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Honda’s Nagashima “relieved” after dominant Suzuka win

Honda rider Testuta Nagashima says his main feeling was of relief after helping the marque to a dominant second consecutive victory in the Suzuka 8 Hours.

Xavi Vierge, Tetsuta Nagashima, Takumi Takahashi, #33 Team HRC with Japan Post

Photo by: Motorsport.com / Japan

In the absence of factory opposition from Honda’s fellow Japanese manufacturers, Nagashima, Takumi Takahashi and Xavi Vierge dominated the 44th running of the Japanese endurance classic aboard their #33 Honda CBR1000RR-R.

Honda made a late change to the rider line-up for its title defence as Nagashima, who was initially sidelined due to a foot injury, was reinstated into the line-up in place of Iker Lecuona.

Nagashima and Vierge secured pole position in Saturday’s Top 10 Trials, and after their nearest challengers, the YART Yamaha squad, suffered mechanical troubles in the second hour, the way was clear for Honda’s factory team to take victory.

A little over after halfway, the HRC squad had put a lap on the field, and survived a safety car period in the sixth hour with its advantage still intact. The team beat the second-placed Toho Racing Honda by a lap at the finish.

Speaking post-race, Nagashima admitted he felt more pressure than he did last year in his maiden Suzuka appearance after being given the late call-up to replace Lecuona, who instead contested the clashing MotoGP race at Silverstone.

Team HRC

Team HRC

Photo by: Kusudo Aki

“Honestly, my biggest feeling right now is just relief,” said Nagashima. “I wasn’t sure I would be able to ride properly or not, but I knew I wanted to ride no matter what state I was in with my injury. 

“I was confident I could run at a good pace if I was allowed to ride, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t look good if I wasn’t able to, and if we didn’t win I would be in trouble. 

“Finally we were able to stand on the top step of the podium again, so I want to thank everyone at HRC.

“Last year was my first time, and I didn’t have to think about anything. Takumi and the team helped me along. But this year I was injured, I had to think about being able to compete, and because I was able to race, I had no choice but to get the result.”

Takahashi meanwhile scored his fifth Suzuka win to tie the all-time record of another Honda rider, Tohru Ukawa, and admitted to having similar feelings to Nagashima.

“In my last stint it started to rain, and I was thinking, ‘are you kidding me?’” said Takahashi.  “It looked like the pace was too slow, but I was determined not to crash, 

“I just wanted to ride taking the absolute minimum of risk and hand over the baton, so for that reason I’m relieved.

“‘Tetsu’ [Nagashima] and Xavi rode at a great pace, so I think that is what led to the result. I’m really grateful to them and everyone in the team.”

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