Team HRC conducts long run test in race-hot conditions on the final day of test at Suzuka
On July 6, Day 2 of joint tests for the 44th edition of the Endurance World Championship (EWC) “Coca-Cola” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race 44th Tournament (Suzuka 8 Hours) concluded a two-day session at the Suzuka Circuit.
On day one (July 5) Team HRC Tetsuta Nagashima, back from injury, set the fastest lap time out of the four sessions held over the day.
On day 2 the participating bikes were again divided into groups A and B. A 70-minute Session 5 for each group was held in the morning, followed by a similar 70-minute Session 6 in the afternoon.
Unlike the previous day, conditions were hot in the morning with strong sunshine and soaring temperatures. 33℃ highs were forecast, but at Suzuka Circuit, heat reflected from the track surface and generated from the engines added to the scorching environment. Track temperature reached 55°C in the morning, and rose to 60°C in the afternoon, creating test conditions similar to the race itself.
In Session 5, Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing (Kosuke Sakumoto / Ryo Mizuno / Kazuma Watanabe) was third-fastest with 2 min 7.958s, F.C.C. TSR Honda France (Josh Hook / Mike Di Meglio / Alan Techer) was fourth with 2 min 7.891s, and Team HRC (Takumi Takahashi / Iker Lecuona / Xavi Vierge / Tetsuta Nagashima) was fifth-fastest with 2 min 7.791s. SDG Honda Racing (Teppei Nagoe / Naomichi Uramoto / Yuki Kunii) was sixth with 2 min 7.940s. Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA (Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi / Andi Farid Izdihar / Nakarin Atiratphuvapat) was eleventh-fastest with 2 min 8.499s.
In Session 6, Team HRC’s Nagashima led the way with a 2 min 6.077s lap (fastest time in the two-day combined classification), followed by Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing with 2 min 6.638s, and F.C.C. TSR Honda France with 2 min 6.811s. SDG Honda Racing was fourth-fastest with 2 min 7.254s, Honda Dream RT SAKURAI Honda (Kazuki Ito / Daijiro Hiura / Kota Arakawa) was seventh with 2 min 7.895s, and Team ATJ (Satoru Iwata / Yuki Takahashi / Tomoyoshi Koyama) was tenth with 2 min 8.271s. Honda had six teams in the top 10 for the session.
Team HRC focused on long run tests, giving its riders a good feel for the bike. With ambient and track temperatures rising, the test was held in conditions similar to the actual race, allowing the team to accumulate valuable data. The team also performed race-condition pit work, preparing the crew for the race.
Honda aims for back-to-back wins in the Suzuka 8 Hours following last year, and if successful, Takahashi will tie Toru Ukawa’s five Suzuka 8 Hours victories.
Takumi Takahashi 33
I rode in the previous session, so the other three riders went on long runs. I didn’t have as much time on track as I thought I would, so I wanted more for today’s sessions as the conditions were closer to the race, but the other team riders did a great job, so I am positive for the race. I get many questions about winning my fifth Suzuka 8 Hours this year, but for me, I would rather concentrate on winning each and every race rather than focusing on my record. I will give it all I have so we can win again this year.
Iker Lecuona 33
I did a long run in the morning, but my feeling wasn’t as good compared to last year, and I could not reach the average time I wanted. Compared to yesterday, today we are close to where we were last year, so I am not that worried. I will make adjustments for the race weekend and make sure I reach my target times. I still remember the thrill of last year’s victory, and I will do my best to experience that joy once again.
Xavi Vierge 33
I had the impression that the bike was a bit difficult to ride because the seat position was different from the previous test. I could not reach my target time and could not keep my average at a consistent level. The large number of bikes on track and the heat did not help, but I think that the experience of this run was important for the race. I was not a rider in last year’s race but supported everyone in the pits, so I have a strong desire to race. This year, I want to celebrate winning with everyone, and I am proud to be on a team that can do that. I look forward to the race and I’ll be back.
Tetsuta Nagashima 33
For me, the main purpose of the test was to check my physical condition. I think today was fulfilling as I was able to do long runs and record the fastest time. I think I was able to do all the things a rider is expected to do. There is about a month between now and the race, so I will keep focused and continue to improve my physical condition. This Suzuka 8 Hours is the only race I have a chance to compete in this year, so I want to do whatever it takes to race. I did my best to get selected by the team. I hope to make solid contributions to the team like last year and win the race.
More, from a press release issued by FIM EWC:
HONDA BRINGS IN VIERGE AS PUSH FOR SUZUKA 8 HOURS EWC GLORY INTENSIFIES
For immediate release (7 July 2023): Honda is going all out to claim victory in Japan’s round of the FIM Endurance World Championship for a second year running next month (4-6 August).
It has listed 10 supported teams as it pushes to win the 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race with Xavi Vierge a notable new recruit for 2023.
Vierge has been called up to race for Team HRC in round three of the 2023 EWC season onboard a CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP fitted with Bridgestone tyres. He will join forces with Japan’s Takumi Takahashi and fellow Spaniard Iker Lecuona for the ever-spectacular and ever-challenging EWC contest.
Along with Tetsuta Nagashima, Takahashi and Lecuona scored Honda’s first Suzuka 8 Hours victory when they triumphed for Team HRC last August. But with Nagashima in the process of regaining full fitness following a foot injury, Vierge will bring experience from the FIM Superbike World Championship to the EWC.
“This will be the first time for me to ride in the Suzuka 8 Hours,” said 26-year-old Vierge. “I am very happy to be able to ride as a rider in the same stage where so many riders have created legends. Iker Lecuona is my team-mate in WSBK and Takumi Takahashi is a great rider who has won many 8 Hours races in the past. I believe that we can win this race by working hard three riders together.”
Like Vierge, Lecuona races in WSBK, while Takahashi is competing in the MFJ All-Japan Road Race Championship ST1000 division this season. A fifth Suzuka 8 Hours victory next month would put him joint top on the list of winners of the Suzuka 8 Hours.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France, which won the 2022 FIM Endurance World Championship, will continue its title defence in the Suzuka 8 Hours with riders Mike Di Meglio (France), Josh Hook (Australia) and Alan Techer (France). Meanwhile, Honda Viltaïs Racing, the winner of the 2022 EWC season-deciding Bol d’Or, will count on the skills of Florian Alt (Germany), Leandro Mercado (Argentina) and Steven Odendaal (South Africa).
“Suzuka is one of my favourites,” said Hook, 30. “Home of TSR and Honda it’s a track that I really like and our bike generally performs quite well. The team has been doing a good job this year so far and the mechanics have been amazing. I’m really looking forward to coming to Suzuka, seeing all the Japanese fans and racing there again.”
The 44th Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race is due to start at 11h30 local time on Sunday 6 August.
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