Jonathan Rea claimed provisional pole position for his FCC TSR Honda team in Friday timed qualifying for the Suzuka 8 Hours with a brilliant time of 2:8.08.053.
“I have to be happy with the lap times, they are quite consistent and the bike is easy to ride as well, said the Irishman.
“The only thing I’m worried about is the weather conditions: the heat and the humidity. After 20 laps I’m getting a littler pain in my knees and heat from the footrests. But everyone’s the same and I’m just going to have to man-up for 28 laps.”
Hot weather is something to expect at the 8 Hours, and this year is no exception as temperatures soared to 37 C (99 °F) for the second straight day.
Rea’s teammate, Koksuke Akiyoshi, recorded an impressive time of 2:8.363. Because tire sets are limited to three in qualifying, the team gave Rea two new sets to Akiyoshi’s one.
The Yoshimura Suzuki was second best on the day, with credit going to Daisaku Sakai for a time of 2;8.397. Sakai’s teammates, Yukio Kagayama and Nobuatsu Aoki, were just 0.485 and 0.769s slower on their best laps.
Kagayama has proven that he can turn out a fast lap even though his right hand is not fully healed after sustaining a fracture four weeks earlier. “It wasn’t easy, but it is getting better. It is much better now.
"Every day is getting better for some pain level and muscle power. I can control the pain level, but after three or four or five laps, my muscle power drops off.”
While Kagayama is concerned about the hand, Aoki is concerned about the heat and the Hondas.
“Today, again, was extremely hot. The ground temperature reached to 65 C (149 °F), again. In that conditions, the front tire doesn’t work well. Also, the Honda guys, they are going pretty fast on the straights. They are faster than us. We are trying to catch up.”
Suzuka Circuit specialist Shinichi Ito posted a time of 2: 8.539, good enough to give his Keihin Kohara Racing Team third overall. Ito’s teammate, Makoto Tamada, rode the Honda to a best time of 2:8.996.
The fourth and final team to get below two minutes and nine seconds was Musashi RT HARC-PRO. Ryuichi Kiyonari showed that he was on the pace with a time of 2: 8.817, while his teammate, Takumi Takahasi, was just 0.001 seconds slower.
“I am happier than yesterday – a little bit,” said Kiyo-san, though his face did not show it. “The machine settings are still not good enough. After three or four laps, when tire grip is going down, it is difficult to control.
"Everybody looks like, after ten or fifteen laps, they are doing 2:09. But we cannot. It’s too hard. The rear is sliding and spinning and no grip. The front, on braking: no grip, no way.”
Final qualifying takes place on Saturday with Superpole, with the race starting at 11:30 am Japan time.
1 F.C.C. TSR Honda (K.Akiyoshi/J.Rea*/Y.Takahashi), 2:08.053, Honda.
2 Yoshimura Suzuki with Enos (Y.Kagayama/D.Sakai*/N.Aoki), 2:08.397, Suzuki.
3 Keihin Kohara Racing (S.Ito*/M.Tamada), 2:08.539, Honda.
4 Musashi RT HARC-PRO (R.Kiyonari*/T.Takahashi/T.Nakagami), 2:08.817, Honda.
5 Crown Keibibhosyou Racing (T.Hamaguchi*/K.Kitaguchi/S.Tani), 2:09.813, Honda.
6 Plot Faro Panthera (O.Deguchi*/T.Yasuda/Y.Kodama), 2:10.550, Suzuki.
7 Dream RT Sakurai Honda (C.Kameya/W.Maxwell*), 2:11.217, Honda.
8 Team Plus One (S.Iwata/Y.Teshima*), 2:11.397, Honda.
9 Teluru Honeybee Racing (H.Noda*/T.Sekiguchi), 2:11.401, Honda.
10 Yamaha Austria Racing Team (I.Jerman/S.Martin/G.Giabbani*), 2:11.458, Yamaha.