28 July 2014
de Puniet, Aegerter podium on Suzuka debut
Suzuki MotoGP test rider Randy de Puniet and Moto2 star Dominique Aegerter claim podium finish in Suzuka 8 Hours debut - Broc Parkes fourth, early disappointment for Kevin Schwantz.
Randy de Puniet's chances of securing a Suzuki MotoGP seat for 2015 may be doubt, given rumours of an Aleix Espargaro/Maverick Vinales line-up, but the Frenchman provided a timely reminder of his talents with a second place finish as part of the Yoshimura Suzuki team in Sunday's Suzuka 8 Hours.
de Puniet, who halted a 15-year grand prix career to concentrate on Suzuki test riding duties this season, wants a return to racing in 2015 and did his chances no harm with the runner-up result in the prestigious Japanese endurance race.
Riding alongside BSB star Josh Waters and local ace Takuya Tsuda, de Puniet took over the team's GSX-R on lap 76 of 172.
The Frenchman got up into second position - putting in the fastest lap of the race to that point of 2m 9.426s as the conditions dried again - but the following laps saw the Safety Car out following crashes; including early leaders TSR Honda, allowing the pack to bunch-up again.
The closing stages also saw more drama with crashes and Safety Car situations - one lasting 18 minutes - then as Waters took his last stint on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R as night fell, there was an issue with the headlight not working; which would have caused the team to be excluded.
However crisis was averted as the headlight finally switched on and Waters tried his hardest to hunt-down race leaders Musashi Harc-Pro in the final laps, but the gap at the flag was 59.844 seconds.
“It was really difficult conditions today; but this is my first time racing at the Suzuka 8-Hours and it's been a very good experience,” said de Puniet. “My team-mates and the Yoshimura team staff all did their best and kept the battle going until the finish line. It is really a precious experience for me and I hope to be back here next year to race again.”
de Puniet's next race outing is expected to be on the new Suzuki grand prix prototype, as a wild-card entry in the Valencia season finale.
Full-time Moto2 rider Aegerter - enjoying a breakthrough season in grand prix, plus a MotoGP debut with Avintia at the Barcelona post-race test - also claimed a debut Suzuka podium courtesy of third place with Team Kagayama.
Riding alongside former grand prix riders Yukio Kagayama and Noriyuki Haga, Aegerter's team finished one lap down, but comfortably ahead of the fourth place Monster Energy Yamaha team that included Broc Parkes, the only current full time MotoGP rider at the event.
“This is my first race at Suzuka and I have learnt a lot,” said Aegerter, who arrived at Suzuka fresh from his first Moto2 pole and victory in Germany. “Despite the delay, wet conditions, dry conditions, pits stops; it all good experience for me and I hope I can come back again to ride with the team.”
Team Kagayama (Dunlop) were the only non-Bridgestone team to finish in the top seven.
1993 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz, who came out of retirement to claim a shock Suzuka podium last season, had an event to forget - Legend of Yoshimura team-mate Nobuatsu Aoki (de Puniet's fellow Suzuki development rider) crashing out early while trying to make a pass for second place.
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