Casey Stoner to race Suzuka 8 Hours

Two-time MotoGP world champion to come out of retirement to compete in this year's Suzuka 8 Hours race with Takumi Takahashi and Michael Van der Mark

casey stoner to race 2015 suzuka 8 hours
Besides the RC213V MotoGP machines, Casey Stoner also rode a CBR1000RR-based Suzuka 8 Hour machine at a recent HRC test at Sepang, fueling speculation that he might race the Suzuka 8 Hours race this year.

Retired two-time former MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner has continually stated that he has no desire to return to racing in the premier class, although he has enjoyed testing with HRC at various times since his depature from the series. Then in late January at Sepang at a private HRC test, besides testing the 2014 and 2015 prototype RC213V machines, Stoner also spent some time on a CBR1000RR-based racebike at the Malaysian circuit. At the time, it was thought that the Australian was simply doing some testing for some superbike-based items as a side project for HRC.

casey stoner to race 2015 suzuka 8 hours
Casey Stoner is excited to be coming out of retirement to race the Suzuka 8 Hours, a race he's always wanted to do in the past but couldn't because of MotoGP obligations.

Now it appears that was more than just a test, as HRC has announced that Stoner will return to racing, only this time just for the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race scheduled for this July. Stoner will be teamed with the pair who have been part of the winning MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team the past two years running, All-Japan Superbike championship contender (and three-time Suzuka 8 Hour winner) Takumi Takahashi and World Superbike rookie (and current World Supersport champion) Michael Van der Mark of the Netherlands. The Suzuka 8 Hours race will be a major test for Stoner, as the race takes place in the sweltering summer heat and humidity of Japan, and riders have to do hour-long stints at full sprint race pace. Many riders have stated that the physical toll from the race can last for weeks afterward, and it's been said that many well-known factory riders specifically have their contracts state that they are under no obligation to race the Suzuka 8 Hours, which used to be an almost accepted requirement for factory-sponsored riders in '80s, '90s, and early 2000s.

2014 suzuka 8 hours takumi takahashi
Takumi Takahashi is shown here aboard the winning MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda at the 2014 Suzuka 8 Hours race. Takahashi was teamed with Michael Van der Mark and Leon Haslam last year.

“After riding the bike in Sepang a few months ago, I’ve been speaking closely with Honda about the possibility to take part in Suzuka," said Stoner. "It’s always been an event I wanted to do and something I was never able to consider when I was racing in MotoGP, due to our busy schedules, so I’m really looking forward to taking part. The bike is very different to a MotoGP machine, but it will be a new challenge and a chance for me to try something new and unlike what I’ve been used to in my racing to this point. I’ve been impressed with Michael van der Mark this season and Takumi Takahashi has a lot of experience on this machine, so I’m looking forward to hearing their comments and working together with them in preparation for the July race. Now I need to concentrate on my training to be ready for the race.”

HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto was an integral part of the Stoner/Suzuka deal. “We are very happy that Casey agreed to take part in the 8 Hours with Honda. It will be great to see him back on a bike in a racing environment and I’m sure he will enjoy it. Together with van der Mark and Takahashi, they form a strong team to compete in this endurance race – I’m excited to see how they will do.”

casey stoner to race 2015 suzuka 8 hours michael van der mark
Current World Supersport champion (and WSBK rookie) Michael Van der Mark has been part of the Suzuka 8 Hour-winning MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team for the past two years. The Dutch rider is hoping to make it a hat trick of wins this year.

Van der Mark is excited to be teamed with Stoner. “The Suzuka 8 Hour race is such a special event for all the fans and the Japanese people and not many riders get the chance to take part, even though many would like to," said the Dutchman. "I also know what an important event it is for Honda so it’s a great honor for me to be asked to race the CBR1000RR once more, and this time with Casey as our teammate! The testing and race schedule is quite tough to combine with the World Superbike Championship but I really enjoy riding at Suzuka so I’m very happy to make time for it. The bike is very different to my World Superbike CBR but it’s easy to ride so it’s not a big problem to change. I’ve had two fantastic years with a great team and it would be really nice and something quite special to get a hat-trick of wins.”

casey stoner to race 2015 suzuka 8 hours takumi takahashi
Takumi Takahashi currently races in the MFJ All Japan Road Race JSB1000 (superbike) Championship for the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda team. He was the MFJ All Japan Road Race GP250 champion in 2008, and has been part of the winning team in the Suzuka 8 Hours three times.

“The Suzuka 8 Hours this year means a lot to me and my team since our goal is to win for a third consecutive year," said Takahashi, "and I’m even more excited to take part together with Casey. Nonetheless, we know our rivals are all set to beat us, so I know it will not be easy to accomplish this goal. I will try to get the best out of the remaining few tests so that we will be able to run the 8hr race as fast as possible without any mistakes. We guarantee to demonstrate our extreme professionalism and excitement to those who will come to Suzuka to support us!”