Suzuka 8 Hours: Yamaha in control at halfway mark
Yamaha Factory Racing leads the 2017 Suzuka 8 Hours by a lap at the halfway point after an early challenge from the HARC-Pro Honda squad subsided in the third hour.
It was Kawasaki which led the field at the start, with Leon Haslam sprinting from third to first on the #11 ZX-10R.
However, Haslam was passed by HARC-Pro’s Takumi Takahashi and the pole-sitting #21 Yamaha of Katsuyuki Nakasuga in quick succession in the first 15 minutes of the race, dropping back to third position.
The three riders initially ran nose-to-tail, before Takahashi and Nakasuga began to break away to give rise to a thrilling duel.
The Japanese duo traded positions almost every lap, with the battle between the Honda and Yamaha outfits resuming after the first round of pitstops at the one-hour mark.
MotoGP ace Jack Miller took over the reins of the HARC-Pro Honda, while former British Superbike champion Alex Lowes replaced Nakasuga on the #21 Yamaha.
After an early tussle, Lowes made a decisive move over Miller in the Esses section and then went on to establish a comfortable buffer at the front of the pack.
About an hour later Takaaki Nakagami, who had taken over from Miller at the second stop, crashed away from the TV cameras, damaging the #634 CBR1000RR SP2 in the process.
The Moto2 race winner had to bring back the bike for a change of headlamp, with the time lost in the pits dropping the outfit down to fourth.
HARC-Pro’s troubles left an empty track behind Yamaha, with Michael van der Mark leading by a lap at the four-hour mark.
The #5 FCC TSR Honda of Dominique Aegerter, Randy de Puniet and Josh Hook hold second place over the #11 Kawasaki of Haslam, Kazuma Watanabe and Azlan Shah after their own duel in the fourth hour.
The #7 YART Yamaha trio of Broc Parkes, Kohta Nazane and Marvin Fritz are running fifth, some way behind the HARC-Pro machine.
Suzuka 8 Hours: Yamaha scores third straight pole
Suzuka 8 Hours: Yamaha dominates 2017 edition