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Old 07-23-2015, 10:10 PM   #1
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Yamaha Factory Racing Team quickest in Friday Suzuka 8 Hours practice

“We are fast, we are consistent and all three of us have a good pace. The bike is incredible, much more easy to ride and efficient than I had imagined”, said a smiling Pol Espargaró after finishing as fastest in the Suzuka 8 Hours first official practice day.

Two 90-minutes practice sessions were held today for each of the two groups which comprise the 80 teams that intend to race next Sunday in the 38th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours race. While the first sessions were held in mixed conditions with the tarmac half wet/dry, in the afternoon the practice was held on dry asphalt and temperature well below the values expected for Sunday. These conditions allowed the riders to squeeze the maximum out of their bikes…and tires. It should be remembered that the Suzuka 8 Hours race is probably one of the last races in which tire manufacturers still challenge each other like in the old days.

The factory Yamaha team of Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith was on another level from the others at Suzuka. With a best lap of 2:07.282, the Spaniard established today’s provisional pole almost one second faster than the best registered by Tatsuya Yamaguchi of Moriwaki’s Toho Team with a lap of 2:08.254. Team Yoshimura was third, relegating Casey Stoner’s MuSashi HARC-Pro Team to an unexpected fourth position.

At the end of the day the morale was high in the Yamaha Factory Racing Team garage, because all three riders showed serious speed. Espargaró has been the fastest, but Smith and Nakasuga clocked lap times that were very close to their teammate’s provisional pole time. In fact, Nakasuga had shown the highest overall pace, a few tenths quicker then the two MotoGP (Suzuka 8 Hours rookies) riders.

Thus the expectations are high after this first day for tomorrow's qualifying day. Saturday is reserved for the 600cc 4 Hours race and the spectacular Superpole (this is where the concept used in WSBK originated), now called the “Top 10 Trial” by the Suzuka organization. So tomorrow the watch will decide which 66 teams will have the right to line up on Sunday; the other four that will complete the grid will be decided by the event organization. Thus there will be 70 teams starting the 8 Hours out of the 80 that are taking part in the practice…yes, it’s a huge race.

Back to the dominant Yamaha Team, one of the keys of their success is the new R1, by far the most modern bike in the race. Launched this year after years of intense development, the MotoGP technology instilled into the new R1 has broken the game wide open. Even HRC vice-president Shuhei Nakamoto admits that Honda’s CBR1000RR has suddenly become very old. “Our bike is 2008 model, the new Yamaha is a much more modern bike”, said the man responsible for Honda Racing activities. An unusual admission, and giving the impression that he is expecting a defeat on Sunday.

The HRC-run MuSashi HARC-Pro Team, that has been the center of all attention and flashes due to former two-time MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner making a one-off racing comeback into the team, seems incapable of equaling the Yamaha factory team’s performance. One look at the face of Stoner when seated in the garage surrounded by Japanese engineers says it all.

Meanwhile, other teams keep on going their own way, ready to take advantage if the opportunity comes their way. Moriwaki, Yoshimura, FCC TSR, Kagayama…all are teams with experience in this unique race, and they know that it’s not always the fastest rider or the fastest bike that wins the 8 Hours. And they are ready to seize the opportunity if it appears.

Tomorrow will be a very interesting day. The weather forecast predicts no rain, and higher temperatures.

2015 Suzuka 8 Hours Friday practice times:
1. Yamaha Factory Racing Team | Katsuyuki Nakasuga/Pol Espargaró/Bradley Smith | Yamaha | 2:07.282
2. Toho Racing Moriwaki | Tatsuya Yamaguchi/Toni Elias/Ratthapark Wilairot | Honda | 2:08.254
3. Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance | Takuya Tsuda/Alex Lowes/Josh Waters | Suzuki | 2:08.403
4. MuSASHI RT HARC-Pro | Takumi Takahashi/Michael Van der Mark/Casey Stoner | Honda | 2:08.462
5. Team Green | Akira Yanagawa/Kazuki Watanabe/Haji Ahmad Yudhistira | Kawasaki | 2:08.576
6. Team Kagayama | Yukio Kagayama/Noriyuki Haga/Ryuichi Kiyonari | Suzuki | 2:08.660
7. au & Teleru - Kohara RT | Kosuke Akiyoshi/Kazuma Watanabe/Tetsuta Yamaguchi | Honda | 2:09.094
8. GMT94 Yamaha | David Checa/Kenny Foray/Mathieu Gines | Yamaha | 2:10.094
9. CONFIA Flex Motorrrad39 | Daisaku Sakai/Shinya Takeishi/Takatoshi Ohnishi | BMW | 2:10.181
10. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team | Vincent Philipe/Anthony Delhalle/Etienne Masson | Suzuki | 2:10.411

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