146 13070 +Suzuka 8 Hours Qualifying Friday+
All-Japan Superbike regular Katsuyuki Nakasuga put the Monster Energy Yamaha YART team on provisional pole position for the 2013 Suzuka 8 Hours race.
49-year-old former 500cc Grand Prix world champion Kevin Schwantz recovered from a crash on Friday to help put the Team Katayama Suzuki (along with teammates Yukio Kagayama and Nori Haga) in fifth spot.
Former AMA champion Jason Pridmore (far right) was called up to ride with the BMW Motorrad France team in the Suzuka 8 Hours race.
Friday’s qualifying sessions for the 35th running of the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race saw the Monster Energy Yamaha YART team of All-Japan MFJ Superbike series rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Australians Broc Parkes and Josh Waters on provisional pole, with Nakasuga setting a best time of 2:07.629. Nakasuga has a history of running quick qualifying laps at Suzuka; last year, he qualified the team on pole position during the final Superpole session with a stunning 2:06.845 lap that had the paddock shaking their heads in amazement. Unfortunately, after grabbing the holeshot at the start of the 2012 race and beginning to pull a gap on the field, Nakasuga crashed heavily 30 minutes into the race and the team eventually DNFed. The long-time Yamaha rider will be looking to make amends in this year’s race.
A whisker behind the Yamaha-based squad was the Yoshimura Suzuki Racing team of Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki, and Australian BSB rider Josh Brookes. A couple of tenths behind is last year’s winning F.C.C. TSR Honda team of WSBK rider Jonathan Rea and Japanese BSB regular Ryuichi Kiyonari (the third team member, All-Japan Superbike and HRC test rider Kosouke Akiyoshi, fractured his hip in an MFJ race at Tsukuba last month and was ruled out of competing this year).
Making a sensational return to World Championship competition is former 500cc Grand Prix world champion Kevin Schwantz. The 49-year-old is teamed with WSBK veterans Yukio Kagayama and Noriyuki Haga, and the team currently sits in fifth spot in qualifying. Despite not having ridden in anger at Suzuka for almost 10 years, Schwantz is acquitting himself well, already dropping into the 2:10 range and getting quicker with every lap. Schwantz crashed during practice on Friday, luckily uninjured.
"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," said Schwantz. "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!"
The BMW Motorrad France Thevent team of Erwan Nigon and American Jason Pridmore sits in sixth. Former AMA champion and World Endurance veteran Pridmore was called up into action by the BMW team on the Monday following last weekend’s MotoGP race in California to replace team rider Sylvain Barrier, who was injured during a two-day test at Suzuka earlier this month. The team unfortunately suffered another setback yesterday though, when Australian team rider Damian Cudlin crashed, suffering a fractured leg and putting him out of the race.
The top ten qualifying teams will enter the final Superpole qualifying session on Saturday, with the best time taken from the quickest rider in each team.
2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours provisional qualifying results:
1. Monster Energy Yamaha – YART (Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Broc Parkes, Josh Waters) Yamaha 2:07.629
2. Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team (Takuya Tsuda, Nobuatsu Aoki, Josh Brookes) Suzuki 2:07.688
3. F.C.C. TSR Honda (Jonathan Rea, Ryuichi Kiyonari) Honda 2:07.857
4. MuSashi HARC-PRO (Takumi Takahashi, Leon Haslam, Michael Van Der Mark) Honda 2:07.879
5. Team Kagayama (Yukio Kagayama, Kevin Schwantz, Noriyuki Haga) Suzuki 2:08.438
6. Yamaha France GMT94 (David Checa, Kenny Foray, Matthieu Lagrive) Yamaha 2:09.039
7. BMW Motorrad France Thevent (Erwan Nigon, Jason Pridmore) BMW 2:09.066
8. Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (Vincent Phillipe, Anthony Delhalle, Julien Da Costa) Suzuki 2:09.114
9. TOHO Racing with Moriwaki (Tatsuya Yamaguchi, Shinichi Ito, Kazuki Watanabe) Honda 2:09.132
10. Honda Team Asia (Makoto Tamada, Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman, Yuki Takahashi) Honda 2:09.321