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Espargaro, Smith and Nakasuga discuss Suzuka 8 Hours

Espargaro, Smith and Nakasuga discuss Suzuka 8 Hours

Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga get together to discuss their chances at this year’s iconic endurance race.

As the three enter the interview room the mood instantly lightens. The man behind this sudden change is Pol Espargaro. Mixing Japanese greetings with jokes, mood-maker Espargaro soon enlivens the place. Even the ever-serious Bradley Smith and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, his teammates, can’t help but smile and laugh.

“If you think about it, these guys are almost 10 years younger than me!” Nakasuga quips.
Holding five premier-class titles in the All Japan Road Race Championship and currently trying for an unprecedented four in a row, Nakasuga is 33 years old. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP™ duo are both 24 years old.

“But I can’t feel the age difference at all,” Nakasuga grins. “I plan on remaining 18 years old forever.” Though normally exuding the tough personality of a Japanese veteran of the sport, when surrounded by the likes of Espargaro and Smith, he seems young again and enjoys their company.

However, youth is not the only cause of the team’s energetic mood. This being the first Suzuka 8 Hours event for Espargaro and Smith, it’s something the two have long looked forward to. Now that they’ve entered the buildup to the actual race, they’re so excited that they can barely contain it. “When I heard that I would be able to enter the 8 Hours, my older brother [MotoGP™ rider Aleix Espargaro] was really jealous! He’s always wanted to participate in this event,” Espargaro boasts.

Smith is equally passionate. “Several of my rider friends have competed in the 8 Hours before. They told me ‘A lot of fans come out to the circuit and it makes for a great atmosphere. The 8 Hours is awesome!’ After two years as a Yamaha rider, I begged them to let me enter and this year, my dream came true. It was a really special feeling when I was finally able to lap Suzuka Circuit for the first time.”

The potential of the all-new YZF-R1 that they will compete on is also raising expectations. For All Japan Road Race Championship title contender Nakasuga, “The potential is clearly high already, based on the results of the All Japan races so far. It’s still a new bike and an endurance race of this length this is uncharted territory, but I feel very confident that this machine can run in a good position.”
“It’s just like riding a MotoGP machine!” Espargaro says excitedly. “You can enter the corner so fast and with a lot of confidence in the front. The bike’s reliable character comes straight from the YZR-M1. The quickness of its handling is especially great. At Suzuka there are some very tight chicanes that require a fast change of direction, and the R1 does this really well.”

Smith was also impressed by the YZF-R1. “Part of the test was done in wet conditions, but I was able to ride with a lot of confidence. The R1’s electronics have a lot in common with the YZR-M1 MotoGP machine, so the feeling of the traction control is very similar. Thanks to that, my confidence was high right from the start.”

The highly anticipated Suzuka 8 Hours and the YZF-R1’s strong potential are not the only things motivating the riders. Also contributing to that is the team’s atmosphere. The team consists of staff with All Japan Road Race Championship experience, an All Japan Champion for a rider and two MotoGP riders; it is a formidable partnership.

“I’ve worked together with Pol and Bradley before in the MotoGP tests, so I know them well and I know what they require from their machines. In the Suzuka 8 Hours tests so far, they’ve gotten up to speed and have been able to set fast laps in a very short amount of time. MotoGP riders are really on another level,” Nakasuga remarks. But Espargaro quickly chimes in with praise for the Japanese ace. “No no, Nakasuga’s speed through the chicane is unbelievable! I was really surprised. He has more knowledge of the R1 than anybody, but more importantly he’s a champion! He’s like a teacher to us. Having him on the team is a big help and I’m really thankful.” Smith’s comments are much the same.

MotoGP, 2015, Bradley Smith, Pol Espargaro, Monster Yamaha Tech 3

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