2016 All Japan Road Race Championship

  • All Japan Road Race Championship Round 9, MFJGP
  • JSB1000
  • Date: 6 November, 2016
  • Circuit: Suzuka Circuit (5.821 km)

Race 1: Haslam 2nd, Watanabe 3rd After Fierce Battle for Podium Positions
Race 2: Another Podium Finish (2nd) for Haslam while Watanabe Forced to Withdraw after Big Crash

#91 Leon Haslam #26 Kazuki Watanabe

Report

 The setting for the final round of the season, the MFJ GP, was Suzuka Circuit. After the unexpected heavy rain at Round 8, Round 9 saw perfect, cloudless skies for the entire race weekend from Thursday through to the final race on Sunday. Qualifying on Saturday was held in a “knockout” format for Q1 and Q2. The results of Q1 would decide the starting grid for Race 2, while the top 10 riders from Q1 would progress to Q2, where the results would decide the starting grid for Race 1.

 In free practice the day before Leon Haslam had set the fastest time with a 2’06.261, and he put the rest of the field on notice with a 2’06.611 in the second half of Q1. But soon after, it was Haslam’s teammate Kazuki Watanabe who surpassed his time with a 2’06.599, placing the two in 5th and 4th on the grid for Race 2.

 After a five-minute interval, Q2’s short fifteen-minute session got underway. With five minutes left in the session, Watanabe notched a 2’06.517 to better his time – enough to secure 5th spot on the grid, in the middle of the second row. Haslam swapped in a fresh set of tyres at the halfway mark and immediately went a second quicker with a 2’05.689, missing out on pole position by a mere 0.15 seconds and captivating fans by putting on a demonstration of the speed he is known for.

 Race 1 was unique in that it was a super sprint race comprised of only eight laps. In that short distance, it would become an all-out battle of speed rather than strategy, as the riders went on the attack at full throttle right from the opening lap. Haslam, who had set a time in the 2’05s in qualifying, wasted no time as he sprung into the lead past Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha). Meanwhile, Watanabe launched from the second row, and soon passed Takumi Takahashi (Honda) to take over 4th. On his second lap he set the fastest lap of the race with a 2’06.154 and locked on to the back of Takuya Tsuda (Suzuki) while keeping a high lap time average near the 2’06.6 to 2’06.7 mark. He continued to use his speed to put pressure on the leaders as he lapped at nearly the same pace. He made his presence known while reaching nearly 309 km/h down the straight at one point and topping 300 km/h every lap of the race. He passed Tsuda on lap 5 to put himself in a podium position. With his eye on the two duelling riders in front of him, he ran a calm, collected race while gradually shaving tenths off of the gap. By the final lap he had closed to within slipstreaming distance, but as it was a super sprint race, he ran out of time to make a move and had to settle for 3rd.

 Meanwhile, Haslam had made his way into the lead initially, but the remainder of the race saw a fierce battle in which the leaders swapped positions in nearly every sector of the track. Haslam would get in front in the second sector only to be re-passed by Nakasuga in the final sector, lap after lap, making for an exhilarating race that had fans sitting on the edge of their seats. Haslam regained the lead on lap six, but was again re-passed heading in to the first corner, dropping him back to 2nd position. He didn’t give up however, as he made another big push and lined up alongside Nakasuga to try for a pass, but it didn’t quite work out and he took the checkers in 2nd.

 Race 2 of the JSB1000 class would bring the 2016 season of the All Japan Road Race Championship to a close. It was set to take place over 20 laps, meaning that a solid strategy over the course of the race would prove to be essential. Watanabe had been just shy of the leaders in Race 1, with an average lap time on par with the leading duo, which put him in a good position coming into Race 2. Haslam also had much to be positive about coming into the second race, as he’d had Race 1 to study his main rival’s riding and input that into his mind for Race 2.

 However, as good as their prospects for Race 2 looked, little did the pair know that a major accident would play a part in the final result. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) stole the holeshot, but had a big highside coming out of the final corner on the first lap. Haslam swerved to avoid the accident, but in doing so lost his balance and fell. Watanabe was also caught up in the mix and his machine suffered serious damage. Watanabe himself was injured in the process and was forced to retire from the race. The accident left motorcycle parts strewn along the main straight, meaning that the race had to be red-flagged in order to clean everything up. The race was then re-started after a 20-minute interval. Haslam had also hurt his back and right wrist in the crash, but after a medical check he was declared fit and headed out on his backup machine to line up on the front row in 2nd.

 Though he was still feeling the effects of the crash, Haslam controlled the opening lap from the front. Following close behind him in the opening laps in a tight group were Nakasuga, Tsuda and Takuya Fujita (Yamaha). Haslam was lapping in the 2’07s range and surpassing 300 km/h on the straight as he began to drop the trailing group. Tsuda crashed on the approach to the chicane on lap five, which lost him positions. After ten laps it was Haslam leading, followed by Nakasuga, Kouta Nozane (Yamaha) and Takahashi to form the leading group. Haslam set the best lap of the race during the middle stages with a 2’07.288.

 The pivotal moment in the race came on lap 15. Nakasuga, who had been tucked in behind Haslam used the slipstream to make a pass and pull out a slight gap. With the low amount of laps remaining it would be difficult to mount a comeback, but that didn’t faze Haslam as he pushed hard to do just that. At the same time Takahashi had passed Nozane for 3rd, so Haslam also had to focus on keeping the Honda rider behind him in the final stages. He pulled out all the stops on the final lap to catch up, but again he barely missed out as he crossed the line in 2nd.

 The end result was that although Haslam was only a wildcard entry, he managed to bag 50 championship points. Watanabe, who did not take part in Race 2, finished out the 2016 season with 126 points in 6th overall. Akira Yanagawa was forced to sit out Rounds 8 and 9 due to injury and as such missed out on the opportunity to score points in either. Overall he racked up 74 points for the season to place him 12th.

  • #91 Leon Haslam #26 Kazuki Watanabe
  • #91 Leon Haslam
  • #26 Kazuki Watanabe

Kazuki Watanabe :

 “I think it took me too long to get used to the new machine this season, but here at the final round I feel like I’ve finally got the feeling that ‘This is my bike.’ I had a great feeling with the bike in qualifying. In Race 1 I came really close, coming up just short of catching the top two bikes. Even so, I did the fastest lap of the race and I’m really happy that I got on the podium again just like in the last round. I got mixed up in a big crash in Race 2 and had to sit it out. I wanted to give our staff and the fans a present by taking the win, so to finish out the 2016 season like this is really frustrating for me. It was a serious crash but believe it or not my injuries are relatively minor. To the point that if this were mid-season I think I’d even be able to get back on the bike really soon. They’re that minor. That’s the end of the season, so I’d like to say thank you to everyone for cheering me on in 2016.”

Leon Haslam :

 “After working with the Team Green staff and riders at the Suzuka 8 Hours race, I told them ‘If there’s another chance for me to race in Japan I’d love to do it!’ and for this final round of the season that chance came about, so I was really happy. I’ve ridden several different types of machines, both in WSB and BSB, all with different characteristics, but the team was able to put together a bike with a lot of potential for me in a really short amount of time. I couldn’t quite take the win, but in both races I think I was able to show the potential of the team and machine quite well. I’d be happy to ride in Japan again if this kind of opportunity were to present itself. Thank you very much.”

Toshiro Shakado (Team Manager):

 “I think we were finally in a position to aim for the top step of the podium here at the final round. Watanabe got faster and smoother every time he went out and looked to be in really strong form. I think he showed that in Race 1, and was set to go out and try to take the win in race 2 to cap off his season, but he got caught up in the lap 1 accident, which kept him from achieving that goal. It was great news to hear that his injuries weren’t major, and I’m really thankful to everybody who was worried about him after the crash. Leon Haslam’s participation wasn’t only about results, but it was also about giving our team some big motivation and encouragement that we can take with us into next season, so I’m really grateful for that. It’s a shame because I think with one more day we could have achieved an even better result, but I’m confident we put on a performance worthy of all the support we’ve received from Kawasaki fans. This season we’ve had inclement weather and earthquakes play a part, so the time we had to develop the machine was very limited, but I believe we’ve made concrete steps that will put us in a good positon for next season. I’d like to say thank you for all the amazing support this season.”

  • #26 Kazuki Watanabe
  • #91 Leon Haslam

Results

Race1

Pos. No. Rider Machine
1 1 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha YZF-R1
2 91 Leon Haslam Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
3 26 Kazuki Watanabe Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
4 12 Takuya Tsuda Suzuki GSX-R1000L6
5 7 Kouta Nozane Yamaha YZF-R1
6 634 Takumi Takahashi Honda CBR1000RR
7 71 Yukio Kagayama Suzuki GSX-R1000
8 104 Tatsuya Yamaguchi Honda CBR1000RR
9 090 Kosuke Akiyoshi Honda CBR1000RR
10 15 Takuya Fujita Yamaha YZF-R1
11 85 Shinichi Nakatomi Yamaha YZF-R1
12 32 Yoshihiro Konno Suzuki GSX-R1000
13 39 Daisaku Sakai BMW S1000RR
14 34 Yuya Kondo Yamaha YZF-R1
15 72 Yuki Takahashi Honda CBR1000RR
16 19 Kouji Teramoto BMW S1000RR
17 18 Takahiro Nakatsuhara Honda CBR1000RR
18 14 Shinya Takeishi BMW S1000RR
19 135 Yuta Kodama BMW S1000RR
20 17 Mitsuhiro Yoshida Honda CBR1000RR

Race2

Pos. No. Rider Machine
1 1 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha YZF-R1
2 91 Leon Haslam Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R
3 634 Takumi Takahashi Honda CBR1000RR
4 7 Kouta Nozane Yamaha YZF-R1
5 104 Tatsuya Yamaguchi Honda CBR1000RR
6 15 Takuya Fujita Yamaha YZF-R1
7 71 Yukio Kagayama Suzuki GSX-R1000
8 090 Kosuke Akiyoshi Honda CBR1000RR
9 12 Takuya Tsuda Suzuki GSX-R1000L6
10 32 Yoshihiro Konno Suzuki GSX-R1000
11 39 Daisaku Sakai BMW S1000RR
12 72 Yuki Takahashi Honda CBR1000RR
13 18 Takahiro Nakatsuhara Honda CBR1000RR
14 135 Yuta Kodama BMW S1000RR
15 14 Shinya Takeishi BMW S1000RR
16 20 Kazuhiro Kojima Honda CBR1000RR
17 19 Kouji Teramoto BMW S1000RR
18 66 Shin Tsutsui Honda CBR1000RR
19 37 Kouta Higuchi Suzuki GSX-R1000L3
20 99 Kazunori Yoshida Yamaha YZF-R1

2016 All Japan Road Race Championship Standings

Page Top