Team HRC has established itself as the early squad to bear during this weekend’s Suzuka 8 Hours after Tetsuta Nagashima surged to the top of the timesheets in both FP1 and Q1 by a huge margin.
Making his Suzuka 8 Hours debut this weekend alongside Takumi Takahashi and ex-MotoGP rider Iker Lecuona as part of the flagship HRC entry from Honda - one of 16 teams representing the marque at its home venue - Nagashima belied his relative inexperience at the venue by looking very much at home on it.
Stopping the clock for a best of 2m 05.823s in the two-hour FP1 sessionh, Nagashima went to take almost a full second off that benchmark in Q1 with a 2m 04.942s lap set in the first of the three 20min qualifying phases, slicing a full 0.2s off the lap record in the process.
With no other rider able to get close to his best time, Nagashima - who has not raced on a high-profile stage since announcing he would be quitting Moto2 at the end of the 2020 season - would end Q1 almost a second clear over nearest rival Niccolo Canepa on the YART Yamaha R1.
With the Q1 and later Q2 session split into three phases - designated for what organisers refer to as 'Yellow', 'Blue' and 'Red' riders, aka Rider #1, #2 and #3 respectively - while the first and second 20min sessions went ahead without issue, the third was met by rain falling at one sector of the lap, preventing those going last to get anywhere near the top times.
It meant six-time WorldSBK title winning Jonathan Rea's efforts would be compromised, though Alex Lowes was still quick enough to put the Kawasaki Racing Team in third position, ahead of the domestic Astemo Honda Dream team of Terusuke Sakumoto, Kazuma Watanabe and Taiga Haneda was close behind in fourth.
SDG Honda Racing completed the top five thanks to a rapid lap by Teppei Nagoshi in the first session, relegating FCC TSR France - Honda’s nominated Endurance World Championship effort - down into sixth position.
Two more Honda teams filled out the top ten with Honda Sofukai Suzuka and Honda Dream Racing Team Sakurai ending Q1 in seventh and ninth respectively.
They sandwiched Spa 24 Hours winners BMW - the only entry in the entire field to be competing with European riders on a European motorcycle built by a European manufacturer - in eighth.
Defending EWC champions Yoshimura Suzuki Endurance Racing Team completed the top ten despite doing without its star rider Sylvain Guintoli, who skipped Q1 to rest a hand injury, while Gregg Black is a late addition to the line-up alongisde Kazuki Watanabe after Xavier Simeon was struck down by COVID.