Josh Hook 6th in MFJ All Japan Road Race Superbike opener
By Trevor Hedge
The opening round of the 2015 All Japan Superbike Championship was staged at Suzuka last weekend and there were two Australian Honda riders on the 55-strong Superbike category entry list. Josh Hook, who will ride full-time in the 2015 MFJ All Japan Road Race Championship Series for the FCC TSR squad, and Troy Herfoss, making a one-off appearance with the RT Sakurai squad as preparatin for the Suzuka 8 Hour.
Due to such a large Superbike entry list qualifying had to be split in to A and B groups. Topping the timesheets was Suzuki’s Tsuda Takuya with a 2m06.103 ahead of Kawasaki’s Kazuki Watanabe (2m06.181), Honda’s Takahashi Takumi (2m06.494), while Katsuyuki Nakasuga made it four different manufacturers in the top four with a 2m07.043 on the new Yamaha YZF-R1.
Josh Hook qualified tenth with a 2m08.407 and Troy Herfoss 15th with a 2m09.812.
Some rain fell during morning warm-up but eased before the 20-lap, 116km, race got underway on Sunday afternoon.
Tsuda capitalised on his pole position by scoring the holeshot ahead of Watanabe and headed the 44-rider field through turn one.
Watanabe soon took the lead before Tsuda reasserted his position at the front of the field on lap three only for Watanabe to come right back past him at the next turn as Kagayama fell at Degner Curve and went out of the race.
Tsuda went on to eke out a gap over his pursuers, his fastest lap a 2m07.049 at half race distance. Nakasuga did not give up the chase however and pursued his Suzuki foe doggedly but it was to no avail as Tusda went on to take victory over Nakasuga by 2.3-seconds.
Kawasaki’s Kazuki Watanabe rounded out the podium a further 6.4-seconds behind Nakasuga.
The first Honda home was the MuSashi RT entry piloted to fourth place by Takahashi Takumi while Josh Hook finished a highly creditable sixth place on the FCC TSR Fireblade.
The target set for Josh Hook by the FCC TSR Team for this opening round of the series was to be able to set 2m07s lap times around Suzuka. Hook met this target with a 2m07.707 fastest lap of the race. This is the pace he will be expected to set during the Suzuka 8 Hours, which is the real target for Hook and his team this year.
Josh Hook – “We had a great weekend, the result was a lot better then we were expecting, throughout our pre season testing and practice/qualifying at round one we have been averaging around 10th fastest. It’s been difficult to get my head around this high-spec machine and obviously the Bridgestone tyre is a lot better the anything I have ever been on before, so there are quite a few things I have to learn in a short time.
“I have had to change my riding style a little to get the most out of the bike and tyre, but we have been making big improvements and moving forward every session, and I have to thank my team for that, they are trying absolutely everything to achieve the goal and we are both happy with the progress.
“Come the race, I got a really good start up to 5th, but didn’t have the pace in the opening laps. I have been struggling to get the most out of a new tyre, once the grip goes away a little thats when I’m strong.
“Lap four I think I was back in about 9th place, once I got into a good rhythm I started catching the guys in front and was lapping quite a bit faster then them.
“By the last lap (lap 20) I had caught the riders running sixth and seventh. I hung it all out and passed the seventh placed rider into Degner 1, and then the sixth placed rider into the last corner.
“Overall 6th place was a massive achievement for me, considering we haven’t been so strong leading into the race. The team had a target time to break into the 7 second bracket and in the race I did a few 2:07.7. So I am happy with the result.
“Round two is this weekend at AutoPolis, it’s a circuit I don’t know quite as well as Suzuka, but I am looking forward to getting back on the bike and picking up where we left off.”
Troy Herfoss didn’t fare quite as well on the weekend but as for Hook, his focus is Suzuka 8 Hour preparation.
“It was a testing weekend as far as trying to be competitive in that particular race, but our focus is to have a better bike for the 8hr in July. We are definitely moving forward for the 8hr.
“We worked on a long lasting front end problem with the Sakurai bike from previous years. We improved it in other areas but we will be looking for some big improvements next outing.
“Qualifying 15th is never fun but we got the bike down into the 2m09s which was nice. The race really never got going for me. I got away with a good bunch in around 8th and done my best, once the rear grip went, around lap 9 or 10, I began to struggle with our front end chatter, from there we weren’t racing but just surviving.
“In the end I’m not happy with the result because I believe I can fight towards the front. Looking at the big picture, it’s an endurance bike and that’s our focus so I expect to be better at the 8hr.”
1st: Tsuda Takuya – Yoshimura Suzuki Shell Advance – “Still feel is not know it because but a victory of half swing years of Tsukuba since 1, 2013, I’m glad. Was pushed to not loosen the mind that there is no choice but to go with full force until the end because Watanabe players and Nakasuka players was fast. Until last year, but I was also that it has suffered alone, this year, because Tsujimoto (Satoshi) san who joined as an advisor, communication with the team was also better. You would like to win next week’s race in this vein, but because it does not expect to go so easily, and faces to cycle the fighting spirit “
2nd: Katsuyuki Nakasuga – Yamaha Factory Racing Team – “is mortifying is “not win it because it was aimed at the opening debut win of YZF-R1 with a full model change. However, there was the response that go if me finished because it does not together is still machine. It is was fast is Tsuda players this time. I was came also visible direction of the machine set to run the race, next week, I want to be able to compete and finish the bike. “
3rd: Kazuki Watanabe – TeamGREEN – “But says every time you go up to the “podium, this time It is mortifying to was good of tune from the pre-test. In the race, among which there is a grip of the tires, it was felt that since I’ve Hashire a good pace was not good the machine of state from becoming sauce, there is still not enough part. This year, the third year, consider the positive is that it was on the podium in the very first race since become really is important season. In more finish the bike, and the run is also high from the first day of the level next week, I want to win what Autopolis “
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