After setting the fastest time in earlier sessions, the Yoshimura Factory Racing Suzuki team recorded the second best Qualifying time at the 36th Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship second round on Friday, just over 500ths-of-a-second from provisional pole.
Yoshimura Factory riders Nobuatsu Aoki, Takuya Tsuda and Josh Brookes had earlier topped the timesheets aboard their GSX-R1000 after All Japan Superbike rider Tsuda set a blistering lap of 2:07.688 minutes, a time only bettered by Monster Energy YART’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga later in the day.
Along with Yoshimura, Team Kagayama – comprising Team Manager/ rider Yukio Kagayama, Noriyuki Haga and former World 500cc GP Champion Kevin Schwantz – made the cut through to Saturday’s deciding Top-10 Time Trial (that sees the fastest teams compete for Pole Position) by finishing fifth overall with a fastest time of 2:08.438.
Possibly one of the most talked-about and anticipated of the 63-entered teams, it was Haga who set the fastest lap, with Kagayama on 2:08.751 and Schwantz recovering from an early off-track tumble to knock two seconds off his lap time to post 2:10.907. Schwantz, who won the 1993 World Championship aboard his infamous #34 Lucky Strike Suzuki is competing at the Suzuka 8-Hour for the first time in 21 years, a venue that has always been close in his heart after winning his first 500cc GP race there in 1988.
“I came to Japan last month and did two days of testing with Yukio and Noriyuki and they have made a good bike that is well set-up,” Schwantz said. “I feel comfortable on it, although it’s the first time I’ve done a Suzuka 8-Hour timed qualifying for 21 years, but I finally improved my time and made my best lap in the second session.
“Surprisingly, this time is much the same as my last 500cc qualifying time at the Suzuka GP in 1995 and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s Top-10 Trial and also Sunday’s race.”
Twelve-time World Endurance Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) finished qualifying in eighth position and will progress to the Top-10 Timed Trial with a time of 2:09.114, set by Vincent Philippe. Team-mate Julien Da Costa posted a lap of 2:09.155 and Anthony Delhalle a time of 2:09.350.
Suzuki 8 Hour Qualifying Times
1.Monster Energy YART (Yamaha) Nakasuga/ Parkes/ Waters – 2:07.629
2. Yoshimura Suzuki (Suzuki GSX-R1000) Takuya Tsuda/ Nobuatsu Aoki/ Josh Brookes – 2:07.688
3. FCC TSR Honda (Honda) Rea/ Kiyonari – 2:07.857
4. MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO (Honda) Takahashi/ Haslam/ van der Mark – 2:07.879
5. Team Kagayama (Suzuki GSX-R1000) Yukio Kagayama/ Kevin Schwantz/ Noriyuki Haga – 2:08.438
6. Yamaha France GMT94 (Yamaha) Checa/ Foray/ Lagrive
7. BMW Motorrad France (BMW) Nigon/ Pridmore – 2:09.066
8. SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) Vincent Philippe/ Anthony Delhalle/ Julien Da Costa – 2:09.114
9. TOHO Racing with MORIWAKI (Honda) Yamaguchi/ Ito/ Watanabe – 2:09.132
10. Honda Team Asia (Honda) Tamada/ Shah/ Kamaruzaman/ Takahashi – 2:09.321
–From Team Suzuki News Service