Defending Suzuka 8 Hour champions Yamaha Factory Racing Team has started quickest on the opening day fractionally ahead of the factory Kawasaki squad.

The #21 Yamaha of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga topped the opening two practice sessions on Thursday, producing its fastest lap time in the second session with a 2m 07.213s, to set the standard against its factory rivals.

Suzuka 8 Hours - Alex Lowes Video Diary #1

The #11 Kawasaki Team Green of Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Kazumi Watanabe closed to within one tenth of the leading Yamaha squad in the final practice session, setting a timesheet-topper of 2m 07.227s, in a flash of early pace ahead of qualifying.

Team HRC rounded out the top three – albeit almost one second off in terms of single lap pace – with PJ Jacobsen getting up to speed on the #33 having been promoted to fill in for the injured Leon Camier alongside Takaaki Nakagami and Takumi Takahashi.

Customer Honda squads completed the top five with the #634 MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda edging out the #90 Teluru Moto Up outfit with factory Yoshimura Suzuki in sixth.

Endurnace World Championship leaders #5 FCC TSR Honda were the highest-placed contenders of the regular series runners in seventh with title rivals #94 GMT Yamaha in 15th place.