This year’s Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hour on July 27 had it all. It was hot, humid and at times sunny with other times bringing torrential rain. The pace car was used on several occasions and there were plenty of crashes.
Canadian Dan Kruger teamed up with the Patlabor / Team JP / Dogfightracing squad on a Yamaha, joining Japanese racers Takuya Fujita and Seijin Oikawa in the riding line-up.
In official practice, Kruger experienced a violent high-speed highside at the 130R turn that damaged his hand, ribs, leg and more. That was followed by a warm-up crash the day of the race. He had gotten up to speed and the team was in the running for a top 10 finishing position for this year’s 8 Hour, but with the two crashes the team had to re-think its goals as the ‘A Bike’ was destroyed and the team was using the ‘B Bike’ with the swingarm off the ‘A bike’.
The team was working well together and the mechanics were some of the best that Japan had to offer. The budget for this event was likely more than most race teams have for a complete season. The good news was that a very popular movie in Japan was being released and it was the title sponsor for the team for the 8 Hour.
The team qualified a disappointing 19th out of 70 entries. Early in the race, the Yamaha had moved up as high as eighth position in the heavy rain (the race was reduced to seven hours from eight due to bad weather at the start). The team was very competitive in the wet, putting in lap times similar to top riders Johnny Rea, Randy Du Puniet, Broc Parkes, Josh Brooks and Leon Haslam.
When the rain stopped and the bike came in for fuel and slicks, the crew discovered a small mechanical issue that would put the bike down two laps. The squad went on to complete the race with great pit stops and solid riding. In the end, they settled for 17th overall, equaling the team’s 2013 finish.
“This entire experience has been really amazing,” Kruger said. “Sharing the track with such an elite group of racers and all the fun and excitement that surrounds this event is simply surreal. Our team was mainly a privateer team with factory Yamaha and Dunlop support. They were extremely well funded and I can only give strong praise to the mechanics, pit crew, my team mates and the team managers.
“I got my times down and surprised everyone. Unfortunately, I kept pushing the limit to see where I could end up and I had what was likely my most horrific crash yet, at over 200km/h, and was unconscious for over five minutes. I followed that up with a morning warm up crash that destroyed my helmet and put big pressure on the team. I want to thank the team for all the support they gave me even with the two crashes (and one I had two weeks earlier in the Suzuka official test).”
The entire Suzuka event was nothing short of spectacular, with parade laps, TV coverage, fireworks, and a record number of Japanese factory bikes entered into the event with stacked teams of carefully selected riders from around the world.
Kruger and the team were quick to say they would join forces again in 2015 for the Suzuka 8 Hour and they are confident that not only will Dan’s times continue to improve but he will get more comfortable on the special Suzuka Dunlop slicks along with the unique way to ride the Yamaha Superbike.
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The team would like to thank Patlabor 2-The Next generation, Yamaha, Dunlop, Team JP, Dogfightr, Nature Power, OZ, Arai, Modern Form, Sunstar, Build-Up, Syoukei Home, and the team of physio and massage workers that worked on Dan throughout the event with acupuncture and deep tissue massage.
–From Dan Kruger Racing