Yamaha Takes to the Track in TECH21 Colours for First Time in 30 Years
June 25 was the first of two days of combined testing by three manufacturers in preparation for the upcoming Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team rode for two 1.5-hour sessions, with one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It was the first outing for the 2019 factory YZF-R1, and Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Alex Lowes turned out consistently fast laps from beginning to end. Nakasuga was 3rd quickest of the day overall with a 2'06.698, marking a solid start to the team's quest for a fifth consecutive 8 Hours win.
It was the first time that All Japan JSB1000 front-runner Nakasuga and WorldSBK race-winner Alex Lowes had the chance to meet face to face this year, and it will be their fourth attempt to conquer the 8 Hours together. The two racers keep in touch on social media, so they were glad to see each other and a positive atmosphere radiated through the garage right from the start.
However, the absence of the third member of the squad, Michael van der Mark, was palpable. Suffering an injury at Round 7 of the World Superbike Championship that required surgery, both Nakasuga and Lowes were concerned about their teammate and expressed hope for him to return to action soon. In his stead, the two went about the scheduled testing programme and are set to ride another two 1.5-hour sessions again tomorrow.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team
Katsuyuki Nakasuga (2'06.698)
"It's been a while since I last rode the R1 in its 8 Hours endurance trim, and with every lap the feeling came back to me. There are a lot of differences with my JSB1000 bike, so right now I'm focusing on getting myself acclimated again. I could really feel how the bike has improved and we're off to a great start. I'm worried about Michael's injury, but we're prepared and ready for whatever may happen."
Alex Lowes (2'07.391)
"Today I felt both myself and the R1 were really working well. I came straight to Japan after Misano, so I'm a bit tired and we kept the number of laps down, but we're still running at a good pace. I'm always excited every year for the 8 Hours and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's testing too. Michael's injury is a bit worrying and these things can happen in racing, but I'm looking forward to him recovering and riding in the race with us."
Team Manager Wataru Yoshikawa
"I was still in high school when the TECH21 FZR750 entered the 8 Hours in 1985, so to be wearing this TECH21 team gear around the Yamaha pit garage is a strange, but special feeling. It also gets me focused, thinking about the legends that raced with this livery and wrote their names into motorsports history. In today's test we were able to reconfirm our strengths since we know what it takes to win here. Going forward, we'll work on refining the bike bit by bit so we can get the result that befits these special TECH21 colours. Our plans for the race will change depending on how much Michael recovers, but we'll be running our tests while keeping numerous possible scenarios in mind."