It’s been a busy year for Sylvain Guintoli and Josh Brookes with regular MCE-BSB racing and a ride in the Ecstar Suzuki MotoGP squad for the Frenchman while Brookes has ridden at the TT on top of his TAG Yamaha duties.
The former WorldSBK champion is keeping his workload up in Japan with the Yoshimura Suzuki team, running alongside Josh Brookes and MotoGP test rider Takuya Tsuda. Winners of the inaugural Suzuka Eight-Hours in 1978, the Yoshimura squad are hunting for their fifth victory and first since 2009.
Guintoli and Tsuda were the two riders to tackle the Top Ten Shootout, Guintoli on pace to take a provisional pole before crashing in the chicane.
“I really like that format of qualifying with the backup rider,” said Guintoli. “I felt like I could have a free go! Maybe a little too much today though.
With some additional factory support the Yoshimura team are taking on the role as the lead Suzuki squad at the 8 Hours once again. The experienced crew has helped to establish Yoshimura as podium regulars at Suzuka against the full-factory might of Yamaha and HRC.
“We’ve come here as outsiders to challenge the domination of Yamaha. I think we’re doing a good job with the new GSX-RR. We’ve got a strong line up of riders who have done their homework,” Guintoli reflected.
Team-mate Brookes had just about recovered from his miraculous practice save (see below), echoing his BSB rival-come-team-mate’s sentiment.
“It’s a great privilege to be invited back again by the Yoshimura Suzuki team,” said the Australian. “They have a great family atmosphere and the bike and preparation is all full factory. Takuya did a fantastic job in qualifying so we’re starting in a great position and it’s lucky Sylvain only had a small crash and is uninjured.”
Having first come to Suzuka in 2005, Brookes has spent the last decade trying to win the world’s most prestigious endurance race. It’s so far evaded him, but 2017’s surprisingly cool conditions haven’t lulled him into a false sense of security.
“This year we’ve been spoilt with cooler conditions, but if Suzuka is anything like is has been it will be extremely hot. Our race pace is certainly our strength; I don’t think we ever thought our strength would be in qualifying.”