Team Suzuki Press Office – July 26.
Yoshimura Suzuki – 5th
S-Pulse – 9th
TK SUZUKI – 15th
SERT – 17th
Moto-Map – 18th (Top SST)
The 42nd Suzuka Eight Hour Endurance Race, the finale of the 2018-2019 Endurance World Championship kicked off today in Japan with Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing taking fifth position.
Fifteen times EWC Champions Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT) took 17th, and will miss tomorrow’s Top-10 Trial, but are well positioned for Sunday’s race.
Following the joint test at the circuit in mid-July, that was unexpectedly cool and difficult to estimate the situation of the actual race week temperatures, the second official joint testing was set on Wednesday and Thursday due to cost matters and making the situation fair for the overseas teams. This meant that the teams carried out their tests and then went straight into the race week and onto the qualifying sessions today. The downside was that typhoon #6 which appeared somewhat suddenly brought unpredictable weather to the Friday sessions; and also threatens tomorrow’s action.
Many rides crashed out in the two-hour free practice session which took place in the morning, resulting in multiple red flags. Amongst these riders was #95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI(S-PULSE)rider Hideyuki Ogata, and the spill forced him out of the race.
The weather improved towards lunchtime and by the start of the first qualifying session at 11:50hrs, the course was dry and ready for action.
Two 20-minute time attack sessions were carried out for each rider, and the average of the top times of Rider Blue (first rider), Rider Yellow (second rider) and Rider Red (third rider) became the result for the grid.
The first round of qualifying sessions started off with track temperatures at 54 degrees, but although in dry conditions, many riders suffered crashes, resulting in more red flags. Not being able to get a clear lap is common for the Suzuka race and this was the case again today.
Under these difficult circumstances, all YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING (Yoshimura) riders clocked in 2-minute 7-second laps and put the team in an impressive fifth position.
Missing a rider (Ogata), S-PULSE challenged the sessions with the remaining two riders. Tommy Bridewell suffered a minor spill, but the team took ninth position. TK SUZUKI BLUE MAX (TK SUZUKI) followed in 14th with SERT in 15th. Motomap topped the SST class in an overall 18th.
The second round of qualifying sessions began at 15:40 in slightly better conditions of 33 degrees and a track temperature of 45 degrees. Motomap took advantage of this condition and two of the riders clocked 2-minute 8-second laps, boosting their overall position to 16th while remaining leader of the SST class. Under strict SST class regulations, the Motomap GSX-R is almost fully standard, and this surprising result proved the potential of the machine.
Final results were two Suzuki teams in the top 10; Yoshimura fifth, S-PULSE ninth, both who will compete in the Top-10 trial tomorrow. Other Suzuki teams followed in 15th – TK SUZUKI, 16th – Moto-Map and SERT in 17th.
#12 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI MOTUL RACING:
Rider Blue – Sylvain Guintoli:
“I clocked 2-minute 7-second laps with new tyres on the first session and felt confident using used tyres in the second session. Both sessions and tyres felt good. My team mates are not the same as last year but we all have good lap-times, so I think we are in good shape for the race.”
Rider Yellow – Yukio Kagayama:
“Unpredictable weather made me decide to go out on new tyres on the first session and get a good lap while it was still dry. However, I wasn’t able to get a clear lap and lost precious time in the heavy traffic. Sometimes you just can’t help it with so many riders out on the course at the same time, but I feel I could have done better. The setup of the bike is good but if can be more consistent with used tyres it would be better. There will be many back markers also in the race, but I consider myself quite good at dealing with these situations and I hope that skill will contribute to the result of the team. I’m in a situation this year where I can concentrate strictly on riding, so I’m thoroughly enjoying the Suzuka Eight Hours so far.”
Rider Red – Kazuki Watanabe:
“We considered the first session to be the one to go for due to the weather; however, I wasn’t successful. Luckily the second session was also dry, and the result was better. I would have liked better lap times but it’s hard to push with so many rides out there. I’s always nice to start in front but with eight hours ahead of us, I don’t think it matters too much. All three riders have a good average pace, so we are strong and ready to fight this tough race.”
Yohei Kato – Team Manager:
“We have spent a lot of effort and time to stay focused and not take any unnecessary detours in our process. That’s always how we do it at Yoshimura, but I think we were especially careful about it this year. There are areas I think could still be improved but as a total we are ready for the race. Challenging the mighty factory teams is tough but with the Yoshimura spirit, we intend to finish this year’s edition as close to the top as possible.”
#2 Suzuki Endurance Racing Team:
Rider Blue – Vincent Philippe:
“Looking at the overall qualifying position and lap times, I must say I’m not pleased with this result. But we hadn’t used the qualifying tyres so we can’t help that. The bright side is that race lap-times are positive, and we feel we have made a big step up this year so we’re happy about that. We intend to fight it through to the end and hope for the championship crown.”
Rider Yellow – Etienne Masson:
“Thanks to so much testing, the bikes at a different level to what it was last year. I admit the result of the qualifying wasn’t too good, but this is all within plans to be successful in the race. All riders have a consistent pace so I am sure the result will be quite different from the qualifying.”
Rider Red – Gregg Black:
“Yesterday wasn’t such a good day for the team, since I fell twice, but today was better and we were able to set up the bike successfully. Lap times could have been better, but many other teams used qualifying tyres while we concentrated on the actual race set up rather than one-off fast laps. I feel confident and hope to finish the race within the top 10, at least!”
Dominique Meliand – Team Manager:
“We have ridden today in race configuration, without qualifying tyres used by some of our competitors. Considering this, we are rather satisfied of our result. But the important thing was to well prepare the bike in order to get the best result in race. The title will be disputed closely, and we have the means to make the difference!”
#95 S-PULSE DREAM RACING·IAI:
Rider Yellow – Tommy Bridewell:
“We were all surprised with Ogata’s crash in the practice session but are glad he’s OK. I was on a confident flying lap on the first session, when I fell at the chicane just before I completed the lap which was a pity. On the second session I was on used tyres but was still able to clock good laps so that was encouraging. We’ve managed to make progress from yesterday and we are in a good mood to race.”
Rider Red – Bradley Ray:
“I found that the bike is very much like the Yoshimura machine I rode last year, but it still took me some time to get used to. I feel we’re getting better step-by-step so I’m sure I’ll feel more comfortable by the time the race starts. I’s a shame Ogata can’t race with us, but Tommy and I will do our best and hope for a good result.”
Shiro Yoshida – Team Manager:
“It’s a pity Ogata was injured and will not be able to race but we’re all happy it wasn’t too serious. The remaining riders rode hard in the qualifying and am sure they will do so again tomorrow in the top-10 trial which we are not sure will happen due to the approaching typhoon. But the two riders from UK are used to harsh conditions so I can sit back and watch them in peace whatever the conditions are. If we can do better than last year, that will be great.”
#71 TK SUZUKI BLUE MAX:
Rider Blue – Gregory LeBlanc:
“It’s an honour to ride for Kagayama-san’s team. I’ve ridden many GSX-Rs, but I could have done with a little more time to get used to this one. Suzuka 8 Hours is full of fast riders and bikes, so it’ll be difficult to get good results, but we have a good rhythm, so I hope to finish in the top seven.”
Rider Yellow – Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman:
“I was signed on to Kagayama-san’s team at the last minute, so it’s been a tough week so far. It was also the first time I rode the GSX-R so that has taken some time to get used to as well. However, the feeling is getting better step-by-step, and although I wasn’t able to put in super lap times at the qualifying, I feel confident about the race.”
Rider Red – Takuya Tsuda:
“The set-up was successful, so I decided to go out on new tyres for a flying lap, but just then we found a fault in the bike and were not able to proceed. It was a pity in both senses that I wasn’t able to put in a reasonable lap time and we couldn’t proceed on the set-up. However, Gregg had some good laps and we hope for a good result with a bit of corporation between the riders.”
Masahiko Saito – Team Manager:
“I apologise to Tsuda and Azlan for having a fault in the bike. They could have put in much better laps and it was a shame we as a team were not able to provide them with the opportunity. We will be sure it won’t happen in the race and will do our best to support all the riders to ride at their maximum.”
#9 Motomap S.W.A.T:
Rider Blue – Josh Waters:
“I didn’t expect to reach an 8 second lap on a stock machine. I was surprised when I saw the time sheet with big teams in lower positions than us. This result is rewarding but we shouldn’t get too excited and focus on the race now. If we can lap constantly without mistakes, I feel sure we’ll have a good result.”
Rider Yellow – Dan Linfoot:
“To reach an 8 second lap on a stock machine was amazing. This result proves how good the GSX-R is even in stock condition. This time was achieved with qualifying tyres so we won’t be doing this sort of times during the race, but if we can maintain 10 to12 second laps, a top-10 finish could be realistic. I’m looking forward to the race.”
Rider Red – Nobuatsu Aoki:
“My two team mates were amazing and they helped me out a lot. An eight second lap! I was surprised! I also switched to race mode but an endurance race mode, so I tried to maintain constant lap times. An aim for our team was a top-10 finish on a SST bike but we didn’t think it was realistic until today’s result. Now this aim looks like it could happen, we’ll try to keep cool and manage the race carefully to the goal.”