Ito Takes Provisional Pole in Suzuka

Cycle News Staff | July 25, 2008

FCC Technical Sports Racing’s Shinichi Ito (pictured) squeezed out Yoshimura’s Daisaku Sakai to claim provisional pole ahead of Sunday’s Suzuka 8 Hours World Championship endurance race. Sakai marked his time of two minutes, 7.984 seconds, early in the first morning session when the track was relatively cool. The time looked secure until the last session in the late afternoon when Ito, who has won pole a record six times in the 8 Hours, raced his Honda around the figure of eight course 0.317 seconds quicker. The two were the only riders to break the two minute, 8 second barrier all day. The second Yoshimura Suzuki was third fastest with a time of 2:08.284 recorded by Kosuke Akiyoshi. Akiyoshi will race with Yukio Kagayama as defending event champions. Yamaha’s second best time in Thursday practice proved to be not a fluke as Katsuyuki Nakasuga, the current points leader in the All Japan superbike championship, was within 0.006 seconds of Akiyoshi’s time for fourth on the combined timesheets. Ryuichi Kiyonari, chasing his second win in the race, was fastest of the four Honda Racing Corporation riders at 2:08.626. His teammate and pole position winner in 2007, Carlos Checa, was 0.007 seconds away from Kiyonari’s time. With the exception of the Dunlop tires on the Yamaha, the top five motorcycle were on Bridgestone tires. Jonathon Rea, on the second HRC team, was sixth best on the Dunlop shod Honda at two minutes, 8.778 seconds. Moriwaki’s Tatsuya Yamaguchi pushed his race-kit spec Honda with the inferior Japanese Dunlop race tires to stop the clock at two minutes, 9.426 seconds, good enough for sixth overall. Sakurai Honda’s Chojun Kameya was a full half-second slower on the HRC spec Honda with the superior Anglo Dunlop tires with a seventh overall time of 2:09.969. The Teluru Honeybee Racing team (Honda) were living a dream on Friday when rider Hiroki Noda recorded a time of two minutes, 10.225 seconds for ninth best. The last team to make it into the top ten and the privilege to compete in the Special Stage session to set the final ten starting positions was the HARC-PRO Honda team. However, the team left the circuit licking their wounds as their first rider, Takashi Yasuda, was forced out for the rest of the event after crashing in the S-Curves. Yasuda, who broke his shoulder earlier in the year, broke his right thumb today and received a concussion. His partner, Yoshiteru Konishi, high-sided and was slightly concussed after recording a time of 2:10.872. Neither rider could remember their falls, but knew how the other fell from watching the monitor. Indeed, it was a day to be remembered for crashing, with one 30 minute session red flagged three times and the wreck pick-up crews unable to keep up. The worst incident involved the world champion Suzuki Endurance Racing Team’s Vincent Philippe, who could not avoid two other fallen riders and cracked a bone in his ankle after crashing. The team will continue with Matthieu Lagrive and Julien Da Costa, who recorded the 19th best time today but were still fastest of the 18 endurance championship competing teams. The crash incident that claimed Philippe also involved the second Sakurai Honda team. Rider Kazuma Tsuda injured his right calf muscle, but continued on albeit over two seconds a lap slower than partner Josh Brookes. Jason Pridmore moved up from 60th to 40th as the team improved the tune of the engine put have yet to figure out how to make the bike go into gear on downshifts. Pridmore also cited the seemingly never-ending series of bikes crashing as a deterrent to going faster, especially the sight of a bike going straight off the Hairpin curve and clearing the fence. The Special Stage, or Superpole, session takes place on Saturday afternoon, with the race starting at 11:30 am local time on Sunday. Qualifying Results 1.           T.Tsujimura(2:09.383)/S.Ito(2:07.657), Honda 2.                  D.Sakai(2:07.984)/A.Watanabe(2:08.239), Suzuki 3.       Y.Kagayama(2:08.797)/K.Akiyoshi(2:08.284), Suzuki 4. Y.Sato(2:10.535)/K.Nakasuga(2:08.290), Yamaha 5.            R.Kiyonari(2:08.626)/C.Checa(2:08.633), Honda 6.          J.Rea(2:08.778)/Y.Takahashi(2:09.639), Honda 7.                  T.Yamaguchi(2:09.426)/C.Crutchlow(2:09.991), Honda 8.             C.Kameya(2:09.969)/L.Haslam(2:10.962), Honda 9.                  H.Noda(2:10.225)/T.Yamamoto(2:13.608), Honda 10.   T.Yasuda(2:10.955)/Y.Konishi(2:10.872), Honda