions as the second half of the All-Japan Road Race begins in two weeks' time.

- Rider Ryo Mizuno
In the final race, I had a slow start, but was able to recover and hand off to the next rider, Watanabe, with a good flow. After that, I steadily improved my position and was able to ride in a position where I could aim for the podium. The team felt that we had the ability to do so well. However, we had a crash and ran out of gas, resulting in a very disappointing result. We regret that the entire team, including ourselves and the riders, were not able to finish the race. This year's Suzuka 8 Hours made me realize once again that you really never know what will happen, hence the frustration. I believe that the preparation for next year's Suzuka 8 Hours starts today. I’d like to prepare each and every day with the team for the second half of the All Japan Road Race and for next year, so that we can achieve good results.