Josh Hook’s latest Japanese Superbike encounter was at Sugo last weekend for the annual 120 Mile Endurance race.
An important lead-up event to the Suzuka 8 Hour, the 2015 edition of the Sugo Superbike 120 Mile Endurance Race was dominated by 33-year-old Katsuyuki Nakasuga onboard a Factory Yamaha YZF-R1. Nakasuga’s fastest lap of the race, a 1m27.20, set a new lap record at the 3.74km circuit. If that name sounds familiar it might be memories of the 2012 Valencia MotoGP finale where the then 31-year-old stood in for Ben Spies, took a gamble on slick tyres in damp conditions, and went on to score a surprise second place behind Dani Pedrosa.
Only three other riders managed to dip into the 1m27s at Sugo over the course of the 194km race distance.
While Josh Hook’s 1m29.627s best was 2.4-seconds slower than Nakasuga, the 22-year-old’s consistency over the course of the 52-lap race distance saw Hook claim a highly creditable fourth outright, 23-seconds behind the R1 pairing of Kota Nozane and Takuya Fujita. That result even more impressive considering the Taree (NSW) rider dislocated his shoulder in a practice crash on Friday.
We spoke to the 22-year-old about the weekend just gone, and what the immediate future has in store for the FCC TSR Honda rider, which, of course, is the upcoming Suzuka 8 Hour late this month.
“Sugo was a really difficult weekend for us, although I did get my best result of the season so far. We had a very successful test in Sugo a week prior to the race, where I found a really good feeling with the bike and we made some steps in the right direction.
“In the early stages of FP1, I had a strange crash on entry into turn 7, which put me into hospital with a dislocated shoulder along with the associated muscle and tissue damage. I was released Friday night and cleared to ride, if the pain was bearable.
“We had a one-hour qualifying session on Saturday which was wet, the physiotherapist strapped my shoulder, and I went out and qualified 15th. I didn’treally want to push in the wet qualifying session, we have the Suzuka 8 Hour at the end of July, that’s the most important race for us.
“For the 52-lap race distance our strategy was for a first stint of 27 laps, change fuel only and not tyres, then run the 25 laps to the finish. (Rider and tyres changes are allowed but Hook ran solo on a single set of tyres for the 194km race)
“We got a great start, the race played into my hands a little, with the start being dry but then after 13-15 laps some the rain came, slowing a lot of riders down and a few riders going down. Then with some more rain towards the end of the race we managed to make up a lot of time.
“My shoulder was obviously quite painful, but it really started to hurt with about 15 laps to go, by that stage the drugs had worn off.
“We managed to finish fourth which was such a great achievement for myself and the team considering the position we were in. Our best result so far this season.
“A huge thanks to F.C.C. TSR for there professionalism. I have the best team around me, these longer races with difficult decisions is where their expertise really helps achieve a good result.”
What have you had to work on in order to adapt to the Japanese competition?
“I have had to change the way I ride the bike a little, in order to get the best out of the Bridgestone tyre. The Bridgestone carcass is very stiff, the more load you put through the tyre the more grip you have. Our Chassis is very rigid, which enables us to put the load we needthrough the tyre to find grip. This has been the hardest thing for me to get my head around.”
Is the Fireblade competitive on power?
“Yes for sure. Our machine is a factory bike, the regulations in the All Japan Championship allow you to do a lot with the bike, engine, chassic, electronics etc. can all be changed. With the rules the way they are HRC can get the most out of the Honda CBR1000RR and it is an extremely competitive motorcycle.”
Thoughts on your team line-up for your tilt at the Suzuka 8 Hour?
“I am excited to work with both Domi (Dominique Aegerter – Swiss – 24 – currently riding Moto2) and Kyle (Kyle Smith – British – 22 currently riding for Pata Honda in World Supersport). Both riders are world class and well capable, Domi finished 3rd at the 8hour last year, he has experience and that is very important. I haven’t met Kyle at this stage, but I will soon when we have the official test on the 6th-7th, and 15th-16th July, so I’m looking forward to that.”
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