The line up for the Suzuka 8 Hour Race looks to be the strongest for years. Today, Yamaha confirmed that Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro are to race for the factory entry at Suzuka, alongside Yamaha test rider and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Smith and Espargaro will face Casey Stoner and Michael van der Mark, who will be racing for the Honda factory team.
Rumors that Yamaha were taking their entry for the race very seriously first emerged at Jerez, where paddock gossip had Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo entering the race in the factory team. At the time, both men pleaded ignorance, saying that they had heard nothing about such a decision. Having the Movistar Yamaha riders race at Suzuka would have placed a massive strain on the team, as the race falls directly between the Sachsenring and Indianapolis MotoGP rounds. With Rossi leading the title chase, and Lorenzo in second place, Yamaha appear to have decided on an alternative strategy, using the riders from the satellite teams instead.
That does not mean that the Movistar Yamaha men are not involved, however. Valentino Rossi has been testing the new Yamaha R1 in endurance trim at the Misano circuit on several occasions in recent months. Whether this is part of preparations for Suzuka is unknown, as those tests have been private.
Press releases from the series organizers and some of the teams after Sunday's World Superbike and World Supersport races at Donington Park:
World Superbike race two would also be mercifully dry, letting the racing take place without interruption.
World Supersport was held over twenty dry laps and did not disappoint.
As the weather threatened to make things the wrong kind of interesting, the riders lined up for 23 laps around the historic British circuit.
Qualifying for the races at Donington Park had a favourite turn up with cracked ribs, a team rivalry coming to boil, a handful of fast wild cards on 600s and the home race for almost every man who has stood on the Superbike podium this year. The short track, a fast and sweeping vintage racetrack leading to a chicane followed by a brace of hairpins, was the site of the first ever World Superbike and, after missing a few years due to a failed improvement, it is once more the regular UK round.
Press releases from the teams and series organizers after qualifying at Donington Park:
World Supersport qualifying took place in 16°C English weather and the session was peppered with a handful of crashes but no injuries.
Superpole One opened early in a typical English holiday weekend; overcast, cold and a little bit breezy.
Kenan Sofuoglu heads the session as wildcard Kyle Ryde goes second-quickest ahead of Lorenzo Zanetti and wildcard Luke Stapleford. Jules Cluzel was unable to beat his best time from yesterday, second quickest of the weekend, suffering from mechanical problems that held him back to fifth quickest. Third quickest wildcard Samuel Hornsey held off series regulars PJ Jacobsen and Kyle Smith with the sixth quickest time of the morning.
Just as the untimed session looked like it was going to be a Kawasaki affair, Leon Haslam posted the fastest lap of the weekend after the flag came out. Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea held off Davide Giugliano and Alex Lowes, with Chaz Davies behind, all within half a second of Haslam's time.
Press releases from the series organizers and World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the first day of practice at Donington Park:
Free Practice 3 once again took place on the Friday and Tom Sykes was quickest in the last timed session before Superpole, with the top thirteen all within a second of his time. The ten quickest all qualify for Superpole Two, while Imre Toth and Gabor Rizmayer miss out on Superpole one as Santiago Barragan's FP2 time was quick enough to get him past the Toth bikes.
Qualifying this close on a track this quick should ensure an entertaining Superpole.