Yamaha Factory Racing Deliver Second Consecutive Pole
in Suzuka 8 Hours Top Ten Shootout

The Yamaha Factory Racing Team were back on track today, successfully defending their provisional pole position result from yesterday with an unbeatable lap in the Top 10 Trial shootout. The YART Yamaha Official EWC Team also continued their impressive top ten performance level to secure seventh on the grid for Sunday’s 2016 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race.

The legendary Suzuka 8 Hours Top 10 Trial sees two riders from the ten fastest teams in yesterday’s qualifying take one hot lap each to decide the first ten starting positions for tomorrow’s race. Having smashed the lap record last year with a stunning 2’06.000s lap for pole, MotoGP rider Pol Espargaró was keen to break under the 2’06s mark. With a 2’06.405s lap to beat, the Spanish rider delivered an almost perfect attack, firing out a 2’06.258s lap to secure pole for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team. Higher track temperatures and less grip meant a new pole record was out of reach, but didn't prevent Espargaró from claiming the fastest time of the day.

Teammate and number one rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was the last man of the trial to make his run. With all eyes on him and pole already secured, there was only his fellow Yamaha rider Espargaró to beat. Having shared similar pace all weekend, the shootout proved to be a close call with Nakasuga laying down a 2’06.435s lap, less than two hundredths of a second from his teammate’s pole time.

Third rider Alex Lowes was on-track in the morning practice with Nakasuga and Espargaró, the trio again keeping the pace at the sharp end as the only team to dip under the 2’08s mark with a best lap of 2’07.877s. The result from today’s Top 10 Trial means the Yamaha Factory Racing Team will start the 39th edition of the Suzuka 8 Hours at the front of the pack for the second year running.

Having secured fourth overall in provisional qualifying, Broc Parkes and Kohta Nozane were up to represent the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team in today’s Top 10 Trial. Nozane was the first out, the young Japanese rider still getting to grips with the change from Bridgestone to Pirelli tyres. Despite the pressure he was able to deliver one of his strongest laps of the weekend so far, recording a 2’10.636s time. Then it was down to Parkes to see how far up the rankings he could place the team. The Australian delivered a trademark smooth, fast lap, with no errors, to put the YART Yamaha Official EWC Team in seventh position for tomorrow’s race with a lap time of 2’08.602s.

GMT94 Yamaha’s starting position had already been confirmed in yesterday’s qualifying, having taken 12th in the heats to secure their place just outside the top ten. Riders David Checa, Niccolò Canepa and Lucas Mahias continued their work this morning in the hunt for the best setup ahead of tomorrow’s race, wrapping up the morning practice in 11th with a best lap time of 2’10.418s.

Top 10 Trial

1 Yamaha Factory Racing Team Yamaha 2'06.258
2 Yoshimura Suzuki Shell ADVANCE Suzuki 2'06.405
3 Team GREEN Kawasaki 2'06.469
4 F.C.C. TSR Honda Honda 2'07.248
5 MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO. Honda 2'07.394
6 Team KAGAYAMA Suzuki 2'07.651
7 YART Yamaha Official EWC Team Yamaha 2'08.602
8 TOHO Racing Honda 2'08.716
9 Moto Map SUPPLY Suzuki 2'09.774

Yamaha Factory Racing Team
Top 10 Trial: Pole Position (2’06.258)

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

“Since the 8 Hours began earlier this week, we haven’t changed the settings on the bike even once, and Pol and Alex have adjusted their riding styles as needed. All three of us can ride at a very high average pace and the bike is working really well. In the Top 10 Trial today, I made a mistake in the Degner Curve; I might have been overeager to the point of nearly crashing, honestly. I was able to recover my rhythm afterwards and while that was good, I honestly am a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to best Pol’s time again.”

Pol Espargaró

“I’m actually really happy with the pole position, especially because during the weekend the speed of all three of us has been really consistent with good pace. We haven’t changed the bike so much, only something really small with the electronics. Our riding styles are different but in the end we can use the same motorbike, which is really important for the race. I’m happy with the pole lap, I wanted to improve on last year’s time but I felt the track today was a bit more slippery and I didn't have a great T1. It’s important for all three of us for tomorrow’s start to be at the front. My helmet was special for the shootout, it has my brother’s number on it. It's a kind of dedication for him as it’s his 27th birthday today.”

Alex Lowes

“Of course I’m really happy for the team to be on pole position. It's a strange position―having done nothing myself yet―to be on pole but anyway I’m really happy. What’s most important is the race tomorrow, we had a really good day yesterday in the practices; we were all quite fast and consistent so this will be important for tomorrow. I’m really happy to be here with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team. It’s such a fantastic team and we three guys have a really good relationship. It’s very important for a race like this where you have to work together and have fun. I’m looking forward to the race, let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Team Manager Wataru Yoshikawa

“We were able to take pole position for the second time in a row so this is great for us. However, during the free practice session beforehand, the safety car entered the track and it threw off the rhythm Nakasuga and Pol had built up. On top of that, both of them set incredible times in the Top 10 Trial last year so I think the expectations on their shoulders may have grown a little too big. Tomorrow is finally the real thing, and we’ll believe in all the hard work we’ve done until now as we head into the race. We’re ready to go and feeling great.”

YART Yamaha Official EWC Team
Top 10 Trial: 7th (2’08.602)

Broc Parkes

“Qualifying went pretty well today. I had to put a good lap down because I knew my time was going to be where we were on the grid. It wasn't a bad lap, it wasn't on the edge at all, I just tried to put the best one down I could and keep it smooth. It was a little bit warmer today so it was a little bit more difficult to put a lap down confidently but in general seventh on the grid is a good place to be for tomorrow and I think we can fight from there. The plan is to get a good start and try and go with the top guys and see how long I can hang in there and see what happens.”

Kohta Nozane

“Today was my first-ever Top 10 Trial, so I was really nervous, but I recorded my personal-best time so far with a lap in the 2’10s. It was an all-out lap on new tires and with the bike setup closer to the sprint spec I normally use, but I still wasn’t able to break into the 2’09s so I’m pretty disappointed. But riding in the Top 10 Trial helped me understand the bike a lot more than I had before. We’ll work together and do our best to fight in the race tomorrow.”

Takuya Fujita

“I didn’t end up riding in the Top 10 Trial today, but that’s all down to the team’s strategy. Both the bike and the three of us riders are in good shape at this point. So in tomorrow’s race, I’ll give my all to do my part for the team. And if there’s a chance for us to break into the top positions, we’ll go for it.”

Team Manager Mandy Kainz

“We are very satisfied with seventh position in qualifying. This was the maximum we could do, more was not possible so we are really very happy with it. All is under control, we are ready to start tomorrow and see what we can do in the race.”

GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team
Final Grid Position: 12th

David Checa

“I really like this circuit, the experience is unbelievable here, the track is probably one of the best in the world for a rider. The welcome in Japan from Yamaha and the Japanese people is always so special. I would like to return to the podium here like we did three years ago. Last year we were sixth but battling for the podium during the race. We intend to be in the top five and maybe we can play for the podium tomorrow.”

Team Manager Christophe Guyot

“We tried new settings in this morning’s official practice and also in yesterday’s qualifying but neither was as good as the setting we started with in the first two-hour practice yesterday morning so we will revert to that. We are very happy because we tried many things and we now have an understanding of the Dunlop tyres and the bike is working well so we have a solution for the race. Of course we could be better if we had more time but it’s not possible as the race is tomorrow. The guys are ready; David and Niccolò are very strong and Lucas is proving to be a great rider although he still needs more laps here to understand the circuit fully.”