YAMAHA FACTORY RACING THIRD IN SUZUKA SUPERPOLE
Saturday at Suzuka is traditionally the famous Top Ten Trial event where the ten fastest riders from the qualifying sessions get a single hot lap to fight for their final start position. With a fast approaching typhoon threatening to rain off any action at all, the 2018 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours opted instead for a single 40-minute timed QP Superpole session for the top ten teams, with two riders per team able to participate. Following a crash in the earlier practice session, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Katsuyuki Nakasuga sat out the QP, leaving Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark to score third on the grid for the team.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Nakasuga is one of the most sure-footed riders around the Suzuka circuit so it was a surprise to all to see him fall on turn 3 on his out lap at the start of practice. The Japanese Factory rider came off trying to avoid a slower rider on the turn. Nakasuga was able to walk away from the crash and chose to rest for the remainder of the day.
Teammates Lowes and van der Mark then stepped up to attack the QP session, with both scoring their fastest ever laps around the Suzuka circuit. Van der Mark was the first out on the grippier qualifying Bridgestone tyres, quickly dipping under the ‘8s, then setting his personal fastest time on his second outing, a 2’06.471s lap.
Next up was Lowes, the British rider determined to take the time down even further. Like van der Mark he was able to shave considerable time off his personal best at Suzuka, scoring a 2’06.170s lap. The time was enough to place the Yamaha Factory Racing Team in third position for tomorrow’s race start.
Michael van der Mark – Yamaha Factory Racing Team: “Today changed around a bit at the last minute, for me it was in the end the first time I went out on new tyres this weekend. I’m quite happy with my qualifying lap and I think we have a really good race pace. We’ve been focusing on race pace and race set up all weekend so I’m feeling confident and looking forward to tomorrow. We’re a close team so of course I’m unhappy and sorry for Nakasuga-san after his crash but I’m confident he’ll bounce back with some rest.”
The 2018 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours is scheduled to start at 11:30am local time, although with an incoming Typhoon predicted to arrive late tonight, the racing paddock have their collective fingers crossed that the worst will have passed before the start tomorrow.