23 years after Anthony Gobert, Kawasaki goes back to pole position at Suzuka 8 Hours. And the authour of such masterpiece could be just Jonathan Rea, whose lap in 2’05″403 was more than half a second faster than 2015’s pole time performed by Pol Espargaró (2’06″000, Yamaha Factory). The three times World Superbike Champion exploited at the most the 40-minute session replacing Top 10 Trial: Jongdari storm is coming and this led to the decision of cancelling Special Stage to replace it with a normal Qualifying session.
This had happened already in 1997 (pole scored by Daijiro Kato) and 2013 (Katsuyuki Nakasuga) and Kawasaki Team Green used a simple, but effective strategy: both Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea (not Kazuma Watanabe) spent 20 minutes on track and had three tries to perform a fast lap. Both 2019 Kawasaki Racing Team riders did what expected and after that Pocket Rocket rode a lap in 2’05″984 (after a mistake during his first try), Jonathan Rea made something incredible by riding in 2’05″403 at his third and last try. Jonathan Rea, who won Suzuka 8 Hours in 2012 with F.C.C. TSR Honda, scored his first pole position on the Japanese track and this is also the third one of Kawasaki after those grabbed in 1994 and 1995, with riders such as Scott Russell and Anthony Gobert.
Tomorrow Kawasaki Team Green will try to win again after 1993 edition, but they will have to fight with Team HRC. The team went back to speed thanks to great Takaaki Nakagami, who ranked 2nd with a lap in 2’06″127 “ruined” by Yuki Takahashi at Triangle Chicane. The MotoGP rider from Chiba, together with Takumi Takahashi and WorldSBK entry PJ Jacobsen,wanted to ride in 2’05”, but he missed this goal as also Yamaha Factory did. Alex Lowes (2’06″170) and Michael van der Mark hit the track for the blue squad, while Katsuyuki Nakasuga remained in the pits after a big crash at Esses during the last FP session. The All Japan Champion hit the track in the late stages of Qualifying, but he didn’t give his best, due to not being 100% fit.
Behind the first three, good fourth place for HARC-PRO Honda thanks to Dominique Aegerter and Randy De Puniet, while Yoshimura Suzuki ranked fifth thanks to magnificent Bradley Ray, performing a lap in 2’06″642 despite being just 21 and at his first appearance in Suzuka. Ths time could not be improved by Takuya Tsuda, since the Jap crashed at Triangle Chicane: rider OK, GSX-R 1000 not really…
The top 10 was closed by S-PULSE Suzuki, au & Teluru MotoUP Honda, YART Yamaha, Moriwaki Honda e Sup Dream Honda, while title contendants F.C.C. TSR Honda and GMT94 Yamaha will start 12th and 14th. The 41st edition of Suzuka 8 Hours will be one to remember, if Jongdari doesn’t come…
Coca Cola Suzuka 8 hours 2018
Final Qualifying Classification
01- Kawasaki Team Green – Kawasaki ZX-10RR – 2’05.403
02- Red Bull Honda with Japan Post – Honda CBR 1000RRW – 2’06.127
03- Yamaha Factory Racing Team – Yamaha YZF R1 – 2’06.170
04- MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda – Honda CBR 1000RR – 2’06.177
05- Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing – Suzuki GSX-R 1000 – 2’06.642
06- S-Pulse Dream Racing IAI – Suzuki GSX-R 1000 – 2’06.756
07- au & Teluru MotoUP RT – Honda CBR 1000RR – 2’07.246
08- YART Yamaha – Yamaha YZF R1 – 2’07.387
09- KYB Moriwaki Motul Racing – Honda CBR 1000RR – 2’08.128
10- Team SuP Dream Honda – Honda CBR 1000RR – 2’08.200