Alex Lowes described himself as 'really happy' with Friday afternoon's qualifying sessions at the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour, as the Englishman posted the quickest time of the day and worked diligently on race pace throughout.

Responding to a time set by team-mate Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Lowes went on to record an eye-catching 2m 6.405s lap in the morning qualifying session to lay down an early marker ahead of Sunday's race.

What was of particular pleasure for the World Superbike man was that his quickest lap came when using race rubber, which goes some way to demonstrating his adeptness in racing conditions.

"I'm really happy with today," said Lowes on Friday. "I did a 2.06.4 on the same tyres that we will be using for the race so that's very positive. It's also the first time that I've done a 2m 06s around here.

"Today was difficult in the morning because there were some damp patches but the bike is really good here. I think that all three of us are doing a really good job so far this weekend and that's the most important thing.

"It's great to set a fast time like today and I'm pleased with how I'm riding the bike in an 8 hour race it's not about your pace on one lap, it's about winning across the 8 hours and that's what we're focused on."

The Yamaha Factory Racing Team topped the time sheets by four tenths of a second, thanks to the average of its three riders - Lowes, Nakasuga and Michael van der Mark - bettering Yoshimura Suzuki, the next fastest entry, by four tenths of a second.

Dutchman van der Mark found the morning session more difficult, as he struggled to find clear tarmac around the congested Suzuka layout. His quickest time was 1.5s slower than Lowes' best on old tyres, but he feels more than confident with race pace.

"It's been a really good day," he said. "I think this morning was a bit difficult with the weather conditions. We went out and it wasn't completely dry but we had quite a good pace anyway. It was a bit tricky but good to get some laps done. In qualifying Nakasuga-san and Alex made some really fast laps and did a really good job.

"I had to use their old tyres for my first run and halfway through the session was a red flag. After that I tried to push through the traffic, I didn't do my best lap but I was consistent which is what is important. At the end I'm really happy and consistent with the used tyres; that is really important in endurance racing. The team did great today."

By Neil Morrison


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