Interview Niccolò Canepa, the fastest Yamaha rider of all time at the 8 Hours of Suzuka: “I dream of the podium”

Niccolò Canepa gave an interview to Corsedimoto, confirming his desire to conquer an important result at the 8 Hours of Suzuka.

By Mattéo Bellan /

This weekend sees the prestigious 8 Hours of Suzuka, the third and penultimate stage of the 2022 World Endurance Championship. Due to the Covid-19 emergency, the race has been canceled in 2020 and 2021 and therefore all teams are very keen to do well.

Among the most anticipated protagonists is undoubtedly the Italian Niccolò Canepawho runs for the YART Yamaha team with his teammates Marvin Fritz i Karel Hanika. The 34-year-old from Liguria was very fast in both free practice and qualifying, he holds the lap record for an Italian and also for Yamaha. For him, it is a great satisfaction and now he wants to do well in the race, and to conquer that podium that has so far eluded him in this EWC round.

Face to face with Niccolò Canepa
At the end of the classification day, Niccolò Canepa he explained to us his expectations for these 8 Hours.

Niccolò, what kind of race are you looking forward to and what is your goal as a team?
“Ours is not a factory team and we are fighting against giants, with incredible teams and drivers. To be able to fight with them and get these results is amazing. We have a much smaller team, with fewer people and fewer resources. It’s good to be in a good position. The goal of the race is to get on the podium. The YART team never made it to the 8 Hours of Suzuka and neither did we. So if something better comes along, it’s a gift, a dream, something more. »

Which rivals do you think will be the strongest? Some predict a Honda-Kawasaki duel…
“For sure HRC and Kawasaki are the strongest on the track, they are without a doubt the benchmark.”

What kind of pitfall could there be in Sunday’s race?
“It’s a very difficult race, because here the conditions change very quickly and unexpectedly. We had two days of testing with incredible heat and full sun, now we’re into the race weekend with slightly cooler temperatures, so we have to evaluate different tire compounds and things. Also, it has rained and stopped at least ten times today. In the race, it will be difficult to manage everything if we have another day like this. Because it’s a long track, it happens that in some places it rains and in others it’s dry, so it’s very complicated. »

You’re the fastest Yamaha rider ever at the 8 Hours of Suzuka – what pride does that bring you?
” A lot. We came here knowing that we had the bike like in 2019, and then we made some changes. The electronics have improved a lot, changed from three years ago and allowed us to make an incredible step forward. Before we had the electronic kit , now we have the same as for Superbike. We also have more people on board, like Andrew Pitt, Andrea Locatelli’s head coach in the world championship. There are high-level people helping us and the result is there . It makes me proud, because I know how important this race is and how difficult this legendary track is. To be the best Yamaha rider of all time is exciting.”

What are your strengths before the race?
“Generally, as a team, we have a lot of experience in endurance racing, while those coming from Superbikes can be a little less experienced. Although there are drivers like Lowes, Haslam and Rea who have already competed and won the 8 Hours of Suzuka… But as a team and as drivers we have a lot of experience that we have to try to improve, use to our advantage to make – make as few mistakes as possible and save time. »

How did you prepare for the Suzuka 8 Hours?
“I train constantly and have the opportunity to participate in several championships. I ride a lot, it’s the best training. I do a lot of miles and it helps me to be in good shape. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had almost no days off, I’ve always been busy and that’s important. The Suzuka 8 Hours is the toughest race of the year, also because the track is very physical, so Sunday will be tough. »

The race for the World Endurance Champion title has become more complicated, what do you expect from the championship final?
“In Spa we had a hard blow, we were winning the race, and then to find ourselves without finishing, it was a shame. But anything can happen, we have to take advantage of being fast at Suzuka to score as many points as possible, even if it’s an eight-hour race and the points are less. Then we’ll go to the Bol d’Or. Winning the title will be difficult, but we will not give up. »

A final comment on Jonathan Rea, six-time Superbike World Champion and present with Kawasaki at the Suzuka 8 Hours to repeat his success in 2019?
“He’s a very strong rider, it’s great to be able to race with him and see us doing similar times. It is a great satisfaction. I respect him enormously, he has incredible tenacity. In the world championship, it’s great to see that a young guy like Razgatlioglu managed to beat him last year and go hard on him in 2022. Of course I’ll be rooting for Toprak and in the meantime I’ll try to beat Johnny on Sunday, even if it’s difficult”.

The highly anticipated round of the EWC 2022 kicks off on Sunday 7 August at 4:30am French time, with the checkered flag flying at 12:30pm Live TV coverage is scheduled on Eurosport 2. At Corsedimoto not only will you find all the news in real time, but also exclusive videos of the most exciting moments.

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Matteo Bellan

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