Valentino Rossi Not in the Suzuka 8 Hours Team, Yamaha Chooses Nakasuga, Smith and Espargaro

Yamaha R1 at the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2014 1 photo
Yamaha Factory Racing made public the names of the three riders who will take their best shot at road racing glory at Suzuka this year, in the Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race. It looks like the rumors of having Valentino Rossi as part of the three-rider outfit were, well, only rumors.
The house of Iwata will employ the services of Katsuyuki Nakasuga, a rider with a long relationship with Yamaha, and who is also a development rider for the MotoGP project. Nakasuga will have the Tech3 Yamaha premier class riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith as teammates.

Unlike the two MotoGP riders, for whom 2015 will be the debut in the Suzuka 8 Hour race, Nakasuga is almost a veteran. This year's race will be his 8th entry, while previous editions saw him finish in the 8th position in 2013, and fourth last year.

The first time since 2002 when Yamaha fields a full-factory team

It's been thirteen years since Yamaha last fielded a full factory team in the Suzuka event. Moreover, Iwata has not won over the past 19 years at Suzuka, but still has four victories to their name since the event was first held.

The three riders will use the all-new YZF-R1, a bike that received a hefty tuning and preparation work to make it withstand the rigors of such a grueling race.

We recently saw how vile the YZF-R1M can be against a Nissan R35 GT-R, but we must not forget that Yamaha is not battling cars here, and the competition is not to be taken lightly. Below is what the three have to say before the race that will be held at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture from July 23 to 26, 2015.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga

“This season I am serving as a factory rider for the first time in an attempt to be the first rider ever to win four consecutive titles in the premier class of the All Japan Road Race Championship, while using the new YZF-R1. Now I am very glad that I am being given another new challenge of competing on the factory team in the Suzuka 8 Hours, which I am excited about like never before.

I am also looking forward to competing together with two such outstanding riders as [Pol] Espargarò and [Bradley] Smith, and I feel this will be a good opportunity for me to improve my racing skills. Of course, I will be going for nothing less than the win.

I will work together with the team to show that the new YZF-R1 is the fastest machine on the track, and I will do my best to bring an experience of the greatest possible Kando* to the fans that have waited so long for the comeback of the Yamaha factory team and a Suzuka 8 Hours victory. I hope everyone will come to the circuit during race week to cheer us on.”

Bradley Smith

“Firstly, I want to give Yamaha a massive thank you for considering me to be part of their Suzuka 8 Hour team, which is a legendary event. I’m looking forward to trying a new form of motorcycle racing and even more so along with my MotoGP teammate Pol and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who has a strong record at this special race. I think it will be an unforgettable event and it will add another chapter to my life with Yamaha.

I’m also very excited to try the new Yamaha YZF-R1, which I have heard a lot about and it will be really great to finally get the opportunity to ride it. Of course, I will take this event very seriously as we are going to be part of the official Factory Team effort, so I will head to Japan with the full intention of getting a high scoring result for Yamaha.”

Pol Espargarò

“I am really happy that Yamaha has chosen me to represent them at one of the most famous motorsport events, which is the Suzuka 8 Hour race. I feel honoured to take part in it, but there will be a lot to learn. I am under no illusion that it will be easy as I have never raced in an endurance event before and I don’t know the YZF-R1, even though a lot of people speak very highly about it.

In addition, the MotoGP calendar is very demanding and we will have to work through the training for the event, in between the races. Therefore, we need to work as much as possible in order to be prepared for the race, but I’m very excited to get this opportunity. Moreover, it will be nice to work with Bradley as a partner where we will fight together, instead of against each other. I think we will complement each other very well and have a great time.

The only thing is that neither of us know the Suzuka track, so I hope Nakasuga-san can help us with everything, which includes the circuit, the bike and the correct strategies that we need to have a successful eight hour race. It will be special and we will do our best to reward the faith that Yamaha has put in us.”
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