Riders set very fast pace in Suzuka tests
Following the three-day official test in Japan, a hierarchy is emerging for the Suzuka 8 Hours race on 29 July. Yamaha Factory Racing Team, the winner of the past three editions, has consolidated its status as the favourite, but will likely face stiff competition from Kawasaki Team Green and Honda HRC.
The highlight of the 2018 Suzuka 8 Hours official tests has been the sterling performance of Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark and the Japanese rider’s 2:06.273 lap. Katsuyuki Nakasuga broke current teammate Alex Lowes’s record for the fastest lap set in the race last year and is already seeking to smash former teammate Pol Espargaró’s 2015 lap record (2:06.000) in qualifying during the Top 10 Trial.
The second day of tests yesterday provided the most excitement, with the Japanese factory teams waging a war of nerves to clock the fastest lap time. Yamaha Factory Racing Team consolidated its position as leader. The fastest counter-strike (2:06.838) came from Kawasaki Team Green’s Kazuma Watanabe, Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea, ahead of Honda HRC (2:07.500). Honda’s factory team will have to make do without Leon Camier. Following his crash during testing, a medical examination has revealed that the British rider has sustained back injuries. HRC will have to find a new teammate for Takumi Takahashi and Takaaki Nakagami.
Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing (Sylvain Guintoli, Takuya Tsuda and Bradley Ray) found itself among the foursome in the lead after posting a 2:07.838 best lap, ahead of Suzuka regulars Honda Suzuka Racing Team and S-Pulse Dream Racing (Suzuki).
YART Yamaha is leading the other FIM EWC full-season teams, and significantly upped performance on the third day of tests. Broc Parkes, Marvin Fritz and Takuya Fujita set a 2:08.005 quickest lap today. The Austrian team was 7th-quickest of the teams on track in testing, ahead of strong Japanese contender Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda’s 2:08.070 best lap.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France were also quicker today with a 2:09.186, ahead of GMT94 Yamaha (2:09.315) and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (2:10.581).
Meanwhile, manufacturer Bridgestone dominated proceedings at the Suzuka tests. All nine teams on the top of the timesheets are using Bridgestone tyres. Team Kagayama was the quickest Dunlop-shod team with a 2:08.562, while KYB Moriwaki Motul Racing posted the fastest lap of the Pirelli-shod teams.
The 64 teams competing in the 41st Suzuka 8 Hours will be back on the track for free practice on Thursday 26 July.