World Endurance: Team HRC On Provisional Pole At Suzuka 8-Hours (Updated)

World Endurance: Team HRC On Provisional Pole At Suzuka 8-Hours (Updated)

© 2022, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By David Swarts.

Editorial Note: It rained during the qualifying session for the Red riders, resulting in their unusually slow lap times.

2022 FIM Endurance World Championship - Overall Qualifying Classification (average of the 2 bests times) - Overall Qualifying Classification (average of the 2 bests times)

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by FIM EWC:

HRC BLASTS INTO THE 2M04S WITH NAGASHIMA IN EWC SUZUKA FIRST QUALIFYING

Tetsuta Nagashima unleashed the opening salvo in the Suzuka 8 Hours qualifying contest with blinding lap to put the #33 Team HRC Honda CBR1000RR-RSP into 2m04s territory in the first of the three Q1 sessions.

Nagashima used every bit of his Bridgestones’ adhesion and knew he had set a blinder with his 2m04.942s, waving to the crowds as he returned to the pits halfway through the 20-minute first session for Blue Riders.

The #33 ended the session with an advantage of over 1.1secs from the #7 YART-Yamaha Official Team EWC entry with Marvin Fritz on board the Bridgestone-shod YZF-R1 with the #17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing Honda CBR1000RR-R third quickest.

Of the EWC contenders, the #5 FCC TSR Honda France set the sixth fastest time with Josh Hook hooking it up nicely on the CBR1000RR-R, again on Bridgestones, whilst the #37 BMW MOTORRAD WORLD ENDURANCE TEAM set a top ten time in the overall standings with Markus Reiterberger taking his Dunlop-shod M1000RR to a 2m06.963s lap.

Notably, the #1 Yoshimura SERT Motul GSR-R1000R did not take to the track in the session, with Sylvian Guintoli having injured his hand in testing earlier in the week.

For the Yellow Rider outings, it was YART’s turn to rule the roost, with Niccolò Canepa the first of the squad’s riders to post a time in the 2m05s with a 2m05.863, just over three tenths quicker than Alex Lowes on the #10 Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H ZX-10RR and Takumi Takahashi on the #33 Honda third fastest.

Of the Yellow EWC riders, the #37 BMW was next up with the 5tht fastest overall time with Illya Mykhalchyk in action and the #5 Honda seventh overall with Gino Rea in action. The SERT first appearance saw Gregg Black in action, posting the eighth-fastest time, a 2m07.373s.

Any thoughts of Red Rider glory for the final Q1 session were soon dampened as the skies converted humidity to precipitation, albeit initially only on one part of the track and ironically as the sun was making a first appearance of the day from a different direction.

With most of the session run to voluntary red conditions as the teams stayed off track, it was only late action in the 20 minutes which saw the #5 Honda set a 2m 10.556s lap with Mike Di Meglio in action, whilst the #50 TEAM KODAMA Yamaha YZF-M1 was just four tenths behind. Illustrating the nature of the Red session, the next bike was almost six seconds slower.

With the skies above Suzuka brightening, the trio of Q2 sessions will start from 15:50 local time.

 

 

 

More, from another press release issued by FIM EWC:

RAIN HITS SECOND QUALIFYING FOR EWC SUZUKA 8 HOURS

It may not have been the Blues that had the blues but the Reds certainly had cause to see red on an afternoon where the weather reigned as master of qualifying destiny for the third round of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

Just as Q1 seemingly saw the best conditions for the Blue Riders, so Q2 followed a similar path. A certain amount of moisture retention in the track surface allied to the humidity in the air meant the super special times of Q1 were unlikely to be replicated.

Tetsuta Nagashima, who broke into the 2m04s in the earlier session, was top again, but this time with a 2m06.675s aboard the #33 Team HRC CBR1000RR-RSP and its Bridgestone tyres.

Next up was a Dunlop runner, with the #37 BMW MOTORRAD WORLD ENDURANCE TEAM M1000RR putting in a 2m07.143s at the hands of Markus Reiterberger, with another full time EWC team taking third spot, with the #7 YART Yamaha Official Team EWC YZF-M1 with Martin Fritz working his magic on the Japanese bike’s Bridgestones.

Once again, no sign of the #1 Yoshimura SERT Motul Suzuki GSX-R1000R with Sylvian Guintoli yet to be seen on track.

The Yellow Rider session beckoned with the note of rain around T12-14 and it proved to be a subdued session with bikes on track for the first half, then generally garage-based activities thereafter as precipitation kept lingering to render fast lap attacks redundant.

Fastest for the session was the #5 FCC TSR Honda France CBR1000RR-R Fireblade with Gino Rea working the Bridgestone tyres and posting a 2m07.326s lap, around 1.5secs slower than the earlier Yellow best. Once again, the SERT was back out in action for the Yellow Rider Gregg Black, going fourth-fastest.

For the Red Riders – unlucky with rain in Q1 – it was again a less than perfect Q2 with gentle precipitation wafting in the breeze on the pitlane at least for the start of the session with the intensity increasing almost exactly on cue to provide one more red nightmare for the unluckiest riders of the threesomes today.

With the rain increasing, the best times would be set early and it was the #104 TOHO Racing Bridgestone-shod Honda CBR1000RR-R with Hiromichi Kunikawa aboard which went top on its first flier, with a 2m11.631s with Kazuki Watanbe eight tenths adrift on the SERT Suzuki.

With dark skies to the left of the track, blue skies to the right, conditions for the ‘Night’ Free Practice Session next is anyone’s guess. The session gets underway at 18:30 local time.

 

 

 

More, from another press release issued by FIM EWC:

YART SLIPS IN A LATE FAST ONE IN THE NIGHT WET RUNS FOR EWC SUZUKA PRACTICE

YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC rider Marvin Fritz was the fastest man on a wet but slowly drying Suzuka circuit in a delayed Night Free Practice Session for the 43rd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours, round three of the FIM Endurance World Championship.

The German rider on the #7 Yamaha posted his time in the final ten minutes of the hour-long session, using wet Bridgestone tyres to top local hero Kazuki Watanbe on the #1 Yoshimura SERT Motul Suzuki GSX-R1000R

Frtiz’s 2m23.908s was almost half a second ahead of Watanbe’s slightly earlier lap, also set using the Bridgestone wets.

The #10 Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H ZX-10R was third fastest, with a 2m24.520s from Jonathan Rea whilst the next fastest EWC season contender was the #11 Webike SRC Kawasaki France ZX-10RR, using Dunlop rubber.

Pitlane Rubber Duck Racing had been the name of the game at the session’s scheduled 18:30 local time start, as the pitlane was awash from an earlier deluge, but a 15-minute delay was sufficient for the session to run, and considering the conditions it all went rather swimmingly.

Of the dry top-performers, the pacesetting #33 Team HRC CBR1000RR-RSP was the thirteenth quickest, with a time almost eight seconds adrift of the best, illustrating just how wet it was – our simply that there was nothing to prove from taking risks with the night wet runs.

All the times from today can be seen here

FIM Endurance World Championship action from the 43rd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours resumes with Free Practice 2 tomorrow at 14:15 local time.

 

 

 

More, from another press release issued by FIM EWC:

EWC SUZUKA TOP TEN POLE PICKERS

The third round of the FIM Endurance World Championship, the Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours, is a race with a difference, not least in how the grid for the race is formed.

As Friday ebbs into Saturday, so riders Blue, Yellow and Red have set times in their first and second qualifying sessions. But now things take a twist.

The best qualifying time of each rider is combined and then divided by the number of riders in the team to give an average qualifying time for each squad. The top ten teams by average qualifying time then go forward into the Top 10 Trial shootout, held on Saturday afternoon at 15:30 local time.

Teams select two of their riders for Top 10 Trial duties, with each rider getting one lap to set their time. The lap times of each rider are then combined to complete the final starting grid for Sunday.

The 5-4-3-2-1 qualifying points are awarded after the Top 10 Trial rather than after the completion of Second Qualifying, which is the case at other EWC events.

So, who are the Top Ten Pole Pickers?

1 #33 Team HRC

2 #7 YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC

3 #10 Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H

4 #17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing

5 #5 FCC TSR Honda France

6 #37 BMW MOTORRAD WORLD ENDURANCE TEAM

7 #72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA

8 #73 SDG Honda Racing

9 #25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing Team

10 #2 EVA RT 01 Webike Trickstar

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki Press Office:

GUINTOLI CONFIRMED OUT OF SUZUKA 8 HOURS AFTER TEST ACCIDENT

 

Sylvain Guintoli. Photo courtesy Team Suzuki Press Office.
Sylvain Guintoli. Photo courtesy Team Suzuki Press Office.

 

Yoshimura Suzuki Endurance Racing Team Motul’s Sylvain Guintoli will not participate in the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance World Championship third round that take place this weekend.

After an injury during the Suzuka test earlier this week, Guintoli has flown back to the UK for treatment on his injured left arm.

Unfortunately Guintoli has sustained a hand injury and will not be able to race this weekend but prepare himself for the final round Bol d’Or 24 Hours in September.

Said Guintoli: “I am really gutted I can’t race this weekend. Returning to the Suzuka 8H after 2 years was a great challenge, but unfortunately it’s impossible for me to race. We are leading the World Championship and I was looking forward to try to win this fantastic race. I wish the Team and my Team mates all the best, I know there are very strong and I can’t wait to be back at the Bol d’Or for the next and final race of 2022.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Kawasaki:

KRT Trio Overcome Early 8 Hours Challenges

 

Alex Lowes (10). Photo courtesy Kawasaki.
Alex Lowes (10). Photo courtesy Kawasaki.

 

The first day of official qualifying for the 2022 Suzuka 8 Hours EWC race got underway on Friday 5 August. Official KRT riders for Suzuka, Leon Haslam, Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea were met with changeable track conditions as they progressed towards final qualifying on Saturday.

The highly experienced three-rider official KRT Suzuka 8 Hours are no strangers to racing and also winning at the 5.821km long ‘figure eight’ circuit in Japan.

Haslam has been in Suzuka for some time, testing and preparing for the race weekend, while Lowes and Rea have recently travelled from the WorldSBK race weekend in Most, Czech Republic. Lowes’s recovery from an intestinal infection has been continuing, despite an uncomfortable weekend in Most and long flights and travel connections to get to Japan.

On track, the riders have been pleased with the improvements they have made to their machine’s set-up as they approached the first two official qualifying sessions. All three riders got a chance to qualify, with Haslam inside the blue group, Lowes in the yellow group and Rea the red group.

After two super-hot days of testing earlier this week Friday provided changeable weather, with falls of rain at unfortunate times almost spoiling the team’s best-laid plans.

These challenges were finally overcome and all three riders now move on to Saturday’s Free Practice Three – with the subsequent Top Ten trial then finalising the starting grid for Sunday’s race.

The 43rd Suzuka 8 Hours race itself will take place on Sunday 7 August.

Jonathan Rea, stated: “The tests have been great so far. I have really enjoyed every minute even though we came from the Most WorldSBK round with some difficult travel and connections. I arrived here feeling quite good and felt no jet lag. The first practices were positive. We found the same bike that we left at the previous test, so I am really happy with that. The next target was to qualify for the top five trial – which is like a super one-lap ‘Superpole’ for qualifying, to determine our grid position. I was really nervous. Being the red group rider I got bad weather in both my qualifying sessions. I actually missed out on the first qualifying because we timed it wrong with the tyre. I was out of the qualifying percentage. But in the second session, with lots of spots of rain around the track, we finally put it in fourth place. All three of us have been consistently fast, working with old tyres, so I feel good for the race. I feel we have one of the strongest line-ups with Alex and Leon. I have a lot of confidence in them and I hope they have the same confidence in me. I am looking forward to the race as a team. Everyone speaks the same language and the atmosphere is really good. In the riders’ room we have been hanging out, laughing and joking, so I cannot wait to get stuck into the racing.”

Alex Lowes, stated: “It has been a tough week for me at the start. I didn’t feel the best in Most and travelling here I was struggling a bit. But, since getting to Japan I have been feeling better every day. On track it has been great with the guys, we have a happy atmosphere in the team, we are working hard on the bike to improve the settings so that all three guys are feeling comfortable. The weather has not been the typical Suzuka 8 Hours weather. We have had some rain and it was really, really hot the first two days after we arrived. Now it is not so hot. There have been some wet laps, some dry laps. It has been a little bit changeable but that is also the forecast for the race itself, so we have to be prepared to adapt to every situation. All the qualifying was not too bad for me this morning so I am looking forward to the race now.”

Leon Haslam, stated: “We came out early to make a test, which was extremely hot. We had a very busy time on Tuesday and Wednesday. Qualifying was OK. We just did two laps and the weather was not so kind in the afternoon. The lap time wasn’t so bad because I managed to make one clean lap and I feel we are making steps – every day, every session – for the race on Sunday.”

Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager, stated: “The qualifying sessions today have been quite a lot of fun. There was a big tension and emotion because the weather made a big effect. In the first qualifying Jonathan could not push because it started to rain, so we were outside the 108% of the fastest qualifier rules. Rea could not race in the Suzuka 8 Hours after the first qualifying! Leon and Alex made good job securing the ‘Top Five Trial’ in dry conditions – which was the target – taking third position overall. We were more than 0.8 seconds from the team classified in sixth place. In the second Q the target was for JR to finish at least one lap inside this 108%, but in the middle of first lap it started to rain! That’s why we decided to get out on track quickly. He was one of the first to exit. That meant he could finish the first lap with time enough to stay inside 108% and make the race. This weather situation made us run a bit crazy, but his is life…Tomorrow we will have chance to go for a time attack during the ‘Top 10 Trial.’ Sitting in front of a TV on Sunday, to enjoy the 8 Hours race, would be a very good plan for all the fans.”

Joining the KRT squad on track at Suzuka are several other Ninja ZX-10RR equipped teams across Superbike and Superstock classes. The famous #11 machine of Webike SRC Kawasaki France with riders Randy de Puniet, Etienne Masson and Florian Marino is expected to feature among leading teams in Superbike while Kawasaki Plaza Racing Team with riders Ryosuke Iwato, Yuta Okaya and Naoki Kiyosue, vie for honours in the Superstock category.

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Yamaha:

YART Yamaha Secure Provisional Front Row Start at Suzuka

 

Niccolo Canepa (7) on the Yamalube YART Yamaha. Photo courtesy Yamaha.
Niccolo Canepa (7) on the Yamalube YART Yamaha. Photo courtesy Yamaha.

 

The Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team impressed despite tricky conditions at the 43rd edition of the Cola-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race to finish second overall during qualifying and claim their place in the Top 10 Trial on Saturday.

Mixed conditions greeted the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) teams on Saturday for the third round of the season in Japan as temperatures rose to over 30 degrees Celsius, but sporadic rain showers meant setting a fast lap time was all about timing during the two 20-minute qualifying sessions for each rider. The Austrian squad of Niccolò Canepa, Karel Hanika, and Marvin Fritz got off to a great start by completing the first Free Practice session in P2 with a 2:06.408, already improving on their best time during the pre-race test earlier in the week as they continue to take the fight to their factory rivals at the historic endurance race.

In EWC, the average of the two fastest riders’ best times is used to give the overall qualifying classification. Canepa led the way for the team by setting a blistering 2:05.863 in the dry first Yellow session, making him the fastest-ever EWC rider on a Yamaha around the 5.821km Suzuka Circuit. He also broke his 2019 record as the fastest Italian rider to lap the track by almost a second in the process. His time was so good that the team decided not to send the 34-year-old out in his second session of the day as the rain had arrived by that time, making it impossible to improve.

Fritz, who took to the track first in the Blue session, backed up his teammate with a 2:06.138, which, when combined with Canepa’s lap, gave the team an overall time of 2:06.001. This was good enough to secure second on the overall timesheets, just 0.283s behind the leaders, and guarantee the team entry into the Top Ten Trial. The track was damp by the time of the German’s second session, so the 24-year-old rider focused on race pace yet still managed to set a 2:07.760 to showcase the potential of the Bridgestone-shod YART Yamaha #7 R1 even in mixed conditions.

It was a frustrating day for Hanika, as each time he headed out on slicks in his Red qualifying sessions, the rain started to fall, which meant he had no chance to improve on his teammates’ time. After a minor crash in Qualifying 1 when the rain first arrived, the Czech rider used the rest of his track time to complete as many laps as possible to gather data and experience in the mixed conditions, which could prove vital with more rain forecast over the weekend. Pushing hard on wet tyres in the second session, the 26-year-old set a 2:20.643 before coming in to change to slicks for one final push with only a few minutes remaining, but as he went out again, the rain returned, ending any chances he had to improve his time.

After a strong qualifying performance, the Yamalube YART Yamaha Official Team also managed to top the timesheets during a wet Night Practice with a 2:23.908, highlighting their pace, whatever the conditions. They are back in action for the final Free Practice session at 2:15 pm local time (UTC+9) on Saturday, before the all-important Top 10 Trial that will decide the final ten grid positions at 3:30 pm.

Niccolò Canepa – 2:05.863

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“I am very happy about today! To set a 2:05.863 was incredible, as it is the fastest lap by a Yamaha rider in EWC here at Suzuka, and only a handful of riders have ever broken the 2:06 barrier at Suzuka.  The YART Yamaha R1 was working perfectly, and I could have set a better time as I made a small mistake on my fastest lap that cost me a couple of tenths. Still, the time shows our potential and, most importantly, we qualified for the Top 10 Trial. I hope it stays dry tomorrow, as I have never had the chance to ride in the Top 10 Trial before, despite qualifying for it on several occasions. We feel strong for the race and have already beaten all our expectations. Because we are the underdogs against the factory teams, we are not under any pressure, so I look forward to seeing what Saturday brings.”

Marvin Fritz – 2:06.138

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“As a team, we had a great qualifying session, although Karel was really unlucky as both of his sessions were wet. Niccolò made an amazing lap time, the best time by a Yamaha at Suzuka in the EWC, which is incredible when you compare the size of our team with our factory rivals. I am happy with my lap time, we made some good improvements to the electronic setup on the bike, and I think we have a really good pace in wet and dry conditions. The team has been incredible, and I want to thank them all for their hard work. We can’t wait to get back in action tomorrow!”

Karel Hanika – 2:20.643

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“That was one of the hardest qualifying sessions in my EWC career! I felt so good after the test earlier in the week and Free Practice. My pace was really fast, and I could do good lap times even on used tyres, so I was looking forward to trying the soft tyre during qualifying to set a hot lap. Sadly, the conditions in both my qualifying sessions were tricky, and it was not possible. I had a small crash in the first session on my out lap after contact with another rider, and after that, it was raining too hard for slicks, so I could not set a fast time. In the second session, I started on slick tyres, but it immediately started raining heavily, and I had to come in to switch to a full-wet setup. Within three laps, I set a 2:20.623, which is a pretty good time in the wet, so we were happy with the end result. It was a tough day for me, but I am happy that the team did such a good job. Niccolò and Marvin were both really quick, and the most important thing is that we qualified for the Top 10 Trial. The YART Yamaha R1 was working superbly with the Bridgestone tyres in the wet and the dry, and we are confident about our race pace no matter the conditions.”

Mandy Kainz

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team – Team Manager

“We are delighted with the qualifying result today, especially as the conditions made it very tricky to time it right to set a good lap time. Niccolò set the best time by a Yamaha in the EWC at Suzuka, and you can’t ask for anything more. Marvin was also really fast, and to qualify in second provisionally to secure our place in the Top 10 Trial was excellent. Karel was so unlucky! His pace has been incredible all week, but every time he went out to set a fast lap on slick tyres, it started to rain. Despite this, it allowed us to gather vital data in the wet, and his pace shows that we can be fast, whatever the conditions. We are already looking forward to the Top 10 trial on Saturday, and we are confident we can continue to fight with our factory rivals.”

 

 

 

More, from another press release issued by Team Suzuki Press Office:

TOUGH SUZUKA QUALIFYING FOR YOSHIMURA SERT MOTUL

Yoshimura SERT Motul: Suzuki GSX-R1000R – 22nd.

 

Kazuki Watanabe (1) on the Yoshimura SERT Motul Suzuki GSX-R1000. Photo courtesy Team Suzuki Press Office.
Kazuki Watanabe (1) on the Yoshimura SERT Motul Suzuki GSX-R1000. Photo courtesy Team Suzuki Press Office.

 

The Yoshimura Suzuki Endurance Racing Team Motul face a tough race without two of its riders this weekend, the reigning world champion team gave its best in qualifying, but the arrival of rain significantly disrupted its work and Suzuki set the 22nd fastest time.

The Coca-Cola 8 Hours of Suzuka in Japan is a highly anticipated event for all endurance enthusiasts after a two-year absence from the FIM EWC calendar and it is the third and penultimate round of the 2022 season. The stakes are high for all the top teams, starting with the Yoshimura SERT Motul, which is firmly established at the top of the provisional championship standings.

The Franco-Japanese team approach this round with the will to shine at the home of Suzuki and Yoshimura and to keep the lead of the championship.

In order to put all the chances on their side, the team managers relied on the experience of Japanese Kazuki Watanabe, who knows the Suzuka track very well, to reinforce the usual trio of riders. But the established plan was completely disrupted following the withdrawal of the Belgian Xavier Simeon for health reasons and Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli with injury.

In qualifying, the team’s hopes were placed on Watanabe and Gregg Black.

During his two qualifying sessions, Black was able to position himself at the front of the timesheet each time. He recorded his best lap in Q1, with a time of 2.07.363.
Unfortunately, Watanabe did not benefit from optimal weather conditions. The work of the Japanese rider was disturbed by rain during each of his qualifying sessions but finished the day with the second best time of his session, in 2.12.432, on a wet track.

The Yoshimura SERT Motul was heavily penalised by these events and ended up with the 22nd fastest time. However, the team remains focused on its objectives and confident for the race, which will start at 11:30am (local time) on Sunday, August 7th.

Damien SAULNIER – Team Manager:

“The conditions were really not favourable for us. Gregg did good times, but Kazuki rode in the rain. Since we only have two riders, our ranking in practice is not good. But the main thing is going to be the race. The fact that we only have two riders in such a tough race means we have to adopt a special strategy. But it will be difficult for all the teams. Our goal is to keep an eye on our rivals in the championship, to score as many points as possible and to go to the Bol d’Or still leading the standings.”

Yohei KATO – Team Director:

“We have been unlucky since the beginning of the week. In qualifying, the rain prevented Kazuki from setting a good time, which gave an advantage to the teams with three riders, two of whom were able to ride in dry conditions. But we showed good things during practice and the race is a completely different story ! We will do everything to try to defend our title.”

Gregg BLACK:

“The first few days in Suzuka were a bit difficult because we don’t often get the chance to ride in such hot weather. But the free practice ended on a good note. So we were quite confident for qualifying. I benefited from cloudy weather, but the temperature was decreasing, which allowed me to have a good pace and to get some good lap times. We were confident to enter the top 5 but unfortunately Kazuki could never ride in dry conditions. It’s a pity because there were 1 or 2 points to take in qualifying. But the most important thing is the race. It will be very difficult for us. It is a physical race, and we are only two riders. The objective will be to score as many points as possible.”

Kazuki WATANABE:

“We couldn’t apply our initial strategy in qualifying and the weather conditions were bad during my sessions. The rain came and I couldn’t do anything. I am really sorry for the team and for the many fans who support us. We will start from far back on the grid and that will make the race more difficult. But tomorrow is another day and we will do our best.”

Sylvain GUINTOLI:

“I am really gutted I can’t race this weekend. Returning to the Suzuka 8 Hours after 2 years was a great challenge, but unfortunately it’s impossible for me to race. We are leading the World Championship and I was looking forward to try to win this fantastic race. I wish the team and my teammates all the best, I know they are very strong, and I can’t wait to be back at the Bol d’Or for the next and final race.”

 

 

 

More, from a press release issued by Honda:

Six Honda Teams Qualify for Suzuka 8 Hours Top 10 Trial

Timed qualifying and night sessions for 2022 Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race (Suzuka 8 Hours) on Friday, August 5.

Free practice sessions for the Suzuka 4 Hours held on the previous day were marred by intermittent showers, which lingered into Friday morning as the two-hour free practice session for the Suzuka 8 Hours commenced at 8:10am. From 12:10pm, team riders were designated as blue, yellow and red riders for two separate 20-minute qualifying sessions each. In the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC), starting grid positions are determined by the average best lap of each team’s three riders. Two riders from the top ten teams then proceed to the Top 10 Trial to be held on August 6 to determine the final starting grid.

In the morning’s free practice session, Team HRC (Tetsuta Nagashima / Takumi Takahashi / Iker Lecuona) led the field as Tetsuta Nagashima set the fastest lap time of 2 min 5.823 s, which went unchallenged. Third fastest was ♯73 SDG Honda Racing (Teppei Nagoe / Naomichi Uramoto / Ikuhiro Enokido) with 2 min 6.838 s. In the 2 min 7 s range, ♯5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France (Josh Hook / Gino Rea / Mike Di Meglio) was sixth-fastest, ♯17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing (Kosuke Sakumoto / Kazuma Watanabe / Taiga Hada) was seventh, and ♯72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA (Sodo Hamahara / Daijiro Hiura / Yuki Kunii) was eighth. One second slower, ♯9 Murayama.Honda Dream.RT was tenth-fastest with 2 min 8.130 s.

Weather improved by midday, when the skies were much brighter. The track was mostly dry by the time Blue riders were up for their first qualifying session. Nagashima (#33) clocked 2 min 6.659 s on his second lap, followed by an extremely fast 2 min 4.942 s, faster than the lap record of 2 min 5.1682 s set by Jonathan Rea in 2018.

Sakumoto (#17) was third with 2 min 6.393 s, with other Honda team riders Nagoe (#73 / 2 min 6.733 s), Hook (#5 / 2 min 6.749 s) and ♯25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing (Yuudai Kamei / Yuki Sugiyama / Jun Tadokoro) rider Kamei (2 min 6.829 s) also within the 2 min 6 s range.

In the second Blue riders qualifying session, despite intermittent showers proving troublesome for the teams, Nagashima (#33) initially set the fastest lap time in the 2 min 7 s range, followed by 2 min 6.675 to maintain his lead. Hook (#5) was fifth-fastest with a 2 min 8 s lap, and Sakumoto  (#17) was sixth within the same range. Kamei (#25) slided off at the S bends in the closing stages of the session. Overall, Nagashima (#33) held the lead, Sakumoto (#17) was third, Nagoe (#73) fifth, Hook (#5) sixth, Kamei (#25) seventh, and Hamahara (#72) ninth.

As the first Yellow riders qualifying session began, the sun was shining. Takahashi (#33) went through the pit road, timing his entry into the track for his hot lap. Takahashi’s 2 min 7.238 s placed him fifth, and on the fourth lap, he improved by nearly a second to 2 min 6.494 s. The top 3 remained the same, while Hiura (#72) improved his position to sixth with a 2 min 7.204 s lap. Rea (#5) was one place behind with 2 min 7.204 s.

In the second Yellow riders qualifying session, Rea (#5) set the fastest time of 2 min 7.326 s. Enokido (#73) was second-fastest with 2 min 7.840. With thirteen minutes remaining in the session, rain began to fall. Hiura (#72) moved up the third with 2 min 7.880, as Takahashi (#33) pitted, and decided not to rejoin after consulting his pit crew. Overall, Takahashi (#33) was third, Watanabe (#17) fourth, Hiura (#72) sixth, Rea (#5) seventh, and Enokido (#73) tenth.

Rain began to fall as the Red riders prepared for their first qualifying session. Lecuona (#33) returned to the pits. Later in the session, the sun shone as the showers continued, and riders began to return to the track with seven minutes remaining. In the end, De Meglio (#5) was the fastest rider with 2 min 10.556 s.

Rain had stopped by the time the second Red riders qualifying session began. As the track nearly dried up, the rain started again. ♯104 TOHO Racing (Ryuichi Kiyonari / Takuma Kunimine / Hiromichi Kunikawa) rider Kunimine set the fastest time of 2 min 11.831 s. Le Cuona (#33) set a lap time of 2 min 15.174 before returning to the pits. Overall, Di Meglio (#5) was the fastest, Kunimine (#104) was third, Le Cuona (#33) was seventh, and Kunii (#72) was ninth.

The results of the averaged best laps from the Blue, Yellow and Red rider sessions were in: #33 Team HRC was the fastest. ♯17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing was fourth, ♯5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France fifth, ♯72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA seventh, ♯73 SDG Honda Racing eighth, and ♯25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing ninth. These teams progress to tomorrow’s Top 10 trial.

In the Top 10 Trial, two riders from each team have timed hot laps, determining the top ten places on the starting grid. Eleventh onwards are unchanged from today’s Qualifying results. #88 Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA (Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi / Gerry Salim / Helmi Bin Azman) will start the race from 16th grid.

The night session was held under heavy rain. ♯5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France was seventh-fastest, ♯17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing was ninth, ♯73 SDG Honda Racing  11th, ♯33 Team HRC  13th, and ♯25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing 14th.

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