That is the question. It’s that time of year again when us Westerners trawl though the Suzuka 8hr entry list, pick out our favourite team names and try not to induce a hernia. Team Hooters, TEAM FRONTIER, Honda Blue Helmets and OTOBUM with Ishigaki Island Tuna Racing join the headliners in entertaining squad names. 84 teams are lapping for qualifying and only 66 will make the final grid for the annual sweat-fest.
Racing fans have a lot to look forward to this weekend. While the iconic Le Mans 24hr race steals the headlines and column inches through race duration, there’s something uniquely special about Suzuka. For starters, it’s the home round for the majority of manufacturers, and a chance to showcase their latest technological warfare. Yamaha, for instance, has entered the usual brace of factory-supported teams but with an additional ‘special’ official effort of tuning forkness in an attempt to get its all-new R1 on the top step.
Engineering boffins and clever racing experts like Neil Spalding must be close to climax when it comes to perusing the exotica on display in Japan. An onslaught of prototype components, exotic materials and hidden trinkets only visible on these endurance specials make the Suzuka racers dubplate to the eye. As well as the usual, dreary CBRs, R1s, ZX-10Rs and GSX-Rs, there’s a 1098R, an RC8R, and a handful of Panigales among the entrants.
And it’s not only the jizz machinery that whets the appetite. The glory days of every top-shelf GP racer competing at Suzuka may have slowly diminished but 2015 sees a handful of current MotoGP pilots making the trip (Pol Asparagus and Bradley Smith in that special Yamaha team), plus a few token veterans such as Toni Elias and the hometown heroes of Haga and Kagayama. And prising Casey Stoner out of retirement can’t have been a cheap enterprise for Honda.
For the first time in years (I think), UK fans will be able to watch the entire race on British Eurosport 2 on Sunday morning at 03.30. I’m cheering on MOTOBUM. And you?