Kawasaki Team Green has claimed pole position for the Suzuka 8 Hours following a qualifying session in lieu of the Top 10 Trial, which had to be cancelled due to rain showers this morning. Red Bull Honda with Japan Post moved up to 2nd place on the grid, ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing Team.
Rain showers this morning led race control at the Suzuka 8 Hours to cancel the Top 10 Trial and replace it, as per regulations, with a traditional qualifying session for the top 10 teams on yesterday’s timesheets.
Bradley Ray fired the opening shot to place Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing in the lead at today’s session, but Leon Haslam wrested back control with a 2:05.984 lap for Kawasaki Team Green, following which Jonathan Rea twice hammered it home, posting a 2:05.722, then doing a 2:05.403 lap around the 5,821-m circuit.The FIM Superbike three-time world champion was once again the fastest rider today, but his teammate Leon Haslam joined the select group of riders capable of completing a Suzuka lap in under 2:06.
Kawasaki’s last pole at Suzuka dates back to 1995. Kawasaki Team Green beefed up its status as a challenger for the win and will start from pole with riders Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Kazuma Watanabe, ahead of Red Bull Honda with Japan Post, who posted a 2:06.127 lap today. The Honda HRC team (Takumi Takahashi, Takaaki Nakagami and PJ Jacobsen) significantly upped performance this morning to take precedence over Yamaha Factory Racing Team, who will now start from 3rd place on the grid. Fresh from three straight wins at Suzuka, the Yamaha squad has another problem to sort out. Following a crash during free practice earlier today, Katsuyuki Nakasuga is still suffering hand and shoulder pain. Yamaha Factory Racing Team will have to decide whether or not he will ride as planned tomorrow alongside Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark.
Musashi RT Harc-Pro Honda also turned in an improved performance. Dominique Aegerter, Ryo Mizuno and Randy de Puniet will start from 4th place ahead of Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing (Takuya Tsuda, Sylvain Guintoli and Bradley Ray).
Today’s additional qualifying session for the 10 fastest teams in qualifying saw no changes to the remaining spots. YART Yamaha has maintained 8th place on the grid.
The 41st Suzuka 8 Hours will be flagged off at 11.30am local time (GMT+9) this Sunday, with a night-time finish scheduled for 7.30pm.