Bradley Ray feels his #12 Yoshimura Suzuki Motul squad can take the fight to the factory Honda efforts at the Suzuka 8 Hours but concedes fighting with the Kawasaki and Yamaha teams may prove difficult.

The British youngster is making his Suzuka 8 Hours debut this weekend alongside experienced hands Sylvain Guintoli and Takuya Tsuda for the factory Suzuki squad and has impressed the Japanese manufacturer throughout testing and qualifying.

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With his #12 Suzuki squad grabbing fifth in the top 10 shootout, Ray is content with the progress despite concerns over race pace when tyre wear comes into play towards the end of stints.

But with the #634 MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO Honda starting directly ahead of his team in fourth and the #33 Red Bull Honda with Japan Post second after qualifying, the 21-year-old is confident his team can take the fight to Honda but may struggle to match the pole-sitting Kawasaki and defending Suzuka champion Yamaha crews.

“It was good to push for the 2m 06.6s which for me was the absolute limit and there was nothing left in the tank for that,” Ray said after shaking off a crash in qualifying. “With the new tyre the bike doesn’t feel too bad but after 10 or 12 laps we start to get issues which makes it difficult to push on.

“I think the pace on the used tyre isn’t too far off the others but the Kawasaki and Yamaha are a step ahead of everyone. I think we can run a similar pace to Honda.”

Reflecting on his own maiden Suzuka experience ahead of the race, Ray feels the transition from BSB has been relatively comfortable but feels the switch back to the British series will prove trickier.

“The track compared to the UK tracks are completely different and the heat is another thing to get used to,” he said. “Also a bike with electronics, a different engine specification, a different gearbox specification and the tyres are the biggest thing to get used to.

“For me it wasn’t a big step from my BSB bike to this bike but the bigger thing will be trying to go back to Pirellis tyres with no electronics.”

Ray returns to BSB action one week after the Suzuka 8 Hours at Thruxton alongside his fellow British series rivals Leon Haslam, Tommy Bridewell, Christian Iddon, Michael Laverty, Peter Hickman and Sylvain Barrier.

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