"Nervous" Jacobsen "thrown in the deep end" at Suzuka
World Superbike rider PJ Jacobsen has admitted that he was “nervous” after being thrown “into the deep end” by Honda on his first factory outing in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Jacobsen was originally supposed to ride for the HARC-Pro team in last weekend's Japanese classic, but was promoted to the factory HRC team at the last moment after Leon Camier was ruled out due to an injury.
In the race itself, Jacobsen was not handed the bike until the sixth hour and faced the daunting task of keeping the #33 factory Honda in the lead on a damp-but-drying circuit.
With little knowledge of the conditions compared to Yamaha rider Michael van der Mark, who had ridden for nearly half the race until that point, the American struggled for pace and dropped to a distant second position.
Jacobsen and teammates Takaaki Nakagami and Takumi Takahashi ultimately finished 30 seconds down on the victorious Yamaha shared by van der Mark, Alex Lowes and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
“Yeah, pretty difficult to be honest," recalled Jacobsen. "Just like not testing the bike in the wet, going to an unknown place I was kind of thrown into the deep end.
“Also I was a bit nervous as well racing for a factory team like HRC. A lot of things were playing in my head.
"I wasn’t too comfortable in my session, it could have been a lot better, I was a bit nervous and not riding my full potential I think.
“As usual I like wet conditions, [but] I was in unknown territory with the bike and the track. But yeah I was just happy to bring the bike back to the pitbox and have it ready to go for Taka [Nakagami].
“We all could have done a bit better but they did a great job as teammates, they did an awesome job and I can thank HRC, Red Bull Japan for giving me the opportunity to race on this team."
Nakagami said Honda was a lot stronger in 2018 after making a factory return to the Japanese endurance classic, but insists the manufacturer needs to make further progress if it is to end Yamaha's four-year winning streak in the future.
"Last weekend in Suzuka 8 Hours was… we got a podium in second, we gave our best, this is what I can say," he said.
"We are a little bit disappointed we could not beat Yamaha again, but for me it was a very nice experience again and I think we improve but still we cannot win, so for the next season, next chance.
"I hope Honda tries to do more improvements to try one more time."
Additional reporting by Tomohiro Yoshita and Gerald Dirnbeck
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