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YART Yamaha Set to Start Suzuka 8 Hours from Third

YART Yamaha Set to Start Suzuka 8 Hours from Third

The Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team will begin the 43rd edition of the Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race from third after a strong performance in a revised Top 10 qualifying session on Saturday in Japan.

The Austrian squad of Niccolò Canepa, Marvin Fritz, and Karel Hanika ended Friday’s rain-affected qualifying sessions at Round 3 of the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) in second and got off to a great start on Saturday as they backed up that pace in the final Free Practice session by setting a 2:06.888 to finish in second.

Due to safety issues, the normal Top 10 Trial format at Suzuka - where two riders from each team are selected to take to the track one at a time and their average lap time decides the final grid spots - was swapped for a more conventional 40-minute session featuring the fastest ten teams from Friday’s combined qualifying sessions.

The format change meant that all three YART riders could set a lap as they continued to spearhead the Yamaha attack against their championship rivals and factory teams, with only the fastest time counting towards the final result. In the EWC, five championship points are available during qualifying, so the session took on even more importance in the overcast but hot and humid conditions at Suzuka.

Canepa was the first out after setting the fastest time on Friday (2:05.863), and the Italian rider immediately showed he meant business by recording a 2:05.981 on his first flying lap. He was going even quicker on his next lap but had to pit for fuel, and a small mistake on his second run meant he could not improve.

Handing the Bridgestone-shod YART Yamaha R1 over to his teammate Fritz, the German rider improved the team’s time to a 2:05.776 on his first attempt to record his personal best lap around the iconic 5.821km Suzuka Circuit. After another pit stop, it was time for Hanika to take to the track, looking to prove a point following the disruption of both of his qualifying sessions on Friday due to rain.

The 26-year-old had to adapt quickly to the change in format, as he was not due to ride during the Top 10 Trial and therefore had not gone out to do a lap in the Free Practice session. Despite this, the Czech rider used the chance to show his true pace to improve the team’s time even more by setting a 2:05.769, a new fastest-ever lap for a Yamaha in EWC at Suzuka. This was good enough to secure third on the timesheets, 0.835s off pole position and meant YART finished as the leading full-time EWC team, only behind the two factory squads, securing three vital championship points in the process.

Having shown incredibly consistent pace all week, whether during the day or at night, in wet or dry conditions, the Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team head into Sunday’s 8-hour race full of confidence that they can take the fight to the factory teams and attempt to close the now 27-point gap to the leaders in the EWC overall standings. The action on Sunday kicks off at 8:30 am local time (UTC+9) before the legendary endurance race begins with the traditional Le Mans running start at 11:30 am.

Karel Hanika - P3 (2:05.769)

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“Today was incredible! It was a tough day for me yesterday after what happened during qualifying. I would not have been riding today in the Top 10 Trial, but the format change meant I had a second chance. We made a plan that we would each do two laps, and Niccolò, who was the quickest yesterday, would get another two laps at the end. I had to adjust quickly when they announced the format change, as I was not supposed to be riding, and I didn’t do a lap in the Free Practice session this morning. It was not easy to get up to speed quickly, and I made a few small mistakes, but in the end, it was still enough to set the fastest-ever lap for Yamaha at Suzuka. We know our potential is higher as our ideal lap time was a lot quicker, but for each of us to set our best times within one-tenth of each other over the last two days is remarkable. Everything is working really well with the YART Yamaha R1, now, we need to be a bit lucky during the race, make the right decisions, and we can fight at the front. We have more EWC experience than the factory teams, so we are confident and can't wait for the race tomorrow.”

Marvin Fritz - P3 (2:05.776)

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“Today was a really good day! We were the only team with all three riders breaking into the 2:05s, which shows we have great pace and consistency. It is incredible when you think that all three riders have set times this week quicker than Yamaha had ever been around Suzuka in the past, even with the factory team. Thank you to all of the team for doing an amazing job and my teammates for being so quick. We have good pace in the dry, and we were also the fastest during the wet Night Practice on Friday, so I think we are ready for the race, whatever the weather throws at us. Our target is to get on the podium, but we will just focus on ourselves and see where we finish at the end of the 8 hours.”

Niccolò Canepa – P3 (2:05.981)

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team

“We are incredibly happy about securing third in qualifying because all three riders were in the 2:05s. Honestly, this was our target, so we are delighted to have achieved it. I am pleased with my time. I could have gone even quicker, but I ran out of fuel towards the end of my first stint and then made a small mistake on my second attempt. My teammates were superb, and it shows how strong we are as a team that we all managed laps in the 2:05s. The YART Yamaha R1 is working so well here at Suzuka; we are full of confidence heading into the race. Thanks to all of the team and my teammates for their hard work.”

Mandy Kainz

Yamalube YART Yamaha Official EWC Team – Team Manager

“Today, we saw what teamwork is all about. All three riders lapped in the 2:05s, and we were only behind the two factory teams. Considering the resources we have at our disposal, this is a superb result, and we managed to achieve our target. We have shown this week that we are fast in all conditions, and the team have worked superbly to prepare the bike in the best possible way. We head into tomorrow’s race confident we can fight with the factory teams and looking to close the gap to our full-time rivals in the EWC championship. Anything can happen in endurance racing, but we have put ourselves in a great position for the race.”