EWC 2022
Round 3

Six Honda Teams Qualify for Suzuka 8 Hours Top 10 Trial

jp Suzuka Circuit

Timed qualifying and night sessions for 2022 Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race (Suzuka 8 Hours) on Friday, August 5.

Six Honda Teams Qualify for Suzuka 8 Hours Top 10 Trial

Free practice sessions for the Suzuka 4 Hours held on the previous day were marred by intermittent showers, which lingered into Friday morning as the two-hour free practice session for the Suzuka 8 Hours commenced at 8:10am. From 12:10pm, team riders were designated as blue, yellow and red riders for two separate 20-minute qualifying sessions each. In the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC), starting grid positions are determined by the average best lap of each team’s two riders. Two riders from the top ten teams then proceed to the Top 10 Trial to be held on August 6 to determine the final starting grid.

In the morning’s free practice session, Team HRC (Tetsuta Nagashima / Takumi Takahashi / Iker Lecuona) led the field as Tetsuta Nagashima set the fastest lap time of 2 min 5.823 s, which went unchallenged. Third fastest was ♯73 SDG Honda Racing (Teppei Nagoe / Naomichi Uramoto / Ikuhiro Enokido) with 2 min 6.838 s. In the 2 min 7 s range, ♯5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France (Josh Hook / Gino Rea / Mike Di Meglio) was sixth-fastest, ♯17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing (Kosuke Sakumoto / Kazuma Watanabe / Taiga Hada) was seventh, and ♯72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA (Sodo Hamahara / Daijiro Hiura / Yuki Kunii) was eighth. One second slower, ♯9 Murayama.Honda Dream.RT was tenth-fastest with 2 min 8.130 s.

Weather improved by midday, when the skies were much brighter. The track was mostly dry by the time Blue riders were up for their first qualifying session. Nagashima (#33) clocked 2 min 6.659 s on his second lap, followed by an extremely fast 2 min 4.942 s, faster than the lap record of 2 min 5.1682 s set by Jonathan Rea in 2018.

Sakumoto (#17) was third with 2 min 6.393 s, with other Honda team riders Nagoe (#73 / 2 min 6.733 s), Hook (#5 / 2 min 6.749 s) and ♯25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing (Yuudai Kamei / Yuki Sugiyama / Jun Tadokoro) rider Kamei (2 min 6.829 s) also within the 2 min 6 s range.

In the second Blue riders qualifying session, despite intermittent showers proving troublesome for the teams, Nagashima (#33) initially set the fastest lap time in the 2 min 7 s range, followed by 2 min 6.675 to maintain his lead. Hook (#5) was fifth-fastest with a 2 min 8 s lap, and Sakumoto  (#17) was sixth within the same range. Kamei (#25) slided off at the S bends in the closing stages of the session. Overall, Nagashima (#33) held the lead, Sakumoto (#17) was third, Nagoe (#73) fifth, Hook (#5) sixth, Kamei (#25) seventh, and Hamahara (#72) ninth.

As the first Yellow riders qualifying session began, the sun was shining. Takahashi (#33) went through the pit road, timing his entry into the track for his hot lap. Takahashi’s 2 min 7.238 s placed him fifth, and on the fourth lap, he improved by nearly a second to 2 min 6.494 s. The top 3 remained the same, while Hiura (#72) improved his position to sixth with a 2 min 7.204 s lap. Rea (#5) was one place behind with 2 min 7.204 s.

In the second Yellow riders qualifying session, Rea (#5) set the fastest time of 2 min 7.326 s. Enokido (#73) was second-fastest with 2 min 7.840. With thirteen minutes remaining in the session, rain began to fall. Hiura (#72) moved up the third with 2 min 7.880, as Takahashi (#33) pitted, and decided not to rejoin after consulting his pit crew. Overall, Takahashi (#33) was third, Watanabe (#17) fourth, Hiura (#72) sixth, Rea (#5) seventh, and Enokido (#73) tenth.

Rain began to fall as the Red riders prepared for their first qualifying session. Lecuona (#33) returned to the pits. Later in the session, the sun shone as the showers continued, and riders began to return to the track with seven minutes remaining. In the end, De Meglio (#5) was the fastest rider with 2 min 10.556 s.

Rain had stopped by the time the second Red riders qualifying session began. As the track nearly dried up, the rain started again. ♯104 TOHO Racing (Ryuichi Kiyonari / Takuma Kunimine / Hiromichi Kunikawa) rider Kunimine set the fastest time of 2 min 11.831 s. Le Cuona (#33) set a lap time of 2 min 15.174 before returning to the pits. Overall, Di Meglio (#5) was the fastest, Kunimine (#104) was third, Le Cuona (#33) was seventh, and Kunii (#72) was ninth.

The results of the averaged best laps from the Blue, Yellow and Red rider sessions were in: #33 Team HRC was the fastest. ♯17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing was fourth, ♯5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France fifth, ♯72 Honda Dream RT SAKURAI HONDA seventh, ♯73 SDG Honda Racing eighth, and ♯25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing ninth. These teams progress to tomorrow’s Top 10 trial.

In the Top 10 Trial, two riders from each team have timed hot laps, determining the top ten places on the starting grid. Eleventh onwards are unchanged from today’s Qualifying results. #88 Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA (Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi / Gerry Salim / Helmi Bin Azman) will start the race from 16th grid.

The night session was held under heavy rain. ♯5 F.C.C. TSR Honda France was seventh-fastest, ♯17 Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing was ninth, ♯73 SDG Honda Racing  11th, ♯33 Team HRC  13th, and ♯25 Honda Sofukai Suzuka Racing 14th.

Tetsuta Nagashima
Tetsuta Nagashima 33
Team HRC
We have had a few tests, but I never had the chance to really push. Qualifying was the right timing, so I pulled everything together and set a 2 min 4 s lap, so I think I’ve improved a lot. I haven’t had the chance to race in Japan, and it was a chance to show what I have, so this is the culmination of all the testing I’ve done. I am very satisfied being able to set a new lap record, as I wanted to use all of the potential of the new bike. I got caught up in traffic on my hot lap, which is a bit disappointing, but I’m feeling great for the race after setting a new lap record. I’m looking forward to the Top 10 Trial, which is a first for me. If I’m chosen, I’ll show everyone how much I have improved 

Takumi Takahashi
Takumi Takahashi 33
Team HRC
Nagashima was fast even during testing, saying he wanted to set a 2 min 4 s lap, and I knew he could do it, so I was not surprised. He set a fast lap time, so I spent Qualifying confirming the bike’s setup. This is the first Suzuka 8 Hours in three years, I haven’t raced here for two, and I have only ridden the bike during Suzuka 8 Hours tests, so I fell that I’m getting the feel of the bike each time I’m out on the track. I’ll be continuing to do so towards the race. My role is to support Nagashima and Lecuona. I’m not the best at Top 10 trials, but I’ll do my best if I’m selected 

Iker Lecuona
Iker Lecuona 33
Team HRC
The conditions were not right, and I could not set a fast lap time, even though I’m ok with rain, and I rode in bad weather during the tests. I would have wanted to set a 2 min 6 s lap in dry conditions, so it’s a pity I could not do so. Nagashima’s lap record is unbelievably amazing. Takahashi is also consistently fast, so I’m lucky to be able to race with such strong teammates. Although this is my first Suzuka 8 Hours, I’m getting used to the atmosphere, rode a long stint during free practice in the morning, and I’m preparing well for the race. I don’t know if I’m riding in the Top 10 Trial, but if I am, I want to enjoy myself 

Teppei Nagoe
Teppei Nagoe 73
SDG Honda Racing
Today we were flat out trying to keep up with the other teams. Looking at the overall lap times, I would have liked it if we were a bit faster, but this is the best we could do under the circumstances, and I’m glad we are one of the fastest team with a 2 min 6 s lap time. I’m relieved that we made it into the Top 10 Trial, which was a team goal. There is a lot of pressure in the Top 10 Trial, but I’ll keep the good aspects of today and improve on my lap times 

Naomichi Uramoto
Naomichi Uramoto 73
SDG Honda Racing
Both of my qualifying sessions were in the rain, and there was the risk of slipping, so I was very careful. Although the conditions were bad, our other two riders were fast enough for a Top 10 Trial place, so I rode steadily to make sure we were in the trial. We have great teamwork and we’re well balanced, so we will work as a team to improve our position in the Top 10 Trial 

Ikuhiro Enokido
Ikuhiro Enokido 73
SDG Honda Racing
I fell on my hot lap, damaging the bike, and that was the end of it. In the second session, I was under pressure to set a good lap time despite the unstable weather conditions, so I set my mind to the task, and I think I contributed to the team. Both Nagoe and Tsukamoto are great riders and I believe we’ll be one of the top qualifiers, so I’ll do my best for the team to get great results 

Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi
Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi 88
Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA
I’m very disappointed that I could not set a 2 min 7 s lap, which was my goal in Qualifying. I was riding on a long stint setup in yesterday’s test sessions, and the track temperature was much lower than yesterday, so I could not set up the bike to my satisfaction.
We’re aiming to finish the race within the top ten, but anything can happen, so I’ll concentrate on riding a solid race to improve our result

Gerry Salim
Gerry Salim 88
Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA
I aimed for 2 min 8 s, but I could not reach it in Qualifying. I’m satisfied with Qualifying because I managed to set consistent lap times even though track conditions were very different for each session. I feel that I have been improving from the test sessions to Qualifying, and my lap times are getting faster, so I’ll aim to get solid results in the race

Helmi Azman
Helmi Azman 88
Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA
It rained heavily in each of my qualifying sessions and the conditions were very difficult, so in a nutshell, I was unlucky. I am confident that I can ride fast under any conditions, so I’m glad I got through Qualifying the way I did. I will aim to set consistent lap times in the race and contribute to the team, but I’m slower than Zaqhwan and Gerry, so I’ll try to get as close to their lap times as possible

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