The Suzuka 8 Hours is just 12 days away! Teams are feeling the pressure after the second set of tests in Japan, where the favourites jockeyed for an advantage over the competition. 2015 winner Yamaha Factory Racing Team settled into the top spot, ahead of Team Kagayama and Musashi RT Harc-Pro, while F.C.C. TSR Honda topped the teams in the running for the FIM-EWC title.
Katsuyuki Nakasuga set the pace at the final Suzuka 8 Hours tests on 13 and 14 July, posting a 2’06.960 lap on 2015 winner Yamaha Factory Racing Team’s R1 – less than one second behind the stunning lap his teammate Pol Espargaro clocked to claim pole last season. Yamaha Factory Racing Team is definitely looking like the team to beat at Suzuka. This year, Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pol Espargaro will be riding alongside Alex Lowes. Team Kagayama (Suzuki) with Yukio Kagayama, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Naomichi Uramoto were also in the leading trio: Kiyonari posted a best lap of 2’08.377, ahead of Musashi RT Harc-Pro with riders Takumi Takahashi, Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden, who clocked a 2’08.519 lap. Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance also kept a good pace with a 2’08.554 lap; the team composed of Takuya Tsuda, Joshua Brookes and Noriyuki Haga is aiming for a win.
F.C.C. TSR Honda goes on the attack
F.C.C. TSR Honda, the most international of all the Japanese teams and currently 4th in the provisional FIM EWC championship standings, was the best of the teams in the running for the 2016 title. Kazuma Watanabe, Patrick Jacobsen and Dominique Aegerter posted a fastest lap of 2’08.720, just ahead of Team Green’s factory Kawasaki ridden by Akira Yanagawa, Kasuki Watanabe and Leon Haslam, who clocked a 2’08.724 lap. Meanwhile, GMT94 Yamaha and Suzuki Endurance Racing Team were neck and neck at the Suzuka tests with a fastest lap of 2’11.104 and 2’11.221 respectively. GMT94 Yamaha will be on the starting grid with riders David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Lucas Mahias; SERT with Vincent Philippe, Anthony Delhalle and Etienne Masson.
Eleven FIM EWC teams on the grid
Eight other teams entered for the FIM EWC championship will be at the start of the 39th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours, notably Team April Moto Motors Events, currently topping the provisional standings after an excellent performance at Le Mans and Portimão earlier in the season. In the saddle of the Suzuki #50, Gregg Black, Grégroy Fastré and Alex Cudlin are aiming to hold on to top place in the standings. After being forced to withdraw in Portimão, SRC Kawasaki has to make up for lost time. Fabien Foret has phlebitis and will not be racing, so Grégory Leblanc and Matthieu Lagrive will team up with Jérémy Guarnoni, currently 7th in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup.
Other Top 15 teams in the FIM EWC provisional standings to keep an eye out for: Honda Endurance Racing with Julien da Costa, Sébastien Gimbert and Freddy Foray; YART Yamaha Official EWC Team with Broc Parkes alongside Japanese riders Takuya Fujita and Kohta Nozane, Team R2CL with Aaron Morris, Aiden Wagner and Sébastien Suchet, and Team Bolliger Switzerland with Horst Saiger, Michael Savary and Gianluca Vizziello riding their Kawasaki. Flembbo Leader Team and Motobox Kremer Racing will also be lining up on the grid at the Suzuka 8 Hours.
The first official practices of the 39th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours will take place on Thursday 28 July.