The reigning Suzuka 8 Hour squad of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga have topped the opening day of action at the prestigious endurance race, coming home ahead of the Team Green Kawasaki squad of Leon Haslam, Jonathan Rea and Kazumi Watanabe in cooler than expected temperatures.
Predicted to be one of the hottest ever runnings of the famous race thanks to a heatwave so severe that the Japanese government declared it a natural disaster earlier this week, conditions have turned – with a typhoon building off the coast of Japan and predicted to hit the country later this weekend.
The Yamaha team ended the day only 0.014 ahead of the Kawasaki, with the Team Green riders topping the final of the day’s three sessions but not quite getting ahead of the three-time winners.
Team HRC made it three factory bikes in the top three, with MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami leading them to a strong result. Satellite Hondas came home fourth and fifth with Musashi Harc Pro and the Teluru Moto Up teams, while Yoshimura Suzuki took sixth place with Sylvain Guintoli, Brad Ray and Takuya Tsuda.
Championship leaders FCC TSR Honda were the best of the permanent Endurance World Championship teams in seventh, with their title rivals GMT94 Yamaha a distant 15th.
Tommy Bridewell had a strong shoring for the British Superbike riders in 12th on the S-Pulse Dream BMW, ahead of Michael Laverty and Christian Iddon in 20th on the BMW Financial Services bike, while Peter Hickman was 25th with NRT48 BMW.
British World Supersport rider Stefan Hill was 26th with Vital Supply BMW, while BSB riders Sylvain Barrier and Billy McConnell were 37th and 40th.