My First Visit to the Suzuka Circuit Enduro Races
The Chicane Suzuka International Raceway Suzuka, Japan -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 340mm — 1/1600 sec, f/6.3, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
The Chicane
Suzuka International Raceway
Suzuka, Japan

I attended a cycling event this weekend that was really fun, even though I didn't ride in it.

The Suzuka Circuit, best known for hosting F1 and motorcycle grands prix, also sometimes hosts bike racing. The entire event is officially called The Suzuka 8-Hour Enduro, though currently races are only three, four, and six hours.

Arriving at The Track 7:27am -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Arriving at The Track
7:27am

It's really more of an event than a race, where you can challenge yourself to do as many laps as possible within the allotted time. Those trying for more laps than anyone else are racing, but it's perfectly okay to just plod along and have fun.

Each time range (three hours, four hours, and six hours) has two kinds of race: solo and team.

Setting Up in Our Pit these are the same pits used by F1 racecars -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/4.5, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Setting Up in Our Pit
these are the same pits used by F1 racecars
Pit Lane 340m of bikestands 2½ hours before the races start -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/1000 sec, f/6, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Pit Lane
340m of bikestands
2½ hours before the races start
Finish Line, Just Outside Our Pit (finish line for motorsports) -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 7+ + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/32000 sec, f/1.8, ISO 25 — map & image datanearby photos
Finish Line, Just Outside Our Pit
(finish line for motorsports)
Nancy the bundle of positivity that invited me -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/1000 sec, f/6, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Nancy
the bundle of positivity that invited me

Kyoto riding buddy Nancy has been doing triathlon training hard for the last year, and her cycling (the part that I see) has improved by leaps and bounds. She had originally planned to ride the three-hour solo event, but after she signed up for that, members of her triathlon team asked that she join their four-member six-hour enduro team for Suzuka.

While chatting during a ride a couple of weeks ago, she was lamenting having to leave one race entry unused, so I suggested that she invite Kata to ride it.

Kata finally confirmed that she can race -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 58mm — 1/250 sec, f/4.8, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Kata
finally confirmed that she can race

Kata was also on this same ride a couple of weeks ago, which is where both Nancy and I met her. Making small talk with me as we rode, she had mentioned that she used to do triathlons back home in Hungary, so when Nancy mentioned that she wasn't sure what to do with her Suzuka entries, I suggested that maybe Kata could ride one of them.

And that's what happened. Kata was allowed to use Nancy's registration for the three-hour solo, while Nancy then joined the six-hour team race.

Reviewing Course Information -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 58mm — 1/250 sec, f/4.8, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Reviewing Course Information
AS Kyoto Triathlon Team Suzuka entry -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 95mm — 1/800 sec, f/5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
AS Kyoto Triathlon Team
Suzuka entry

Before the race, I wandered around the pit area a bit...

Color Coordination On Point! (the guys in blue in the background ended up taking #2 in their race) -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 140mm — 1/640 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Color Coordination On Point!
(the guys in blue in the background ended up taking #2 in their race)
Entering the Home Stretch -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
iPhone 7+ + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/3200 sec, f/1.8, ISO 20 — map & image datanearby photos
Entering the Home Stretch

The cycle event runs the course in the opposite direction to how the motorsports run it, so for F1 and the like, this is where they exit the grandstands.

I guess that they run it backwards in order to make the run up Pit Lane be slightly uphill instead of slightly downhill. When F1 and other motorsports are running, they don't let just anyone wander around the pits, so one can expect a certain competence among crew and racers. Here, anyone can wander around, making the pit lane a bit dangerous. Lowering the speed perhaps makes it safer. That's my guess.

Filing Toward the Start lots and lots of cyclists -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 240mm — 1/1000 sec, f/6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Filing Toward the Start
lots and lots of cyclists
The “ Four-Hour ” Group waits to start -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 340mm — 1/1600 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
The Four-Hour Group
waits to start
The “ Three-Hour ” Group waits to start -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
The Three-Hour Group
waits to start

Those riding the six-hour events start first at 10:00am. Then the four-hour events start two minutes later, and two minutes after that, at 10:04, the three-hour events start.

Head of the Six-Hour Group approaches to the close of their first lap -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Head of the Six-Hour Group
approaches to the close of their first lap

The course is filled with riders of all skill levels and speeds. The rule is that faster riders ride on the right, while slowest riders are on the left. (This is, not coincidentally, the same rule on Japanese highways.) The lead group for each time range gets a motorcycle escort in front, reminding slower riders to stay to the left because fast riders are coming up quickly from behind.

It seemed to all go quite smoothly.

Kids Can Join -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/14, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Kids Can Join
Couples Can Join -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/14, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
Couples Can Join
Birds on Mamachari Can Join ( “ mamachari ” are the heavy, usually-rusty, mostly-indestructible city bikes ubiquitous in urban Japan.) -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/14, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Birds on Mamachari Can Join
(mamachari are the heavy, usually-rusty, mostly-indestructible city bikes ubiquitous in urban Japan.)
I Finally Spot Kata in time to take a photo, as she finishes her fourth lap -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/800 sec, f/2.5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
I Finally Spot Kata
in time to take a photo, as she finishes her fourth lap

The photography did not start out well. I had brought the Sigma 50mm-500mm zoom for its versatility, but I hadn't really used the lens in many years, and had forgotten that its autofocus and image-stabilization features were broken. So I was stuck trying to manually focus on approaching cyclists with a razor-thin depth of field. The vast majority of shots were out of focus.

Typical Shot of the Day -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 290mm — 1/1250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Typical Shot of the Day

Also, standing in the marshals' area between the pit and the racetrack, looking up the track trying to spot a specific rider approach among the crowd, it was very difficult to recognize them in time to take a photo. Over time I learned to set a stopwatch so that I could estimate when they would next approach, concentrating my concentration to that limited window of time helped, and over time, I got better at it.

Nancy on the Ready to start her first turn -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 95mm — 1/400 sec, f/8, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Nancy on the Ready
to start her first turn
Event Staff I think this lady, dressed up as an anime maid, was part of the event staff -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 380mm — 1/1600 sec, f/8, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Event Staff
I think this lady, dressed up as an anime maid, was part of the event staff
Nancy's Teammate Rolls In -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 140 — map & image datanearby photos
Nancy's Teammate Rolls In
Passing The Baton which is really a sensor on a leg band -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 65mm — 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Passing The Baton
which is really a sensor on a leg band

The rider coming in rolled to a stop, and one person takes it off his leg and passes it to another who puts it onto Nancy's leg.

After watching various teams do this, I see some areas for improvement. For example, Nancy should already be completely clipped in, with someone holding her saddle to keep her upright. The guy coming in should take off the ankle bracelet himself and pass it directly to the person that will put it onto Nancy's leg. Another person should stand well in front of Nancy and slightly to the side, to ensure that no other rider coming into pit lane will be too close to Nancy when she starts out. She can then start out and pedal a few times before needing to check traffic. This could all save five to 10 seconds each lap (which over the course of their 36 laps could have added another lap).

The rules for the mixed-gender teams are sort of bullshit. If even one lap is done by a woman, it qualifies as mixed gender, and apparently teams that really want to win will have a woman do exactly one lap, leaving the big powerful men to ride for the next 5h50m. Not so for Nancy's team, where they split the work pretty much evenly, mostly riding in three-lap shifts (though scheduling is a bit complicated by the fact that pit row shuts down for about half an hour twice during the race, so whoever's out at that time has to stay out until pit row is reopened).

Off On Her First Lap -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/1000 sec, f/8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Off On Her First Lap
Nancy Finishing Her First Lap -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Nancy Finishing Her First Lap

Nancy didn't start her stint until an hour into the races, and by then the many riders were strung out over the 6km course, so it was much easier to spot her coming.

Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking Relaxed 11:19am -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 210mm — 1/1000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Looking Relaxed
11:19am
Being Silly 11:21am -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 340mm — 1/1600 sec, f/6.3, ISO 180 — map & image datanearby photos
Being Silly
11:21am

I eventually realized that I could move to another part of the course.... in fact, I could wander around anywhere on the entire course. I wish I had known this earlier!

Another Mamachari -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Another Mamachari
A Different Perspective Of Kata, 2½ hours into her race -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 116mm — 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
A Different Perspective
Of Kata, 2½ hours into her race
On The Next Lap different yet again -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 290mm — 1/1250 sec, f/6.3, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
On The Next Lap
different yet again
This Guy Bothered Me -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
This Guy Bothered Me

Every time I'd see him in the crowd at a distance, for a moment I thought that someone was crashing, and that's a horrible, horrible feeling.

Enjoying the Downhill on her last lap -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Enjoying the Downhill
on her last lap

Kata won 9th place among all women in the three-hour race!

The “ Real ” Racers -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 3600 — map & image datanearby photos
The Real Racers

I didn't realize it at the time, but the guy center right in the photo above, in the light-blue kit, is Ryo Inoue, a name I've seen many times at the very top of Strava leaderboards. I had figured that he's some young collage kid with incredible power, so I was surprised to see in a photo of him on the podium (he got #3 in the premier six-hour solo race) that he's a fair bit older, with two kids. With incredible power. His average speed for the six hours was 40.4kph (25.1mph).

A Long, Gentle Descent -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 58mm — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
A Long, Gentle Descent
Not as Bad as it Looks even those tiny tires would be fine on the supremely-smooth tarmac of the racetrack -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Not as Bad as it Looks
even those tiny tires would be fine on the supremely-smooth tarmac of the racetrack
Fast Descent -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Fast Descent
Guts -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 500mm — 1/2000 sec, f/6.3, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Guts

This guy, out there cycling while I'm just strolling around with the camera, reminded me of The Competitor that I wrote about in cyclocross.

Nancy on the Descent -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 240mm — 1/1000 sec, f/6, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
Nancy on the Descent
8th Place mixed-gender six-hour team race -- Suzuka Raceway -- Suzuka, Mie, Japan -- Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Sigma “Bigma” 50-500mm OS @ 78mm — 1/320 sec, f/5, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
8th Place
mixed-gender six-hour team race

Kata came in 9th in her race, and Nancy's team came in 8th in theirs, great efforts!

All and all, it was a really fun day. I'll go next year, to ride.


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