Both Yoshimura Suzukis and Team Kagayama will go through to tomorrow’s Suzuka 8-Hour World Endurance Championship round Top-10 Trial following the opening day of qualifying at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
The #34 Yoshimura Shell Advance Suzuki, ridden by Takuya Tsuda, Randy De Puniet and Josh Waters, qualified fourth overall after the three riders’ times were combined. The #12 Legend of Yoshimura Shell Advance Suzuki of former World 500cc Champion Kevin Schwantz, Nobuatsu Aoki and Satoshi Tsujimoto took ninth position and Team Kagayama’s GSX-R1000, ridden by Noriyuki Haga, Dominique Aegerter and Yukio Kagayama carded fifth place overall.
With the day starting with temperatures of 30 degrees and a track temperature of around 55 degrees, there were many crashes that caused several red flags, although the #34 Yoshimura Suzuki team opened with third place overall in free practice on a time of 2’09.334, #12 Yoshimura Legend ninth, Team Kagayama 13th and 13-times world Endurance Champion SERT – fielding stand-in rider Damian Cudlin, who is replacing injured Vincent Philippe, alongside Anthony Delhalle and Erwan Nigon – starting with 15th.
Temperatures soared to 37 and 65 degrees respectively in the afternoon’s Time Attack Qualifying as each rider took turns to set a ‘hot-lap’ on Japan’s hottest day of the year so far to get through to Saturday’s Top 10 Trial; and in the first rider session Tsuda posted the second-fastest time overall with a 2’09.752. Dehalle finished ninth with a 2’09.91, Haga was 17th (2’10.893) and Schwantz 19th (2’11.386).
In the second-rider qualification, Waters put the #34 Yoshimura Suzuki into third overall with a lap of 2’09.076, Aegerter scored fifth after a final lap dash of 2’09.610; and SERT’s Nigon was eighth on 2’10.139.
The final third rider qualifying saw Kagayama put in his best lap of 2’08.947 in the closing stages to claim fifth overall as Suzuki MotoGP Test Team rider De Puniet just missed the top spot, but finished second on 2’08.800. Aoki also put in a strong performance to help the Yoshimura Legends through to the Top-10 Trial with a lap of 2’09.338.
Said Aoki: “I was aiming to score a 2’09.400. I was pushing myself and shouting at myself again and again to get under this time and we got through to the Top-10 Trial.”
Schwantz said: “Conditions are very different compared to last year, but we have a perfect team, staff, partners and the finest machines. All these things make me serious to do well – I’ve not come here just to race for my enjoyment and I hope I can show my best performance as the professional rider.”
Kagayama added: “I did not care about the Top-10 Trial so much as our main focus is the race result, but I knew we were on the border or getting through, so I thought I should do something. I came in and changed the tyres and then pushed myself hard and got the 2’08-time on the third lap, so I am happy that I could do my job!”
Suzuka 8-Hour Schedule (GMT+9hrs):
14:15-15:00 - Free Practice. 15:30-16:45 – Top-10 Trial.
08:30-09:15 - Warm-up. 11:30-19:30 – Suzuka 8-Hour Race.
Suzuka 8-Hour Combined Qualifying Results: 1 MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO (Honda) 2’07.839, 2 Monster Energy Yamaha (Yamaha) 2’08.159, 3 Team GREEN (Kawasaki) 2’08.370, 4 YOSHIMURA SUZUKI Shell ADVANCE (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Takuya Tsuda, Josh Waters, Randy De Puniet – 2’08.752, 5 TEAM KAGAYAMA and Verity (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Noriyuki Haga, Dominique Aegerter, Yukio Kagayama – 2’08.947, 6 FCC TSR Honda (Honda) 2’09.062, 7 Honda Endurance Racing (Honda) 2’09.104, 8 Honda Suzuka Racing Team (Honda) 2’09.277, 9 Legend of YOSHIMURA SUZUKI Shell ADVANCE (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Kevin Schwantz, Satoshi Tsujimoto, Nobuatsu Aoki – 2’09.338, 10 TOHO Racing with MORIWAKI (Honda) 2’09.420. 13 SERT (Suzuki GSX-R1000) – Anthony Delhalle, Erwan Nigon, Damian Cudlin – 2’09.917.