Tech3 Yamaha MotoGP riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will take on former world champion Casey Stoner at this year’s famous Suzuka 8hr race, joining Yamaha test rider Kats Nakasuga on a factory team.
Rumour has been rife for the past weeks that either Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo would join the team as Yamaha look for success with their new R1. However, both Espargaro and Smith have been waiting in the wings as a reserve option, as the Spaniard confirmed weeks ago.
Speaking after the announcement, Smith, who will make his debut alongside his GP teammate, thanked Yamaha for the chance to compete in the ‘legendary’ event.
“Firstly, I want to give Yamaha a massive thank you for considering me to be part of their Suzuka 8 Hour team, which is a legendary event. I’m looking forward to trying a new form of motorcycle racing and even more so along with my MotoGP teammate Pol and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who has a strong record at this special race. I think it will be an unforgettable event and it will add another chapter to my life with Yamaha.
“I’m also very excited to try the new Yamaha YZF-R1, which I have heard a lot about and it will be really great to finally get the opportunity to ride it. Of course, I will take this event very seriously as we are going to be part of the official Factory Team effort, so I will head to Japan with the full intention of getting a high scoring result for Yamaha.”
Teammate Espargaro, who has no superbike experience at all, says he’s looking forward to working with instead of against Smith.
“I am really happy that Yamaha has chosen me to represent them at one of the most famous motorsport events, which is the Suzuka 8 Hour race. I feel honoured to take part in it, but there will be a lot to learn. I am under no illusion that it will be easy as I have never raced in an endurance event before and I don’t know the YZF-R1, even though a lot of people speak very highly about it. In addition, the MotoGP calendar is very demanding and we will have to work through the training for the event, in between the races. Therefore, we need to work as much as possible in order to be prepared for the race, but I’m very excited to get this opportunity.
“Moreover, it will be nice to work with Bradley as a partner where we will fight together, instead of against each other. I think we will complement each other very well and have a great time. The only thing is that neither of us know the Suzuka track, so I hope Nakasuga-san can help us with everything, which includes the circuit, the bike and the correct strategies that we need to have a successful eight hour race. It will be special and we will do our best to reward the faith that Yamaha has put in us.”