Smalley rider Leon Haslam has made the most of the mid-season break in the World Superbikes season to win at the Suzuka 8 Hours race in Japan.
It was a dramatic and incident-packed race after the start was delayed by one hour because of a heavy rain storm.
Further rain fell during the race and a number of crashes brought out the pace car no fewer than four times.
One of those crashes befell race leader Kosuke Akiyoshi of the FCC TSR squad, winner of the 2012 race with Jonathan Rea, who was his team-mate once again for this year’s event.
Remarkably, Akiyoshi managed to return his CBR1000RR Fireblade to the pits, despite fracturing his femur in the crash.
Pata Honda’s Haslam’s efforts helped gain a fifth consecutive success for Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade team and Honda’s 27th Suzuka triumph.
In 2013, Haslam became the first ever English rider to win the prestigious race. The 2014 victory makes him the first British rider to win the race twice.
He explained: “Usually I enjoy my riding but I felt pressure not to crash and not to make any mistakes this time.
“I was out there when it started to rain heavily and being on dry weather, slick tyres in those conditions was really tricky.
“I’d managed to get us up to second place before the rain came and we dropped back to fifth but then we fought really well to get back to the front of the race and take victory.
“The team did a fantastic job and the pit stops were very neat and quick. Michael van der Mark was super fast during his stints and Takumi Takahashi was just Mr Consistent throughout his stints.
“I was really nervous watching Takumi at the end but he made it to the finish for our second win in a row.”
Haslam returns to World Superbikes action at Jerez in Spain on September 5-7.