146 13070 +Suzuka 8 Hours Final Qualifying+
Monster Energy Yamaha YART's Katsuyuki Nakasuga put the team's R1 on the pole position for the Suzuka 8 Hours race for the second consecutive year.
As a tribute to his former great rival, Kevin Schwantz wore a Wayne Rainey replica helmet for one of his qualifying stints at Suzuka.
Rain showers forced the organizers of the FIM World Endurance 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours to cancel the usual Superpole shootout with the top ten teams, and a conventional 40-minute qualifying session for the top ten was held instead. While this might have appeared less exciting than the single flying lap of Superpole on the surface, the conventional qualifying session produced plenty of thrills as 2012 pole-sitter Monster Energy Yamaha YART’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga had some competition this year from fellow MFJ All-Japan Superbike series rider Takuya Tsuda of the Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team, and 20-year-old rookie sensation Michael Van Der Mark from the MuSashi HARC-PRO Honda team.
Tsuda put the Yoshimura Suzuki on top right off the bat with a 2:07.528 on his first flying lap, followed by Van Der Mark at 2:07.993. Van Der Mark, who rides for the Pata Honda World Supersport squad in the WSBK series and currently ranks fourth in the title standings, showed that he learned the tricky Suzuka circuit well in his first time there, soon laying down a 2:07.260 lap to top the timesheets.
That would last just ten minutes into the session though, as Nakasuga laid down the gauntlet with an incredible 2:06.817 effort that was .028 seconds under his pole lap of last year. The rest of the teams took their best shot at unseating the Monster Energy Yamaha YART team off the top, with Tsuda coming very close with a 2:06.960 lap, but Nakasuga’s time would stand for pole.
Former 500cc Grand Prix world champion Kevin Schwantz caused a minor stir when he wore a Shoei replica helmet (Schwantz is an Arai rider) of his great rival Wayne Rainey during one of stints in the qualifying session, as tribute to the many battles at Suzuka he and Rainey had during their Grand Prix years. “For my couple laps of qualifying. Out of respect for Wayne...wearing his replica, with a slight adjustment on the name!” wrote Schwantz on his Facebook page. The Team Kagayama Suzuki squad qualified sixth, just behind the BMW Motorrad France Thevent team of Erwan Nigon and former AMA champion Jason Pridmore.
Interestingly, the FIM World Endurance championship is one of the few racing series left where there is still open competition among tire brands. The Monster Energy Yamaha YART is on Michelins (as are BMW Motorrad France Thevent, Suzuki Endurance Racing Team, and Yamaha France GMT94), while the Yoshimura Suzuki, MuSashi HARC-PRO, F.C.C. TSR Honda, and TOHO Racing with Moriwaki teams are on Bridgestone. Meanwhile, the Team Kagayama and Honda Team Asia squads are using Dunlop. Quite an interesting mix in the top ten, and perhaps showing that there is still room for open competition in racing.
2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours final qualifying results:
1. Monster Energy Yamaha – YART (Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Broc Parkes, Josh Waters) Yamaha 2:06.817
2. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team (Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki, Josh Brookes) Suzuki 2:06.960
3. MuSashi HARC-PRO (Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, Michael Van Der Mark) Honda 2:07.260
4. F.C.C. TSR Honda (Jonathan Rea, Ryuichi Kiyonari) Honda 2:07.302
5. BMW Motorrad France Thevent (Erwan Nigon, Jason Pridmore) BMW 2:07.368
6. Team Kagayama (Yukio Kagayama, Kevin Schwantz, Noriyuki Haga) Suzuki 2:08.188
7. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Vincent Phillipe, Anthony Delhalle, Julien Da Costa) Suzuki 2:08.491
8. Honda Team Asia (Makoto Tamada, Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman, Yuki Takahashi) Honda 2:08.507
9. TOHO Racing with Moriwaki (Tatsuya Yamaguchi, Shinichi Ito, Kazuki Watanabe) Honda 2:09.091
10. Yamaha France GMT94 (David Checa, Kenny Foray, Matthieu Lagrive) Yamaha 2:09.275