The event was made more challenging this year with the inclusion of the Japanese teams who previously had been excluded from the points. This made for a more interesting race in which the permanent world championship teams had to fight even harder to score points against the well-prepared factory and semi-official Japanese teams. Even within the strict technical regulations of the Formula EWC class, the local teams had more than sufficient resources to score big points for the World Championship.
Qualifying went relatively well for the Woodhall Spa race ace who was making his racing debut at the near on four-mile super fast circuit.
“It is unbelievably tiring to be on the bike for an hour at a time here in Japan. The temperature is around 40 degrees with 70% humidity. We have qualified 24th overall, which is pretty good as we are the third fastest permanent team on the grid,” said Plater.
“There are some very, very good bikes out there that are really fast, much quicker than the normal endurance bikes but there have been many crashes in qualifying. There are so many entries this year (over 80) that they had to split the qualifying into two groups and in the B group there were 17 crashes in just one session.
“The circuit is quite dangerous and as it is nearly four miles round, it is quite hard to learn. But on saying that it is very good to ride and I am more than happy with my lap times as I am on the same pace as my teammates on race rubber.”
The Suzuka race is run over eight hours with the three team members taking turn to ride the bike. Plater started the race and immediately pushed forward into the top 20.
But his race was nearly over before it began as a rider just ahead suffered an engine failure as they exited a fast right turn.
Plater was quick to respond and sat the bike up, banging into the side of the stricken machine and being shot across the grass losing six places before making it back onto the circuit.
He then got his head down passing many riders in an attempt to get back on terms with the leaders but made a mistake at the chicane slipping off into the gravel and again losing ground. But, undeterred, the Lincolnshire rider remounted and finished his session in 38th place.
“By the time I got back on the bike after Steve and Igor's sessions we were progressing nicely. I continued to make ground with good lap times but in the distance I could see lightening and sure enough ten minutes later the heavens opened on some parts of the circuit.”
At one point the whole track was damp but the heavy rain was in just one sector. Steve decided to carry on and complete his last six laps on slicks, as it was obvious the rain was soon to stop and the track dry.
He made up many places as other teams crashed out or pitted for a change of tyre. At the end of his session on the bike he handed over the Steve Martin with instructions to fit a set of new slicks, as at that point the team had moved back into the top 20.
With just 1˝ hours remaining they made it into the top 10 and then to ninth but Leon Haslam on the factory Honda demoted them and YART eventually crossed the finish line for 11th place.
“We are pretty happy with that result,” said the ever-smiling Steve Plater. “We were 11th and the first permanent team over the line. Considering we had to race with a completely standard engine after suffering a few problems during practice I am well pleased, especially as it was my first time here in Japan.”