World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has obliterated the Suzuka 8 Hour lap record during qualifying for this year’s running of the venerable endurance race, taking nearly a second off MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro’s long-standing record at the Japanese circuit.
Topping the second of the day’s sessions with his 2’05.168 lap, he ensured that the Team Green Kawasaki bike that he’s sharing with 2019 WBS teammate Leon Haslam and Japanese rider Kazuma Watanabe topped today’s provisional grid.
The only team to come close to matching them was the reigning champions Yamaha, with a 2’06.263 from Katsuyuki Nakasuga the fastest of the three ahead of WSB duo Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark. The Team HRC Red Bull Honda squad were third, nearly a second down on their factory rivals, with MotoGP test rider Takumi Takahashi their fastest man.
Rea’s time could be crucial tomorrow, too, with heavy rain and high winds forecast to hit the Suzuka area around the time that the top ten are due to line up for the superpole session. With Typhoon Jongdai due to hit the area, there is even talk in the paddock that tomorrow’s session could be scrapped.
Rea and Haslam weren’t the only fast Brits today though, with Bradley Ray fourth on the fourth of the factory bikes, the Yoshimura Suzuki. Tommy Bridewell also impressed on the S-Pulse Dream Suzuki in sixth, despite a crash in the second session when he tangled with Lowes.
Peter Hickman will start Sunday’s race from 19th on the NRT48 BMW, ahead of fellow British Superbike regulars Christian Iddon and Michael Laverty in 24th.