More, from a press release issued by FIM EWC:
TEAM HRC CHARGES TO EWC SUZUKA 8 HOURS POLE WITH THRILLING TOP 10 TRIAL TRIUMPH
*Honda-powered squad all set to line up at the front for Japan’s famous EWC counter
*YART Yamaha quickest in qualifying and boosts EWC title advantage with bonus score
*TOHO Racing completes top three ahead of SDG Honda and Yoshimura SERT Motul
*Drama for F.C.C. TSR Honda France as new recruit Mackenzie falls in Top 10 Trial
*Suzuka’s iconic 8 Hours will be broadcast live on TV and around the world on Sunday
(5 August 2023): Team HRC with Japan Post has won the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race Top 10 Trial to secure pole position for tomorrow’s third round of the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship.
Its riders Xavi Vierge and Tetsuta Nagashima combined to beat Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team pairing of Karel Hanika and Marvin Fritz as Ryuichi Kiyonari and Ikuhiro Enokido joined forces to claim third for TOHO Racing following the thrilling one-at-a-time shootout for top spot on the starting grid.
With the Top 10 Trial – which is unique to the Suzuka 8 Hours – for two riders only, Takumi Takahashi, Niccolò Canepa and Takuma Kunimine didn’t ride for HRC, YART and TOHO respectively, but all three played key roles in getting their respective teams to the grid battle, which awarded bonus points on a descending 5-4-3-2-1 scale to the fastest five squads.
It means Austria-based YART has edged five points ahead of defending EWC world champion team F.C.C. TSR Honda France after the Japanese squad was a non-scorer when it completed the Top 10 Trial in 10th position.
TOP TRIO SAID WHAT?
Nagashima, who was part of the Honda-powered HRC line-up that won the Suzuka 8 Hours last season, recovered from a foot injury to secure his entry for his home round of the EWC. And it was his 2m05.329s lap time that made the difference in the Top 10 Trial.
“I’m really happy to be back and to be in pole position,” Nagashima said. “After my injury I felt very discouraged, I lost a bit of my confidence and physically I could not push to the limit. But I would like to thank HRC for believing in me and for bringing me back here. To be able to have the pole position again makes me really happy.”
While Hanika managed a 2m05.519s on his run, Fritz had to make do with a 2m06.115s, which meant Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team settled for second on Sunday’s grid.
“It was my first Top 10 Trial, I could have ridden already three times but every time there was a typhoon or bad weather so it was cancelled so I was very happy it was happening today,” German rider Fritz said. “Unfortunately, my lap wasn’t perfect, I had a bad third sector but, in the end, Karel made an amazing lap time. The most important thing is we worked very hard from the test here to now. Our set-up is pretty good, we’re feeling good on the bike and I feel we have a good package for the race tomorrow.”
After securing third place, Kiyonari said: “My lap time wasn’t the best, I felt a bit slow. If Takuma [Kunimine] had done the lap instead of me he would have been faster but I am thankful the team passed the opportunity to me. I did enjoy it but tomorrow is going to be another day for us and we will do our best.”
HOW THE BATTLE FOR TOP 10 TRIAL GLORY UNFOLDED
Teams placed 10th to sixth in the Combined Qualifying Classification went first with Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA’s Kohta Arakawa the opening rider in the one-at-a-time shootout. He clocked a 2m07.828s, which Atsumi Cocoro tried but failed to beat for S-PULSE DREAM RACING -ITEC.
Drama followed for F.C.C. TSR Honda France when new recruit Tarran Mackenzie fell at the 200R Chicane during his run, making team-mate Mike Di Meglio’s subsequent effort of 2m07.788s immaterial with the 2022 EWC world champion team restricted to 10th position.
Dan Linfoot was also unable to beat Arakawa’s benchmark, the British rider posting a 2m07.671s best for AutoRace Ube Racing Team. After a handful of moments, Haruki Noguchi could only manage a 2m08.046s run for SDG Honda Racing.
Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA’s second rider, Daijiro Hiura, built on team-mate Arakawa’s strong opening run with a time of 2m06.970s. Marcel Schrötter clocked a 2m08.542s for S-PULSE DREAM RACING -ITEC before Di Meglio set his 2m07.788s.
Takuya Tsuda then went quickest of all for AutoRace Ube Racing Team in 2m06.811s only for Naomichi Uramoto to go quicker still, his 2m06.644s the best so far for SDG Honda Racing.
The teams qualifying from fifth to first were next up with Ryuichi Kiyonari posting a 2m08.132s for TOHO Racing. Kazuma Watanabe then registered a 2m07.518s for Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing, while Gregg Black recorded a 2m07.252s for Yoshimura SERT Motul.
World Superbike ace and EWC rookie Xavi Vierge flew to a 2m05.919s best for Team HRC with Japan Post before Karel Hanika delivered in style by recording a 2m05.519s best for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team.
TOHO Racing’s Ikuhiro Enokido was the first of the final group of five riders to take on the Top 10 Trial. He managed a 2m06.343s with Ryo Mizuno clocking a 2m06.756s for Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing. Yoshimura SERT Motul rider Sylvain Guintoli charged to a 2m06.720s to set up a final pole position showdown between Team HRC’s Tetsuta Nagashima and YART Yamaha’s Marvin Fritz.
Nagashima was first to go aboard his Bridgestone-equipped Honda and the home hero shrugged off his lack of recent riding time owing to a foot injury to set a 2m05.329s around Suzuka Circuit’s 5.821-kilometre Full Course 2-Wheels layout.
Fritz gave his all aboard his Yamaha, also running on Bridgestone tyres, but a slower third sector than Nagashima had managed left him crossing the line in a time of 2m06.115s.
It meant Team HRC with Japan Post won the Top 10 Trial to take pole position for the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race ahead of Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team, TOHO Racing, SDG Honda Racing, Yoshimura SERT Motul, Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing, AutoRace Ube Racing Team, Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA, S-PULSE DREAM RACING -ITEC and F.C.C. TSR Honda France.
Of the other all-season EWC teams competing in the Suzuka 8 Hours, BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team is set to start 11th followed by Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar in 12th. Honda Viltaïs Racing is due to line up in 21st, KM99 in 23rd and Motobox Kremer Racing 38th.