Smith “feeling pressure” ahead of Suzuka 8 Hours debut
Tech 3 Yamaha rider Bradley Smith admits he is feeling under pressure to perform ahead of his debut in the Suzuka 8 Hours this weekend.
The Briton will share the Japanese manufacturer's first full works entry in the event since 2002 with MotoGP teammate Pol Espargaro and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
Ahead of a race that is thought likely to have a bearing on Tech 3's rider line-up in MotoGP for next season, Smith says the pressure is on as he and his teammates chase Yamaha's first Suzuka 8 Hours victory since 1996, when Colin Edwards and Noriyuki Haga took honours.
"It's a big honour to be considered for the factory Yamaha team, I know this is a very important race for Yamaha especially in their sixtieth anniversary in racing," said the 24-year-old in an interview with tyre supplier Bridgestone.
"Also with the new Yamaha R1 being launched at the beginning of this year, I feel both honoured to take part but also a little bit of pressure to perform."
"Yes, there is a lot of expectation, but we know the job we need to do and Yamaha have given me Pol and Nakasuga a fantastic package.
"Nakasuga-san has taught us a lot as he helped to develop the bike and has the most experience at Suzuka so yes, we expect the pressure but all of us want to win and bring the trophy back to Yamaha Motor Corporation."
Stoner's Honda the bike to beat
Espargaro meanwhile has singled out defending champion squad HARC-Pro Honda, which boasts two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner in its rider line-up, as the team to beat in the prestigious endurance event.
"For sure the HARC-Pro Honda team will be hard to beat as they have factory support from Honda, they won the last two years and this year they have some great riders," said Espargaro.
"We are keeping a close eye on them, but we have to believe in our own bike, team and motivation and believe that we can beat them.
"It will be a big challenge as this is a new race for me and Bradley but we will do everything we can to win this race for Yamaha."
Smith and Espargaro to contest Suzuka 8 Hours
Espargaro scorches to Suzuka 8 Hours pole for Yamaha