World Superbike racer Ryuichi Kiyonari has taken responsibility for Honda qualifying behind chief rivals Yamaha and Kawasaki in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Kiyonari’s quickest lap of 2m07.995s was over 1.7s off the pace of Takumi Takahashi and seven tenths down on Stefan Bradl.
That left the #33 factory Fireblade with an average time of 2m07.106s, nearly half a second slower than the pole-sitting #11 Yamaha of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
After the Top 10 Trials session on Saturday was cancelled due to heavy rain, Kiyonari confessed he felt his performance cost Honda a strong chance to take pole position.
“It’s unfortunate we’re not able to do the Top 10 trial today,” Kiyonari said in the post-qualifying press conference. “Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway because yesterday I messed up, so I feel really sorry.
“The reason why we’re only third is probably because of my performance yesterday. So I apologise for that. But our pace is really good, so looking forward to having good pace in the race.”
Honda dominated testing and practice in the run-up to this year’s event, before Yamaha and Kawasaki surged ahead in qualifying and locked out the front two spots.
However, Honda MotoGP tester Bradl is confident about his team’s pace as it aims to end Yamaha’s four-year winning streak in the Japanese endurance classic.
‘It’s gonna be a really tough race physically and also mentally, a new experience for me, I will try to follow my teammates as much as I can and learn from them,” he said.
“We were a bit unfortunate yesterday with red flags, Takumi was stopped on his fast lap and I did as well. Anyway I think the pace is not so bad and we are ready to fight.”
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