Takaaki Nakagami put a fifth place in qualifying for the 40th running of the Suzuka 8 Hours race down to elements of bad luck, as well as some mistakes on his flying lap, as he seeks to suitably impress Honda bosses in Sunday's big event.

The Moto2 rider posted a fastest time of 2m 6.671s to put his MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda CBR 1000RR SP2 fifth on the time sheets, less than a tenth behind Dominique Aegerter, riding for leading HRC entry FCC TSR Honda.

Had it not been for a handful of mistakes throughout his flying lap, Nakagami believes the time, which was 0.6s off Katsuyuki Nakasuga's pole position lap, would have been even better.

Furthermore, his lack of experience on Bridgestone's qualifying rubber didn't help, as the Japanese rider sampled the softer rubber only for the first time at the beginning of the qualifying shootout.

"This was my first Top Ten Trial," said Nakagami, who is hopeful of securing a MotoGP deal for 2018 in the near future. "But I had a string of bad luck to here, and couldn't test the qualifying tyres beforehand. It was my first time on the tyres, but the bike's balance was good, so my lap time was reasonable.

"The bike feels great. I made mistakes in sector two and the last chicane, and lost some time, which was disappointing. But being able to ride alone on the track in front of so many fans is rare, and it was fun, and it was a great experience. I hope I'll race well tomorrow."

Team-mate Takumi Takahashi's personal best lap of the day was just three thousandths of a second slower than that posted by team-mate and countryman Nakagami.

"I'm in the Top Ten Trial each year, but I'm not too good on the soft qualifying tyres, so I don't consider myself to be good with time attacks. That's why I approached the Top Ten Trial on race tyres.

"I still managed a 2m 6.6 s lap on the harder tires, learning that this package can do 2m 6s laps, which gives me a bit of confidence. I think today was a good day in leading up to the race.

"The weather is a bit unstable this week, so I don't know what it will be like for the race, but we're well prepared, so we'll do our jobs right, and give our best performance as a team."

Jack Miller, the only MotoGP rider present at this year's prestigious event is the third MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda rider, but did not run today, as only two riders from each team can compete in Saturday's qualifying shootout.

By Neil Morrison

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