Even Jonathan Rea was surprised!

After a hotly contested, on-track, eight-hour endurance racing battle, Kawasaki has officially been declared the winner of the 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race. This result came after the team lodged an official protest following the red flag that came directly after Jonathan Rea’s race-ending crash on the last lap. 

In other FIM racing series, including World Superbike and MotoGP, there is an official rule regarding how racers should behave following a red flag. If you would rightfully place on the podium, but don’t return to Parc Ferme within five minutes, you’re disqualified. 

Following the red flag, Jonathan Rea didn’t return to Parc Ferme within that five minute window. So initially, Yamaha was awarded their fifth Suzuka 8 Hours win in a row. However, Kawasaki appealed on the grounds that the EWC series does not currently have the same five-minute rule that the other series do. 

As WSBK commentator Steve English later wrote, the FIM will almost certainly have to address this rule discrepancy ASAP. English attended the 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours race and witnessed the drama firsthand.

No One Saw This Coming.

For his part, Jonathan Rea wasn’t expecting to win after that crash, either. 

“I cannot believe what is happening, really,” Rea told WSBK. “From being dejected and feeling that everything was out of our hands, I had already gone back to the hotel, said goodbye to all the guys, with lots of tears.”

“I was in the restaurant already, ordering dinner, when my mechanic Uri called me and said, “Hey, are you sitting down?”” Rea continued. “I thought he was going to ask me to go to another restaurant, but he then told me we had won the 8 Hours!”

In the video above, you can see other members of the Kawasaki team on the podium accepting the trophies—and that’s why. In the end, Rea picked up his second-ever Suzuka 8 Hours race win while teammate Leon Haslam picked up his first. This was Team Green’s first Suzuka win since 1993.

The Suzuka 8 Hours isn’t just about the endurance of individual bikes or racers. It’s also about the endurance of entire teams. Going through a rollercoaster of emotions for eight straight hours takes a huge toll on everyone up and down the pit lane. Spectators, too, inevitably have an intense collective response to everything happening on track. That’s the fun of watching a race in person, in a group, instead of by yourself at home. 

Still, racing isn’t just about skill, or timing, or even about an entire team working in concert, like a well-oiled machine. Often, luck also plays a not-insignificant role. You don’t know when someone’s engine is going to blow up, or when Marc Márquez another rider is going to sideswipe you—or when any other surprise situation will cause you to launch off your bike. Racing incidents happen—and as such, fans will likely debate the FIM’s decision on this race for years to come.

Sources: World SBK, Moto Matters, FIM EWC, BBC