PROVISIONAL POLE FOR YAMAHA FACTORY RACING IN SUZUKA
The Yamaha Factory Racing Team – Michael van der Mark, Alex Lowes and Katsuyuki Nakasuga – were determined to keep their Suzuka record up today, with Lowes scorching to the fastest lap of the day to secure provisional pole position in the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8Hours.
The day started a lot slower than it ended, with Factory riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark faced with a half wet, half dry track to kick off the morning practice. Sitting out the early minutes of the delayed start, as the circuit began to dry out the team took to the track. Once out it was business as usual, the trio quickly finding a competitive pace amongst the frontrunners. As the delayed session played out its final minutes, the team stepped up the pace. Fighting through heavy traffic to temporarily lead the pack by an impressive 2.8s they eventually settled in to third at the end of the session with a final best lap of 2’10.562s.
The morning qualifying heats saw storming performances from first Nakasuga and then Lowes. Both delivered just a single flying hot lap to lead their session before returning to the pits. Nakasuga’s 2’06.779s was the first lap under the .7s mark for the day. Not to be outdone, British rider Lowes followed suite, laying down what was to be the provisional pole lap on his first attempt, a scorching 2’06.405s. With used tyres, heavy traffic and a session halting red flag, the morning QP proved more challenging for Van der Mark. Undeterred the Dutchman kept a consistent fast pace through the pack to score third with a 2’08.164.
The afternoon saw temperatures climb considerably, making track conditions more challenging. Multiple red flags and heavy traffic saw Nakasuga, Lowes and Van der Mark take a calm approach to their QP sessions, secure in the top ten with the morning’s performance. Nakasuga was sixth in his heat, Lowes fourth and van der Mark second. Their overall average time for the day of 2’07.116s ensured provisional pole for tomorrow’s Top Ten Trial.
Michael van der Mark: “It’s been a really good day. I think this morning was a bit difficult with the weather conditions. We went out and it wasn’t completely dry but we had quite a good pace anyway. It was a bit tricky but good to get some laps done. In qualifying Nakasuga-san and Alex made some really fast laps and did a really good job. I had to use their old tyres for my first run and halfway through the session was a red flag. After that I tried to push through the traffic, I didn’t do my best lap but I was consistent which is what is important. At the end I’m really happy and consistent with the used tyres; that is really important in endurance racing. The team did great today.”
Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager): “Everything is good, I’m really happy. The performance of the team is good and the communication between the riders is going really well. They go out and perform at a similar level on new and used tyres and that is important. Compared to the typical 8Hours the temperature has been quite low today. We have no idea how it’s going to be throughout the weekend, but our job is to keep calm and do what we need to do as a team. Our riders are fast so as long as they keep calm and do what they need to we’ll be fine.”