Alex Lowes’ Factory Yamaha team marmalised the existing Suzuka lap record to take top spot in today’s qualifying session as Kats Nakasuga put in a stunning 2’06.038 to go more than four-tenths faster than the existing benchmark in the Superpole-style Top Ten Trial.
Lowes, who was the last rider on track after his performance in qualifying yesterday, was also inside the lap record and ended with a 2’06.232 after being ahead at the first two splits but he couldn’t quite match Nakasuga’s pace on the run through Spoon and 130R before he went a little wide at final chicane.
Takuya Tsuda took second place for Yoshimura Suzuki with a 2’06.282 after Sylvain Guintoli went down at the first chicane on his lap. Leon Haslam bagged third for Team Green Kawasaki and he too was under the lap record with a 2’06.381.
For Yamaha, back-to-back winners and the lap record holders, expectations were high ahead of the Top Ten Shootout. King of Suzuka, Katsuki Nakasuga was first out for the team threw down his remarkable lap which was only 0.0038s off the outright record from 2015 set by Pol Espargaro.
Lowes was handed the honour of being the final rider in the Shootout and with the circuit all to himself he was on course for a lap record. A mistake at the chicane saw the WorldSBK podium man cross the line two-tenths adrift of his teammate Nakasuga. With that, Yamaha secured third third straight pole as they look to become the first team since Cabin Honda in 2002 to win three Suzuka Eight-Hours on the bounce.
Britain’s Leon Haslam dangled his leg to a time of 2’06.381 despite having not having any running on Saturday before the Shootout. The BSB Championship contender put Team Green Kawasaki third on the Le-Mans style grid for Sunday.
F.C.C. TSR Honda made it four different manufacturers in the top four, Randy De Puniet and Aegerter doing their best to uphold Honda’s honour and prove there’s still some fight to come from the new Fireblade. HRC are currently undergoing their longest victory drought at Suzuka since 1987 and 1988, and three straight Suzuka Eight-Hours race without a Honda on the top step would be unprecedented.
Fifth place was the result for the fancied MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda team. Their decision to bench MotoGP race-winner Jack Miller for the Top Ten Shootout will be questioned by some but Moto2 racer Takaaki Nakagami did his best to impress and ended the second stage of the shootout in fifth place.
The Moriwaki squad of Linfoot, Kiyonari and Takahashi ended seventh as ‘King Kiyo’ ripped around the Suzuka circuit, as Linfoot watched from the box. Honda Suzuka Racing Team, Team Kagayama and the Makoto Tamada run Satu HATI. Honda Team Asia squad completed the top ten.
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