Team HRC sets the standard in Suzuka EWC First Qualifying as YART stars
First Qualifying for the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race is complete with plenty of drama and a rapid fastest lap time from Team HRC’s Tetsuta Nagashima. A summary of the key action follows.
Tetsuta Nagashima was fastest for Team HRC with Japan Post in the opening Blue Rider session, which was briefly red-flagged after Takafumi Kato fell at Turn 15, albeit without injury. Nagashima’s 2m05.722s benchmark was 0.791s quicker than Niccolò Canepa’s effort for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team as Greg Black went third quickest for Yoshimura SERT Motul followed by Ryo Mizuno (Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing) and Mike Di Meglio (F.C.C. TSR Honda France), while Randy de Puniet was a faller for Team Kawasaki Webike Trickstar.
The subsequent Yellow Rider group was red-flagged twice, first to allow the recovery of Alan Techer’s F.C.C. TSR Honda France entry and Josh Water’s S-Pulse Dream Racing -ITEC Suzuki after they collided at The Hairpin. Techer’s Honda briefly caught fire but both riders were uninjured. The second stoppage followed a crash for Shigenori Sakurayama at the Second Curve. The session ended with Marvin Fritz on top for Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team in a time of 2m07.084s, the German outpacing Team HRC with Japan Post’s Takumi Takahashi. Takuya Tsuda was third quickest for AutoRace Ube Racing Team with Kazuma Watanabe fourth for Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing, while Yoshimura SERT Motul’s Sylvain Guintoli took fifth.
Karel Hanika’s 2m06.009s lap put Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team on top of the Red Rider group after Team HRC with Japan Post’s EWC rookie Xavi Vierge appeared to look as though his 2m06.121s couldn’t be beaten. Ikuhiro Enokido was third quickest despite crashing his TOHO Racing Honda in the closing moments of the session, which was red flagged for a second time when Maiku Watanuki crashed heavily at Turn 15, with no injury reported. The first stoppage was required to clear gravel from the track. Tarran Mackenzie, who is making his EWC debut this weekend as a late replacement for the injured Josh Hook, was fourth fastest for F.C.C. TSR Honda France. Haruki Noguchi was fifth for SDG Honda Racing, while Kosuke Sakumoto was a faller through the ‘S’ Curves.
The final qualifying results will be based on the average time of the fastest two riders from each team at the completion of Second Qualifying, which is due to get under way at 09h50 local time tomorrow (Saturday). However, the top 10 places on the grid will be decided by the outcome of the one-at-a-time Top 10 Trial from 16h00 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, today’s hour-long Night Practice is due to start at 18h30 (local time) today.