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Old 07-24-2015, 10:40 PM   #1
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Suzuka 8 Hours: Kawasaki's Team Green tops provisional qualifying

Team Green rider Kazuki Watanabe put the Kawasaki squad on top of provisional qualifying for the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours race with a stunning 2:06.656 lap.

Kawasaki's factory Team Green took provisional pole position for the 38th running of the Suzuka 8 Hours race on Friday, with rider Kazuki Watanabe turning in a stunning 2:06.656 lap in the afternoon's Qualifying 2 session (this year's Friday provisional qualifying has been broken up into six groups, with the teams split between Group A and B, as well as Rider 1, Rider 2, and Rider 3; Saturday's Superpole-- now referred to as the "Top Ten Trial"-- is reserved for the top ten teams to determine their grid positons). In second spot was the Yoshimura Suzuki team, with rider Takuya Tsuda running a 2:06.958 lap, relegating the Yamaha Factory Racing Team to third. The MuSashi RT HARC-Pro Honda squad was fourth, with former MotoGP champion Casey Stoner going quickest in his qualifying session.

Yamaha Factory Racing Team's Pol Espargaró was lucky to escape serious injury in this crash when he was suddenly forced off line by a slower rider exiting the wide-open fourth-gear kink leading to the Hairpin. Photo by Toshiro Sato

Pol Espargaró narrowly escaped serious injury when he crashed after being run off line by a slower rider exiting the very fast right-hand Turn 10 kink towards the Hairpin. The Spaniard had just turned his quickest lap of 2:07075 on his second lap and was running with a full head of steam to go quicker when the accident happened. Luckily Espargaró wasn't injured, but the Yamaha R1 was severely damaged. “It happened in a wide-open 4th gear corner”, explained Espargaró afterward. “It’s a quite long corner, you can do easily wide open with the rev-limiter working for about two seconds; then you brake. There was a rider in front quite far away. I intended to pass him on the brakes…but suddenly he got very big. He just decided to get up and brake in the middle of the turn that is done in 4th gear wide open! The problem is that this turn is a little bit tight and has just one line. My problem was that I had to get a little bit off the line, no more than a meter. Enough to touch the dirt a little bit. Once that happened, I had no other option than to jump off the bike. It was this or entering into the wall at full speed.”

"Fortunately I am fine, but not the bike. I have never seen such destruction; I got very upset for the team. I didn’t got hurt, that’s the good part…the only good part."

Yamaha Factory Racing Team's Bradley Smith also had a crash, but luckily at slower speed and with much less consequence than Espargaró's.

Espargaró's teammate Bradley Smith also had a fall, luckily at a slower speed with much less consequence. "It was unfortunate I crashed this morning," Smith said. "I was playing around with the braking mark and lost the front of the bike. It's good to have made that mistake, because it shows how easy those kinds of things can happen in the race. We worked on doing a race run first because it was around the same time of Sunday's race, so it gave everybody an idea of what to expect. In the afternoon I wanted to push, and I was happy with my lap time (2:07.308), which is very close to Nakasuga and Pol's. I didn't want to take too many risks and was still third quickest, which is not bad. I was happy, because these were the first fast laps that I've done here, because before I've just been focusing on race pace. To have three riders within half a second is great, we are definitely the strongest team at the moment."

Suzuka 8 Hours Provisional Qualifying Top Ten teams (on to Superpole):
1. Team Green | Akira Yanagawa/Kazuki Watanabe/Haji Ahmad Yudhistira | Kawasaki
2. Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance | Takuya Tsuda/Alex Lowes/Josh Waters | Suzuki
3. Yamaha Factory Racing Team | Katsuyuki Nakasuga/Pol Espargaró/Bradley Smith | Yamaha
4. FCC TSR Honda | Josh Hook/Dominique Aegerter/Kyle Smith | Honda
5. MuSASHI RT HARC-Pro | Takumi Takahashi/Michael Van der Mark/Casey Stoner | Honda
6. Honda Dream RT Sakurai Honda | Troy Herfoss/Jason O'Halloran/Naomichi Uramoto | Honda
7. Team Kagayama | Yukio Kagayama/Noriyuki Haga/Ryuichi Kiyonari | Suzuki
8. EVA RT Test Type-01 Trick Star | Osamu Deguchi/Hitoyasu Izutsu/Erwan Nigon | Kawasaki
9. Toho Racing Moriwaki | Tatsuya Yamaguchi/Toni Elias/Ratthapark Wilairot | Honda
10. MotoMap Supply | Yoshihiro Konno/Nobuatsu Aoki/Hideyuki Ogata | Suzuki

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