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The FIM Endurance World Championship announced on Wednesday that its showpiece event has been cancelled for 2020 amid ongoing travel restrictions in Japan which prevent residents of more than 140 countries from entering the island country.
The Japanese endurance classic had already been moved from its original date in late July to November 1 as organisers waited for the government to lift restrictions that had been imposed after the outbreak of coronavirus.
This marks the first time the Suzuka 8 Hours has been cancelled in the race's history, which dates back to 1978, and follows the news of cancellation of other major international races in Japan, including the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and the MotoGP race at Motegi.
Rea won last year’s Suzuka 8 Hours title in controversial circumstances with teammates Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu, ending Kawasaki’s winning drought stretching back to 1993.
The 33-year-old was due to return to the event this year as part of a revised Kawasaki line-up featuring current WSBK teammate Alex Lowes and Xavi Fores, but will now have to wait another year to add to his 2019 crown.
“Of course I am absolutely gutted to not go back to Suzuka to race for Kawasaki,” said Rea. “After last year’s win - it was incredible with all the emotions we endured during the race - I was really excited about this year’s prospects, especially the potential in teaming up with Alex Lowes and Xavi Fores.
“They are two strong riders and I thought we could really do a good job. We won't get the chance to defend our title from last year, but the health and safety of all is most important right now during this global crisis.
“Our Suzuka ambitions will be put on ice until 2021 and I am really sorry for the fans – especially the Japanese spectators who turn up to see us every year.”
Lowes won the Suzuka 8 Hours for three consecutive years between 2016-18 for Yamaha and was due to contest the event for the first time with Kawasaki in 2020 after switching manufacturers over the winter.
Lowes said he was looking forward to teaming up with six-time WSBK champion Rea in the eight-hour fixture.
“Obviously, I am initially disappointed that the Suzuka 8 Hours has been cancelled for this year, which I was really looking forward to.
“I have fond memories and good experiences of this race but this would have been my first Suzuka ride with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
“I really hope that next year I can compete in this race and not just with the bike but also with Jonathan. I think it would make a great team that I would be really be excited to be part of.”
Kawasaki team manager Guim Roda added: “KHI [Kawasaki Heavy Industries] had big expectations running in the 2020 Suzuka 8 Hours, to give the fans an extraordinary show again.
“With the responsibility to defend the win we achieved last year we planned an incredible project with Rea and Lowes, and with the support of Xavi Fores to attack the 8 Hours as strongly as possible.
“We in KRT are ready to attend KHI’s request to defend the title in future if needed.”
Suzuka 8 Hours cancelled amid Japan travel restrictions
Suzuka 8 Hours postponed until November