YAMAHA FACTORY RACING FLY TO THIRD CONSECUTIVE SUZUKA 8HOUR POLE
Action resumed again on track today for the 40th Anniversary of the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8Hours. The afternoon saw the top ten teams from provisional qualifying contest the Top 10 Trial to decide the first ten grid positions. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team proved unbeatable, taking pole with a scorching 2’06.038s lap.
After two previous years of the pressure of being the last rider out on track, Nakasuga was able to finally enjoy a less pressured Top 10 Trial today as the first YFRT rider to qualify. The local hero didn’t disappoint and had the Suzuka crowd on their feet as he turned each split time red on the timing boards on his way to the fastest lap of the day. Next up as the second Yamaha Factory Racing Team rider was Alex Lowes. The young Brit has been on top form all weekend so far and was determined to match his teammate’s pace. Lowes was on fire through the first splits, turning them red and looked likely to break under the lap record until a small mistake in the final chicane cost a few tenths of a second. The lap proved to be faster than everyone except Nakasuga, Lowes laying down a 2’06.225s time at the line.
Third teammate Michael van der Mark was denied the chance for a proper ride in the day’s earlier practice as a red flag brought the session to an early end. Despite this the Dutchman has already found a race pace to match Lowes and Nakasuga, putting the threesome in a strong position to fight for Yamaha’s third consecutive Suzuka 8Hours victory tomorrow.
Michael van der Mark: “It’s really good to see us take pole position. Nakasuga and Alex did amazing laps so I’m really proud of them. Of course it’s an endurance race so pole is not the main priority but it’s good that we can do a really fast lap, and also that we are really consistent in the normal runs. It’s going to be a tough race because many competitors are really fast but I have a good feeling. The bike is handling really well for the three of us, which is the key to success. I want to thank Nakasuga and Alex for their incredible laps today and I hope tomorrow we can finish the job.”
Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager): “We were able to take pole position today, so that’s obviously very happy for us as a team. This is our third time taking pole position and as we are going for our third straight win it’s a good lead in to the race. There was a lot of pressure for Nakasuga not to wreck the bike so I think he rode really well. Unfortunately we weren’t able to break the pole record but it was more than enough. Because Nakasuga had a good time already, I think Alex felt he had a lot of expectation on his shoulders, also not to wreck the bike so I think he rode really well. I thought it was a good experience for him also. The reason we have strength as a team is because all of them are accepting of each other’s abilities, and also because they have trust in each other to cover. The reason Nakasuga could take pole is because he knew he had Alex and Michael behind him. Michael was unfortunately not able to ride today because of the red flag in practice but I know his ability and I trust in it, with that in mind I asked him to take a difficult role today and sit out.”