Kevin Schwantz to race 2014 Suzuka 8 Hours with Yoshimura Japan

Schwantz to pair with old Yoshimura teammate Satoshi Tsujimoto in “Legends of Yoshimura” Suzuki team in 2014 Suzuka 8 Hour World Endurance race.

Kevin Schwantz teamed with Yukio Kagayama and Nori Haga to finish third in the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours.

After making a one-off World Championship racing comeback at the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours World Endurance race as part of the Team Kagayama Suzuki effort that finished a sensational third place, former 500cc World Grand Prix Champion Kevin Schwantz certainly let the world know he hasn't lost that spark. In teaming with former World Superbike front-runners Yukio Kagayama and Noriyuki Haga, the 49-year-old Schwantz once again cemented his spot in Suzuka racing history. And that effort apparently didn't go unnoticed.

Yoshimura Suzuki Japan announced that Schwantz will be paired with former teammate Satoshi Tsujimoto in the "Legends of Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance Racing Team" for the 2014 running of the Suzuka 8 Hours in July. Schwantz and Tsujimoto finished third in the 1986 Suzuka 8 Hour on a Yoshimura Suzuki (they were also AMA Superbike teammates that year riding for Yoshimura R&D of America), and this year will be the 60th anniversary of Yoshimura Racing, so Yoshimura Japan president Fujio Yoshimura wanted to make this year's race a memorable one for Yoshimura Racing fans around the world. Schwantz will be 50 years old when he and the 54-year-old Tsujimoto race at Suzuka against riders less than half their age.

Tsujimoto was actually the impetus for Schwantz running in last year's event. During a Suzuka 50th anniversary celebration event in 2011 where he was riding several bikes as part of demonstration laps, Schwantz met up with Tsujimoto, and the former All-Japan F1 champion told him of his desire to run the 8 Hour race. "So his translator—he speaks no English—says he wants to do the 8 Hour," Schwantz recalled. "He thinks he's still physically capable of doing it. And I was thinking, 'you know, that'd be pretty cool.'" However, one of the reasons Schwantz didn't end up riding a Yoshimura Suzuki last year was because the team now runs on Bridgestone tires. "I'm running Dunlops at the (Schwantz) School now. I'm really happy with them. I (wanted) to race on Dunlops." It's unknown what brand of the Legends of Yoshimura Suzuki team will be running in this year's Suzuka 8 Hour.

"Competing in the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hour with Team Kagayama reminded me of what racing with a great team is all about," said Schwantz in a Yoshimura Japan press release. "I am really looking forward to celebrating Yoshimura's 60th anniversary of being in business by competing in the 2014 Suzuka 8 Hours on a Pops Yoshimura Suzuki."

“Pops was a very influential man in my career, I first met him midway through the 1985 season riding for Yoshimura. Riding for Pops taught me a lot and helped groom me to be the competitor that I am. He was a real motivator and got the best out of everyone that worked around him.

“In 1994, I presented Pops with my winning Suzuka Grand Prix trophy, the fourth Japanese win of my career, in the Suzuki garage. That photo is still is one of my favorites of all time. Before his passing, he told me I was his only rider to ever win a 500cc Championship, or as it is known today MotoGP, and since his passing his words still hold true.

“To be partnered with my teammate from 1986, Satoshi Tsujimoto, is a real honor. Thank you to Suzuka circuit and everybody at Yoshimura Japan for the opportunity.”