On July 5, Day 1 of joint tests for the 2023 FIM Endurance World Championship "Coca-Cola" Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race 44th Tournament (Suzuka 8 Hours) was held at the Suzuka Circuit.
Last year, Team HRC's Tetsuta Nagashima, Takumi Takahashi, and Iker Lecuona achieved Honda's first Suzuka 8 Hours victory in eight years. This season, the team will be aiming to defend the title with Superbike World Championship (WSBK) riders Lecuona and Xavi Vierge, and All Japan Road Race Championship (JRR) ST1000 class rider Takahashi. In addition to these riders, Tetsuta Nagashima, who contributed to last year's victory, participated in today’s test, bringing the total number of riders in the pit to four.
Last year's EWC champions, F.C.C. TSR Honda France, had all three of their regular riders, Josh Hook, Mike Di Meglio, and Alan Techer, participate in the tests.
SDG Honda Racing was represented in today’s test by JRR JSB1000 class rider Teppei Nagoe, Yuki Kunii, who started competition in the ST1000 class this season, and Spanish Superbike Championship (ESBK) rider Naomichi Uramoto. Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA was represented by Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) ASB1000 riders Md Zaqhwan Bin Zaidi and Andi Farid Izdihar, and ARRC Supersport 600 class rider Nakarin Atiratphuvapat.
The participating 47 bikes were divided into groups A and B. Each group was allocated their own 45-minute Session 1 in the morning, followed by a 45-minute Session 2 in the afternoon, and a 75-minute Session 3. Each group also participated in a 70-minute night session.
Although Session 1 ran under dry conditions, rain began to fall in Session 2, and Session 3 was completely wet. With rain continuing during the night session, only 12 teams participated, many of which soon returned to the pits after only a few laps.
Team HRC’s shakedown for the Suzuka 8 Hours was also aimed at confirming Nagashima’s recovery from injury. Each of the other three riders were also allotted track time in dry conditions, setting lap times. For the wet sessions, the Japanese riders were more familiar with the particular track conditions, so track time was allocated to the Lecuona and Vierge instead. Due to heavy rainfall, the team did not go out on track for the night session. Despite the short time they were able to run in the dry, Team HRC riders were highly impressive.
In Session 1, Nagashima set the fastest lap of 2 min 06.258s, followed by Lecuona second-fastest with 2 min 07.619s. Takahashi and Vjerge both lapped in the 2：08 range during their short time on track, showing their competitiveness. Third-fastest was Astemo Honda Dream SI Racing (Kosuke Sakumoto / Ryo Mizuno / Kazuma Watanabe) with 2 min 07.730s. F.C.C. TSR Honda France was sixth with a 2 min 08.325s lap, followed by SDG Honda France in 10th with 2 min 08.325s. Honda Asia-Dream Racing with SHOWA was 19th-fastest with a time of 2 min 10.006s.
Team HRC was fastest yet again in Session 2. In Session 3, in wet conditions, Honda Dream RT SAKURAI Honda (Kazuki Ito / Daijiro Hiura / Kouta Arakawa) set the top time of 2 min 22.451s. Team HRC was fourth-fastest for the session.