25 May 2015
MotoGP: Smith, Espargaro team up for Yamaha at Suzuka 8 Hours
MotoGP team-mates Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro announced in the factory Yamaha line-up for the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race
MotoGP team-mates Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro have been announced as part of the factory Yamaha team line-up for this year's Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race.
Tech 3 riders Smith and Espargaro will make their respective debuts at the prestigious race alongside Japan Road Race JSB1000 champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga on a specially developed Yamaha YZF R1.
It is the first time the Japanese manufacturer has entered a factory squad for 13 years and means Smith and Espargaro will take on the likes of former double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner, who is making his motorcycle racing return as part of the Honda team.
Yamaha has won the Suzuka 8 Hours four times with its last victory back in 1996. The 38th edition of the race will be held at the Suzuka circuit on July 23-26, which slots into MotoGP's summer break, two weeks after the German Grand Prix.
Speculation had been rife as to who would contest the race for the returning factory Yamaha team, with Valentino Rossi and Factory MotoGP team-mate Jorge Lorenzo denying rumours they would form a dream team for the event.
With Rossi - who has been testing the new R1M at Misano - and Lorenzo currently first and second in the MotoGP standings, Yamaha appears to have accepted that the addition of Suzuka would be too great a risk.
Instead, the two satellite Yamaha riders are set to compete alongside the experienced Nakasuga, who has competed at Suzuka seven times before with a best result of fourth place in 2014.
Englishman Smith - currently battling LCR's Cal Crutchlow for top satellite honours in this year's MotoGP standings - says he's excited to take part in the prestigious endurance event and sees it as a new extension to his motorcycle racing career.
“I think it will be an unforgettable event and it will add another chapter to my life with Yamaha,” Smith said. I'm also very excited to try the new Yamaha YZF-R1, which I have heard a lot about and it will be really great to finally get the opportunity to ride it.
“I'm looking forward to trying a new form of motorcycle racing and even more so along with my MotoGP team-mate Pol and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who has a strong record at this special race.
“Of course, I will take this event very seriously as we are going to be part of the official factory team effort, so I will head to Japan with the full intention of getting a high scoring result for Yamaha.”
Espargaro, who faced questions about Suzuka last time at Le Mans, echoed his team-mate's sentiments and says he is well aware of the challenge ahead of him.
“I feel honoured to take part in it, but there will be a lot to learn,” Espargaro said. “I am under no illusion that it will be easy as I have never raced in an endurance event before and I don't know the YZF-R1, even though a lot of people speak very highly about it.
“The MotoGP calendar is very demanding and we will have to work through the training for the event, in between the races. Therefore, we need to work as much as possible in order to be prepared for the race, but I'm very excited to get this opportunity.
“It will be nice to work with Bradley as a partner where we will fight together, instead of against each other. I think we will complement each other very well and have a great time. The only thing is that neither of us know the Suzuka track, so I hope Nakasuga-san can help us with everything, which includes the circuit, the bike and the correct strategies that we need to have a successful eight hour race.”
Nakasuga, who is also aiming for his fourth consecutive Japan Road Race title, adds he can't wait to join up with his new team-mates.
“I am very glad that I am being given another new challenge of competing on the factory team in the Suzuka 8 Hours, which I am excited about like never before,” Nakasuga said. “I am also looking forward to competing together with two such outstanding riders as Espargarò and Smith, and I feel this will be a good opportunity for me to improve my racing skills.”
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