Yamaha’s works Suzuka Eight-Hours team got off to a solid start in the pre-race test session, taking second place in the morning session before sitting out most of the afternoon to conserve tyres.
WorldSBK team-mate Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, again partnered by Kats Nakasuga, set a 2’07.583 to trail red Bull Honda by a second while the factory Kawasaki squad, which contains Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu, were on similar pace with a 2’07.614 in the afternoon.
“All the teams were out there on track, so it was pretty crowded, but we focused on confirming our bike setup and practicing our pit stops,” said team boss Wataru Yoshikawa.
We tried to conserve the tyres that we’re allotted while we went about our testing program, and I think we did well. Michael showed some really strong riding even with his injury, but due to the timing he still hasn’t gone out on a fresh tyre.
“I think he’ll be able to improve his pace even more. Even with this being the case, all three riders were saying similar things today, so we know our setup direction was the right one. For me, that’s a big relief.”
In the afternoon, the team’s focus shifted to the all-important pit stops, of which there will be a minimum of seven during Sunday’s race.
All three riders practiced both handing over to and taking over from a teammate at the pit stop, which also gave the technical crew a number of opportunities to perfect their already rapid pit stop procedure. A stop should take around 15s.
“It’s great to be back here at Suzuka riding the R1 we’ll race in the Eight-Hours on Sunday. It’s also good to have Michael here, which means the full team is back together once again,“said Lowes.
“Today was all about blowing out the cobwebs and getting a feel for the bike and the tyres again. The weather has been perfect, allowing us to get in plenty of dry laps, which will be important, as the forecast is for more changeable weather on Friday and Saturday.
“Overall, it was a solid opening day, I really enjoyed riding the bike and I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.”