Yamaha isn’t fielding Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo at the Suzuka 8 Hours as was previously rumored. But the Japanese racing team is sending out a still impressive team at the endurance race after announcing that Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will by flying the team’s banners on July 23 to 26, 2015 alongside the team’s resident test rider and Japanese Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

Rumors of Rossi and Lorenzo’s participation heated up a few weeks ago even though neither rider confirmed that they had been asked to participate at endurance race. But now it appears that Yamaha has had a change of heart, possibly because it didn’t want to interrupt the MotoGP campaigns of both riders, who currently sit first and second in the rider’s championship standings, respectively.

Even if that weren’t the case, the exhaustive schedule of MotoGP wouldn’t have done the two riders any good if they entered the 8 Hours of Suzuka. That’s why instead of the two star riders, Yamaha opted to tap Smith and Espargaro, both of whom race for the team’s satellite team, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.

Espargaro’s choice is a little curious considering that he just had arm pump surgery but with the race still two months away, he should be fully recovered by then and would be up-to-task against Honda’s factory team that’s made up of Casey Stoner and Michael van der Mark.

So while it’s not exactly Rossi and Lorenzo, Smith and Espargaro are still more than capable of pushing Yamaha to victory at the 8 Hours of Suzuka. It would be awesome for the company to get it done since it hasn’t won the race in 19 years.

Continue reading to read more about Yamaha’s choice of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro to race at the 8 Hours of Suzuka.

Why it matters

Not having Valentino Rossi and/or Jorge Lorenzo racing at the 8 Hours of Suzuka may have burst my bubble a little bit, but I do understand the situation from Yamaha’s point of view. Rossi and Lorenzo are currently sitting first and second in the MotoGP rider’s championship standings. But there’s still a lot of rounds left in the season and any sort of distraction, perceived or otherwise, could derail the team’s chances of finally vaulting past Honda in the title picture.

If Honda had continued its dominance in MotoGP and were already running away with both championships, I could see Yamaha giving the thumbs up on letting Rossi and Lorenzo ride for the team as it tries to win the fabled endurance race for the first time since 1995. But thanks to its good fortune, mixed in with unfortunate luck and horrible results befalling its competition, Yamaha’s in a good position in MotoGP these days, affording it the opportunity to send Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro in the stead of Rossi and Lorenzo.

Both Smith and Espargaro know their way around racing motorcycles as shown by the impressive results they have accumulated by riding with Yamaha’s satellite team in MotoGP, Monster Tech Yamaha 3. Together with test rider and Japan Superbike champion Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Smith and Espargaro should be able to fare well in the highly anticipated endurance race.

There’s going to be pressure on the two riders, that much I can tell you. Yamaha hasn’t won the 8 Hours of Suzuki since 1995 so you can be sure that the team and the two riders will have that at the back of their minds as they continue to make preparations ahead of the endurance race.

I would’ve loved to see Rossi and Lorenzo in the saddle of these endurance bikes. But I’m not complaining about Yamaha’s decision to enlist the services of Smith and Espargaro instead. If for nothing else, the two riders could use the 8 Hours of Suzuka as a platform to get their contracts extended by after this season.

The stakes are high for all parties concerned. That bodes well for the drama leading up to one of the most anticipated motorcycle endurances in the world.

Source: MotoGP

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