Yamaha Factory Racing Team Sets the Pace at First Practice Session in Suzuka

The Yamaha Factory Racing Team has a dream start and come forth as a key protagonist at the first day of the 38th "Coca-Cola Zero" Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race weekend.

Riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith hit the ground running in the first one and half hour session with a very stable basis set-up and despite difficult conditions, they soon rose to a provisional first place, before dropping back to third.

The second session saw more of the same from the new, yet solid team. They needed only a few laps around Suzuka Circuit to get used to the changed track conditions before scorching to the top of the standings with a strong 2'07.282.

Monster Energy Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART) and reigning World Champion GMT94 Yamaha faced some challenges during their first day at the Suzuka 8 Hours weekend, but also booked great progess.

YART showed the incredible potential of the YZF-R1 in the morning, when rider Broc Parkes, Sheridan Morais and Iván Silva rode the racing machine to a strong third place in mixed conditions.

The grip at the Suzuka Circuit went down a little in the afternoon, causing the bike's rear wheel to spin, but this was not a problem for the vastly experienced team and they climbed to tenth place in the afternoon session, 4.041s from the Yamaha Factory Racing Team.

In an effort to keep their prestigious FIM Endurance World Championship title campaign on track, GMT94 has made various changes to their YZF-R1 since the previous race in Le Mans and picked the fruits of their labour today.

Despite being in Group B, which enjoyed slightly less fortunate weather, and suffering a crash in the first privat practice the French team did well to claim seventh. The minor complications did not get the team's spirit down and in the second session they were immediately back on the pace to claim fourth, 0,470s from the front, in their slot.

Tomorrow the Yamaha teams will be back on track for the free practice and qualifying sessions, starting at 8AM, track time.


Katsuyuki Nakasuga

"From (last week's) pre-race tests, I have been working on the machine set-up and we have had Pol [Espargaro] and Bradley [Smith] concentrating on getting used to the Suzuka track and the machine. We have done this because we think it is best from the team's standpoint. The riding position is set according to my preferences, but with regard to the machine settings, since I have been doing development work on the MotoGP machine, we know a lot about the preferences of Pol and Bradley. So, we have been working on the set-up with those preferences in mind, and in fact they both appear to be riding it without feeling any significant problems. This morning's practice was in the rain, but the afternoon session was run on a dry track and all three of us were able to get good times. So, we were able to end the first day of practice feeling good about the way things are going. Still, even though we know that Pol and Bradley are MotoGP riders of the highest level, we can't help but be impressed by the fact that after only having run here at Suzuka a few times, they are already recording lap times in the 2'07 range. We three riders all respect each other and have all taken our roles on the team to heart. And, with their speed and me being pulled along by them, I feel an amazing synergistic effect. The team is undoubtedly at a very high level."

Pol Espargaró

"I think I made good progress. The bike was very good and we improved some points we found during the test. I think today the track was competitive, because it wasn't really hot or slippery. I did the fastest lap time today, so the bike and the team are working well and it all looks really good. I have some confidence, but the race is another thing, in the tests you can make mistakes without many consequences, but in the race you have to be consistent and pay a lot of attention to make sure you don't crash, as afterall this is a team. The YZF-R1 gives us no excuses as riders, it's working so good and so are the team. All my teammates are really fast and our pace is good for the race, I can't ask for anything more. I have a good feeling with the bike. It's not easy to ride with so many riders on the track, but we are adapting to this other type of racing. It's a characteristic of this race that there are many riders on the track and if we want to win, we have to compete with them and we are learning to overtake and not be too aggressive and crash, but overtake them fast. Nakasuga set up the base setting and he did a really good job. Bradley and I gave a little bit of input, coming from MotoGP, thinking this could help a little bit, but mainly Nakasuga did the job as he is always riding the bike. Maybe the one with the most challenges is Bradley, because he is tall, while Nakasuga and I are of similar height and weight. Bradley weighs about the same, but is a little bit taller, for sure his style is a bit different, but it was no problem, he is adapting really well and is fast like me. The balance of the team is really good and we all have the same pace and riding similar lap times and it's all really good."

Bradley Smith

"Today was good. I think it was good to train in the rain again this morning, because we tested here in the wet on the first two days of the first test and it was nice to refresh our memories, also to gain a little bit of information in case it does rain on raceday. We got a few different ideas on settings and tyre stratgey in case it does rain, that was interesting. In this afternoon the conditions were really good with the lower temperature on the racetrack. It looks like we have a more or less clear which direction to go for with the race tyres, which is also good. Obviously we have to confirm that over the next two days and check the track and ambiance temperature. From what we learned from the last test and this afternoon I think we are 95% ready for the race. I was a little bit nervous this morning, because this is not the same structure that I'm used to, so I woke up this morning a didn't know exactly when I was going to ride or the program. Small details, like trying to get ready and the time to get into your leathers is difficult to judge, also being here in a slight different environment, are small details that make you feel abnormal and when you go inside the garare you know there are big expectations and you see all the riders riding here so it's a little bit different. I'm sure tomorrow and day by day it will get easier, but this race means a lot and is really important for our team and Yamaha. When you want such a good job you feel a bit of pressure and nerves but it's good for performance. Today we were the top three riders, so from that point of view it seems to be working."

Team Manager Wataru Yoshikawa

"In the afternoon session Nakasuga, Pol [Espargaro] and Bradley [Smith] all ran times in the 2'07 range, which shows that all three are very fast. As for the machine, we are getting a variety of requests from Pol and Bradley, and since Nakasuga knows the R1 so well, we are having him deal with their requests and verifying what needs to be done. Through our tests until now, we have made good progress in the machine development and set-up. Today we worked hard on the final aspects of the set-up, and of course this work will continue in tomorrow's sessions. The atmosphere on the team is very good and the riders respect each other. All three of them are specialists in sprint races, and that means they naturally have a strong desire to be the fastest. But this time, for the sake of the team effort, they are restraining themselves in that respect. I really want to see us win the race with this fantastic team."


David Checa

"I did my job and the crash was not my fault at all. We are happy and today's results are ok. We expected to be a little bit faster than the time we did today, but we will see what happens tomorrow. I'm happy because I didn't break anything, though I have pain everywhere on my body, but I hope I will sleep well today and will feel better tomorrow. We want to take a little bit of a risk, because we don't know the bike well. We ride with a standard engine and the gearbox as well, so we are happy and our performance is good. It's also a first time for us riders on these tyres, so we have to create an understanding of how to manage that, but we are happy. For sure, we have to improve some things, but our pace now is not so bad. Honestly, we normally have to be inside the top ten and today we are four, so that's positive, but we don't think too much about the results. For the moment we focus on finding solutions and aim to find half a second more."

Team Manager Christophe Guyot

"The crash was a bit difficult for David because he didn't understand why it happened. We need to check, but the good thing is that after the crash we were still fast, so I think everything is ok. I'm not looking at the results as much as I'm looking for our position compared to the permanent teams. Here in Japan the endurance race is completely different and we have a new YZF-R1 and new tyres. The new bike is very good, but with the new tyres it's not so easy and we are far away in another country so we can't take many risks and we don't have every thing with us to try. The goal for me is to be in front of the World Championship competing teams and today we did that. It will be the most important to be like this after the race, but we know this is possible and today we got a good view of our potential. When you start from between tenth and twelfth here in Suzuka, that's good. I would like to keep the title and that's still possible. Having the title is a pleasure and we enjoy it. Our plan for tomorrow is to take care. We have a good pace for the race and to be between tenth and fifteenth in qualifying would be good. We worked a lot on the electronics today and that is key for our performance. The bike's advantage is that there is nothing wrong with the chassis and engine; it's light and powerful and all is perfect. To find a set-up for the chassis is really easy. What we have to do now is find the right compromise between the electronics and the tyres. We had that with the previous bike, with which we rode for five years, but with the new YZF-R1 we started on a higher level."

#7 Monster Energy Yamaha Austria Racing Team

Broc Parkes

"I had to have an operation last week so I didn't get to take part in the test and today was my first time on the bike. In the previous years I was on different tyres this was the first time on Pirelli tyres and I had to feel what they were like. The first time with the endurance bike this year, but it felt pretty good and the bike was nice, though this morning we didn't have so much grip. After the rain the grip went down a bit, but I know the tyres pretty well because I race on them in the British Superbike championship. For Pirelli it's difficult and a big ask for them here because this is Bridgestone's back yard. They have quite a few tyres to test which is best for the race. You spend a lot of time on one side of the tyre so you need a lot of edge grip and these hot conditions is not really normal. However the bike feels good, though it's quite a bit different from the Factory bike. If we had diefferent tyres I think we would be quite strong. It would be nice to get inside the top ten, it's possible, but difficult and in the race you never know."

Team Manager Mandy Kainz

"It was a so-so day, because the last session was our first go at trying the dry setting because we always had mixed conditions before. We had a good experience with mixed conditions, as seen in the first practice when we finished third, but we have to work on the performance, the set-up and the Pirelli tyres in the hotter and dryer conditions. We struggled a bit with higher temperatures and the bike moved and span a lot, so we will have to improve this. Suzuka8h is our favourite race and more or less our home race, because we feel like we are close to home. This is the first year that we focus on just the #7 with Pirelli tyres and it's quite hard, but the whole team is like a family. Broc Parkes already rode a few seasons for us, but this year a lot of clashing races so he could only take part in Suzuka while normally he is a regular in our team. He knows the team quite well and that makes it easier, but with this configuration and with these tyres it's a first for him. In BSB he is not allowed electronics so he just completed the first dry laps for him, which is not easy, but we improved quite a lot. Sheridan and Ivan as well, they know the bike and all was good. Nothing got destroyed today and we didn't take any risks, all parts are in one peace and we are ready for qualifying. "