Tetsuta Nagashima and Takumi Takahashi combined to set an average lap time of 2m05.718s in their respective sessions on Friday morning, securing top spot for themselves and teammate Iker Lecuona.
Of the factory HRC duo, Nagashima set the fastest laptime, the one-time Moto2 race winner’s benchmark of 2m04.942s which was almost a second faster than any other rider managed all day.
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A heavy rain late in the opening qualifying made the track too wet for the ‘red’ riders in each crew to have a shot at being included in the average lap time, which from this year is considered only the fastest two riders are considered. from each bike instead of all three.
Although conditions improved significantly for the second half of qualifying, the track remained too green for any significant improvement, meaning Nagashima and Takashi’s time remained unbeaten in the #33 HRC.
YART reversed factory Yamaha’s loss at the Suzuka 8 Hours, with the full-season FIM Endurance World Championship team setting the second-fastest average time courtesy of Marvin Fritz and Niccolo Canepa.
YART successfully overcame the factory Kawasaki entry fielded by its World Superbike Championship squad, which was compromised by its star rider Jonathan Rea being placed in a rain-hit final ‘red’ session.
With only the times of Alex Lowes and Leon Haslam counting for Kawasaki’s qualifying effort, the #10 bike finished just a few tenths shy of the time set by the YART crew in third.
Kosuke Sakumoto and Kazuma Watanabe put the #17 Honda Dream team in fourth place, while the FIM EWC regular FCC TSR team fielded three CBR1000RR-R bikes inside the top five with Josh Hook and Gino Rea the two fastest ride it.
BMW’s factory entry yielded sixth place in qualifying thanks to former WSBK rider Markus Reiterberger and two-time IDM champion Ilya Mikhalchik.
Three more Honda crews secured a spot in the Top 10 trials, namely Sakurai, SDG and the Sofukai Suzuka teams, while the final spot in the qualifying shootout was booked by Kawasaki satellite team Webike Trickstar.
There was big drama for the Yoshimura Suzuki team in what was set to be the marque’s final outing at Suzuka as a factory entry, with Sylvain Guintoli, Gregg Black and Kazuki Watanabe failing to make the Top 10 Trials.
It could also affect the outfit’s EWC title prospects, with main rival FCC TSR Honda safely entering Saturday’s final qualifying session in fifth.
Provisional qualifying top 10
1. #33 HRC Team
2. #7 YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC
3. #10 Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H
4. #17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing
5. #5 FCC TSR Honda France
6. #37 BMW MOTORRAD WORLD ENDURANCE TEAM
7. #72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA
8. #73 SDG Honda Racing
9. #25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing
10. #2 EVA RT 01 Webike TRICKSTAR Kawasaki