Apr 27, 2001
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By Glenn LeSanto<BR><BR>The Japanese round of the World Superbike Championship has one feature in common with the <BR>British rounds, the local wild-card riders have their strongest showing of the year in both countries. Friday's first timed practice sessions were true to this form with local hero Makato Tamada leading the charge on his Cabin Honda V-Twin. Makato, who was third in last years All-Japan Superbike series, headed the pack with a time of 1:28.658, a full second ahead of fellow <BR>Japanese rider and Cabin Honda teammate Shinicho Ito, whose fastest lap was 1:29.650. The lap record for Sugo stands at 1:29.996, set by Hitoyasu Izutsu last year so Tamada is not hanging about. Ito was the All-Japan Superbike <BR>champ in 1998 and won the Suzuka 8-Hours race the same year.<BR><BR>Upholding the honor of the World Superbike regulars is Troy Corser, third-fastest on Friday <BR>afternoon at 1:29.666. The Australian might be disappointed to see that his Axo Aprilia, normally the bike to beat on top end, was trailing nearly 10 kph (6.2 mph)behind Tamada's Honda. Corser's top speed for the session was clocked at 226.6 kph (140.8 mph) against Tamada's 230.2 kph (143.0 mph). Gregorio Lavilla, Colin Edwards, Neil Hodgson and Pierfrancesco Chili all made it into the top 10, which consisted of five regular and five wild-card riders.<BR><BR>Meanwhile, Japanese regular Tady Okada could only manage 12th-fastest on his Castrol Honda.<BR><BR>Tamada was obviously pleased with his performance today, and said "My time is almost one second faster than my previous best lap but we still have more work to do on set-up and we need to choose a tire for the race. I enjoy riding with the WSB riders although I find them a little wilder than the riders in the All-Japan championship."<BR><BR>Cabin Honda team manager Nobuo Ono promised there <BR>was more to come, "The All-Japan Championship hasn't started yet," explained Ono. "So this is our first race this year. For the Superpole the riders will show what they have done during the off season."<BR><BR>British rider Neil Hodgson recorded the highest absolute top speed at 232.2 kph (144.3 mph) on his GSE Ducati, identical to the speed set by wild-card Akira Ryo on his GSX-R750. Colin Edwards was a fraction down on the pair at 231.7 kph (143.9 mph).<BR><BR>In sharp contrast to last weekend's Phillip Island round, the weather at the track owned by Yamaha was perfect for racing, full-on sunshine with a cooling breeze.<BR><BR>Results<BR>Timed Practice First Session (Friday):<BR>1. M. Tamada, Japan, Honda 1:28.658<BR>2. S. Ito, Japan, Honda 1:29.650<BR>3. T. Corser, Australia, Aprilia 1:29.666<BR>4. T. Serizawa, Japan, Kawasaki 1:29.738<BR>5. G. Lavilla, Spain, Kawasaki 1:29.935<BR>6. C. Edwards, USA, Honda 1:30.035<BR>7. W. Yoshikawa, Japan, Yamaha 1:30.126<BR>8. A. Ryo, Japan, Suzuki 1:30.151<BR>9. N. Hodgson, GB, Ducati 1:30.164<BR>10. P. Chili. ITA. Suzuki 1:30.176