After the earthquake and devastating tsunami that rocked Japan in March and delayed the Japanese MotoGP at Motegi for a second successive year, the riders return to Asia hoping to give the fans something to cheer.
Thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands more made homeless by the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami that laid waste to vast swathes of the Pacific coast on March 11. Damage to nuclear power plants in Fukushima meant that some doubted whether this year’s MotoGP could take place due to risk of radiation.
But after assurances, all the riders and teams will be in attendance for what is their home race and crowds for many of them.
“This is Honda’s home GP and it’s very important to score a good result here,” says Andrea Dovizioso, who rides one of the three works HRC machines.
'Everybody coming to Motegi to race is a dream come true' – Hiroshi Aoyama
“Motegi is one of my favourite circuits, not only for the layout but also for the atmosphere,” comments Dovizioso’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa. “I always ride well here and get a lot of support from the Japanese fans, and I think this year will be even more special for them.”
“I will have a lot of my fans there at Motegi, and I want to give them a good result,” says Japanese San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama. “For me, it is important to be racing in Japan following the sad events of March, and my people have handled this tragedy with great strength and courage. MotoGP has close ties with the Japanese people and for the grand prix to go ahead will strengthen this rapport. It hasn’t been easy, and I understand why but to have everybody coming to Motegi to race is a dream come true.”
“Japan is a home race for Yamaha, and for us it is always a pleasure to ride here,” says reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo. “After all the confusion with [the nuclear plants at] Fukushima, we are here, fit and ready to put on a good show for Yamaha in this special year for them [the 50th anniversary of Yamaha in GP racing].”
Then there is the pure enjoyment and challenge of the Twin Ring track itself…
“Motegi is quite a different circuit, it’s similar in a way to Le Mans and is very stop-start, a little like a go-kart track, but in general it’s nice and more fun than some of the other circuits we visit,” says championship leader Casey Stoner. “It has a lot of hard braking, a lot of hard accelerating, it’s pretty tough on the body and physically demanding. If you miss your braking points it’s easy to run wide, so it will be important to get the set-up on the bike just right.
'In general Motegi is nice and more fun than some of the other circuits we visit' – Casey Stoner
“The Twin Ring Motegi has a lot of acceleration zones, so it suits the RC212V well, allowing us to use all the strong points of our machine,” adds Dovizioso.
“Obviously, last year I had a hard time here due to my injury,” says Pedrosa. “But I want to focus on my riding and enjoy the GP.”
Then there is the small matter of the championship race…
“As in [the last grand prix in] Aragon, we will be going out there trying to win and not only looking for valuable championship points,” says Stoner. “We had a fantastic race here last year, probably one of my best in my opinion, and it will be fun to go there on the Honda and see how the bike works around the circuit.”
'I have won at this track in 125 and 250 but not yet in MotoGP, so that’s a big motivation for me' – Dani Pedrosa
“We will begin on Friday and try to do everything really well!” says Lorenzo, still second in the championship and with a 44-point deficit to leader Stoner with 100 still available this season from the remaining four GPs. “Motegi is a track where I have won before, and last year I had a nice fight for the podium. I would like to win again here, so that is my aim this weekend.”
“We will arrive at the Japanese GP this year in the same position we were last year – straight from a crash and zero points,” adds Dovizioso. “But last season we had a great race and we almost won, so I’m confident of a repeat performance at Motegi. Concerning the championship, we are third in the world standings and we aim to strengthen our position, recovering some points on Lorenzo and maintaining the gap to Dani.”
“We’ve been at a good level, with three second places in a row, and I am looking forward to this race,” says Pedrosa, the Spaniard having made the most of his return after yet more injury woe this season and lying fourth in the championship. “I have won at this track in 125 and 250 but not yet in MotoGP, so that’s a big motivation for me.”