The following is from Yamaha…Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo head to Japan this weekend for the second Grand Prix of 2009 at Motegi. In the past the race has always come close to the end of the season and last year it was the scene of victorious celebrations for the squad as Rossi wrapped up the World Championship with a stunning race win and Lorenzo finished fourth, helping to secure the Teams’ and Manufacturers’ titles to give Yamaha the coveted Triple Crown.With just one race run so far this season there will be no repeat of last year’s championship-winning party, but the Italian and the Spaniard will be keen to keep the momentum high after finishing second and third under the Qatar floodlights. The pair were happy to open their season account with a podium apiece but will be hoping for an even better result in Yamaha’s home country. Both riders will make a stop in Tokyo on the way, where they will be helping Yamaha to launch a new R1.Prior to last year’s winning bonanza, Rossi had taken just a single victory at the Twin Ring Motegi, back in 2001 before the advent of four-stroke MotoGP machinery. Lorenzo has scored only one podium before at the track with a third in 2006 on the way to the first of his two 250cc titles. MotoGP tyre suppler Bridgestone has traditionally been very strong at the circuit and with all the riders now on the Japanese rubber, hopes are high for an entertaining race.Designed in 1997 as a test venue, Motegi features a somewhat geometric track layout. The surface offers good levels of grip without being overly abrasive but the proliferation of second gear turns, linked for the most part by mini-drag strips, means braking and acceleration are the main prerequisite to a fast lap time.Valentino Rossi – “Incredible memories”
“My memories of last year at Motegi are incredible, because it was such a special victory after two year’s without the championship. This year of course will be very different, it’s only the second race and it will be quite strange going there so early in the championship. In Qatar we had one or two small areas that could have been better, so we will be trying hard to improve our setting during the practice time so that we’re able to run at the front on Sunday. I expect that Stoner will be strong again, so we just need to reduce the gap to him so that we can put up more of a fight. In the past Motegi hasn’t been a great track for me and I’ve had some bad races there, but I think last year cancelled that all out so I hope it can be successful for us once again this year.”Jorge Lorenzo – “Hoping to close the gap”
“This is my second year with Yamaha in MotoGP and the second time going to our home! I feel very motivated about racing in Japan. Qatar was a huge beginning for us although I couldn’t keep the same pace as Valentino and Casey. I will try to be much closer to them in Motegi; that is the main aim for this race. Last year I took my last pole position of 2008, but in the race I was fourth after a nice battle with Pedrosa, fighting until the last lap. I hope that this year I will be fighting right at the front.”Davide Brivio – “The target is to remain consistent”
“This year Motegi comes at the start of the season, so it will be a very different race to last year, when we had the chance to achieve all of our season goals there. Of course we did that and we have wonderful memories in our team of that race. This year we go there with different targets and the first one will be to improve our setting in order to allow us to remain consistent for the whole race, which wasn’t possible in Qatar. We will work hard in practice and hopefully we can give Valentino the tools to fight on Sunday.”Daniele Romagnoli – “Building on a good start”
“We were very happy with the result from the first race, because to start the season with a podium shows that we are strong and have a good package, now we need to build on this. The gap to the leaders showed that we have some work to do to further improve Jorge’s setting, so this will be our target in Motegi. Hopefully we can make some more steps forward and be at the front in the race. Japan is a very important race for Yamaha and we’re looking forward to putting on a good show.”The following is from Suzuki….Rizla Suzuki MotoGP heads to the Far East for the second round of the 2009 season as the MotoGP World Championship moves to Suzuki’s ancestral home of Japan, with the team aiming for good results.Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen will be looking to give the management and staff of Suzuki a result to be proud of to mark the 100th anniversary of Suzuki opening for business as a loom works in 1909.Capirossi is a three-time winner at the 4,801m Twin-Ring Motegi Circuit, and is planning to use his experience and expertise at the track to push Suzuki’s revitalised GSV-R on to another good result.Vermeulen is setting his sights on improving on his recent results at Motegi that has seen him score a race-best of 11th. His strong start to the season at Qatar where he scored a hard-fought seventh will give the Australian confidence as he heads to the land of the rising sun.The Twin-Ring Motegi Circuit is situated between the Japanese cities of Mito and Utsunomiya; it is about a three-hour drive from Tokyo – even though it is only about 90kms away! It is one of the safest tracks on the MotoGP calendar, with a fast set of ess bends, a sneaky hairpin and a demanding 90º bend at the end of a long downhill straight all designed to get the most from rider, machine and tyres. A colourful crowd is always on hand to make sure the event is a true spectacle.Rizla Suzuki will take to the track at Motegi on Friday afternoon for the first of two 45-minute free practice sessions. The second is on Saturday morning, followed by 45-minutes of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s 24-lap race gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (06.00hrs GMT).Loris Capirossi:
“After what happened in Qatar, we now go to a track that I know well and have had lots of good times at I was very disappointed at Losail but that race has gone now and we have had time to see what happened. I hope I can have a very good result in Japan for the Suzuki guys that have put in all the hard work in the winter to give us a bike that we can now be competitive on. I have won here before and want to do it again, so I will be making sure we get everything right for race-day to give us the best possible chance of achieving that!”Chris Vermeulen:
“It is really important to get back on the bike as soon as possible and try to rectify the issues we had in the race at Qatar. The bike was working well all weekend, but it seemed to feel very different in the race. The Factory has been working hard since then and there will be a lot of extra staff at the race in Motegi so we won’t be short of a helping hand! I really want to give Suzuki a good result at its home Grand Prix and I am sure that we will this year. I am looking forward to going there as I really enjoy racing in Japan and will be doing my best to get the bike on the podium!”The following is from Repsol Honda…Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso arrive at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit this week ready to compete in a special home race for Honda. The Japanese Grand Prix holds extra significance for the factory team this year because 2009 marks the 50th Anniversary of Honda’s first entry into the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix races.The talented young pairing of Pedrosa and Dovizioso will be looking to build on their solid performances in the first round at Qatar, aiming to convert the promise they showed at the season opener into even stronger results.Andrea Dovizioso showed front-running pace in the early stages of the Qatar race before holding out for a fighting fifth place at the flag. The 23-year-old Italian will be hoping he can maintain his impressive speed throughout Sunday’s 24-lap race and score the first podium of his 2009 season on the works RC212V.Dani Pedrosa comes to Motegi off the back of an extraordinary performance at the first race. The Spaniard, who had been off the bike for five weeks and had barely recovered from surgery to his knee and wrist, fought his way up to sixth in the race before a technical issue saw him drop to eleventh. Gaining more flexibility and strength in his left leg by the day, Pedrosa will be hoping to be even more competitive this weekend at a race circuit which he rates as one of his favourites.Motegi was built to celebrate Honda Motor’s 50th anniversary in 1998 and staged its first World Championship race the following year, when it hosted the Pacific GP. It has been home to the Japanese GP since 2004. And 2009 represents another historic landmark, marking as it does the 50th anniversary of Honda’s first entry into the Motorcycle World Championship. It was in 1959 that company founder Soichiro Honda fulfilled his ambition of taking part in the Isle of Man TT races.The Japanese Grand Prix is also the home race for Bridgestone of course, now the sole tyre supplier for the Repsol Honda Team and the rest of the MotoGP field. So Pedrosa and Dovizioso won’t be lacking in motivation this weekend to put in a strong performance for Honda and for Bridgestone.The weekend’s MotoGP track action begins on Friday with first practice at 14.05 local time, followed by qualifying on Saturday and Sunday’s race starting at 15.00.Dani Pedrosa
“I’m looking forward to this weekend in Japan. My leg is improving all the time and the knee is gaining a little bit more mobility every day. I don’t have the full range of movement yet, but I think that by the time we get to Motegi I’ll have about ten degrees more of movement than in Qatar, which should make quite a big difference. My elbow is also getting better after the hit De Angelis gave me in Qatar – there’s still some pain and stiffness but I hope it won’t be a problem in Japan. My priority is still to reach full fitness so that I can ride at 100 per cent, and then we must focus on the machine because I missed out on quite a lot of winter testing and we’re still not at the level we’d like to be. It’s a case of taking things one step at time – first to get full fitness and then improve the bike step by step. Motegi is a track I like though, and I’ve won races there in the past so I’m looking forward to getting the best result possible at Honda’s home track.”Andrea Dovizioso
“The Grand Prix of Japan is the home race for Honda and HRC so I’d really like to get a good result there. I have always liked this track, there are many hard braking and many acceleration zones and I think that, with the characteristics of our bike, we can have a good race. We’re going to Japan having learned a lot at the first race in Qatar. During that race some new issues arose and we’ve now had the time to analyze them and work a few things out, so I think we can expect to do even better at Motegi. I like the atmosphere at Motegi on Sunday – there are many Japanese fans supporting the Honda riders so I always look forward to it. This year Honda celebrates its 50th anniversary of involvement in the World Championship and it’s a real honour for me to be racing for the factory Honda team.”The following is from Ducati…The MotoGP World Championship heads to Japan this weekend for a rare springtime visit, with the Land of the Rising Sun set to welcome the teams and riders with its famous blossom sure to be in bloom. For several years now the Motegi circuit has been one of the final dates on the Grand Prix calendar and the scene of great drama, with both Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi winning the MotoGP title there over the past two seasons.This year it plays host to the second round, following an eventful opening Grand Prix in Qatar, which turned into an unplanned ‘long weekend’. Casey Stoner’s outstanding victory and a determined display from Nicky Hayden, who recovered from a host of setbacks to battle from sixteenth on the grid to finish twelfth, got the team off to an impressive start that they will look to maintain on a very different kind of circuit.The Ducati MotoGP Team has enjoyed some of its greatest successes at Motegi with a hat-trick of wins for Loris Capirossi between 2005 and 2007 and second place for Stoner in 2008 amongst the highlights. However, every season presents a brand new challenge and more so in 2009, with the host of new regulations that have been implemented. The one thing that doesn’t change is the approach of the Ducati MotoGP Team technicians and riders, who will keep their feet planted firmly on the ground and give maximum concentration and effort to preparing for the race within the allotted time.LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director”Motegi is a circuit full of memories for us, from the first victory with Bridgestone in 2005 to the consecution of the title with Casey in 2007. This year we go there near the start of the season following an opening race that was fantastic for Casey and really tough for Nicky. We’ll do our best to make sure we come away from this round with two happy riders!”CASEY STONER, Ducati MotoGP Team (1st in championship, 25 points)”I’ve finished on the podium in every class at Motegi (2nd in 2003 in 125, 3rd in 2005 in 250 and 2nd in 2008 in MotoGP) but there have been other times when things haven’t gone so well. I have always thought that the track is more suited to car racing than bikes, with so many hard braking and acceleration points, but in general I don’t dislike it and if you have a good set-up it can be really fun. We haven’t tested here in preseason whereas we had in Qatar, so we’ll see how we get on starting from zero, with less practice time available. I’m fairly confident, the set-up we found in testing has worked well at different kinds of circuits so we should have a decent base setting to work from at Motegi. In any case, we won’t take anything for granted – we’ll keep working hard together and stay focused.”NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati MotoGP Team (12th in championship, 4 points)”My first GP with Ducati didn’t exactly go as I’d hoped but we took some positives out of it – I lapped quicker in the second half of the race than I had done all weekend and above all I felt comfortable on the bike. Hopefully this will help us work out what it is exactly that I need to improve my feeling with the bike because being so far off the pace in practice wasn’t cool! Physically I’m okay – no doubt the race was tough because I was pretty beaten up but I’ve recovered well and I don’t expect to have any problems in Japan. I’ll probably go to the Clinica on Thursday to have the stitches removed and that will be the end of the matter. I’m really keen to do well in this race and even though I’ve always had a kind of love-hate relationship with Motegi – with some good results and some bad ones – it is always a special Grand Prix.”The following is from Honda…The dynamics of the Japanese Grand Prix changed entirely by moving the race from the latter part of the season to the second of 17 races of the MotoGP World Championship. The race weekend follows the Qatar curtain-raiser by just 11 days and comes less than a week before the championship heads back west to its traditional European base. Starting the season with three races in four weeks spread halfway across the world puts a premium on preparation, experience, and fitness. And Honda fans will be looking closely at Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who will benefit from two added weeks of recovery time, and teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who began his career with the Repsol Honda team by challenging for a podium in Qatar.Pedrosa finished the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix on the podium, but this race will be more challenging. The Spaniard continues to recover from injuries to his left knee and wrist, and won’t be at 100% fitness. But he showed in Qatar that he could run at the front of the pack before a small technical issue blunted his drive.The race will also be the first for the control Bridgestone tires on a track where the teams haven’t previously tested. That may work to Pedrosa’s benefit. In the Qatar season-opener, the medium Bridgestone quickly emerged as the race tire of choice, allowing the teams to use the reduced track time to concentrate on race set-up. The result was that all six Honda riders finished in the points.The best among them was Dovizioso in fifth place.Dovi was in a podium position as late as the seventh lap before being slowed by a front grip issue he hadn’t encountered in practice or qualifying. Unable to turn into the corners or carry mid-corner speed, the 23-year-old Italian adapted by using the rear tire to turn. But corner speed is paramount in the 800cc era and the team must adapt the machine to the tires for Motegi.Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Gresini Honda RC212V) gained strength and experience throughout the race in Qatar and closed to within 2.6 secs. of Dovizioso by the end. The 2008 campaign of the San Marinese was marked by ups and downs and a strong finish in the Japanese Grand Prix would show that he’s capable of consistent results.Teammate Toni Elias returns to the track where he scored his final podium on a Honda in 2007, when he last rode for the Gresini Honda team. Elias left Qatar knowing the improvements that had to be made to both the machine and his riding, and he arrives at Motegi eager to put the theories to test.Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) had a career best second place at Motegi in 2007, but was hobbled by a wrist injury last year. Now in perfect fitness, the 28-year-old Frenchman doesn’t expect the front end problems he and many others suffered in Qatar to hinder him in Japan.Unlike Qatar, which has a number of long, sweeping corners, the Motegi track is more stop-and-go, which De Puniet says suits his riding style.Yuki Takahashi (Scot Racing Team RC212V) will race in front of his fellow countryman in only his second MotoGP race. Takahashi will balance his steadily increasing experience on the Honda RC212V with a wealth of knowledge about Twin Ring Motegi, where he’s had much success. Almost half of his podium positions have come at his home track.Honda opened Twin Ring Motegi in the town of Motegi in eastern Tochigi prefecture in 1997. The name “Twin Ring” was formed by pairing the English word “twin” and the German word “ring” to denote the two race tracks. One is an irregular 2.493ks oval that has different length corners at its two ends. The second track is the 4.8ks road course that hosts events most weekends, with the MotoGP weekend the highlight of the calendar.Motegi served as the site of the Pacific Grand Prix from 2000-2003 and since 2004 has been the venue for the Japanese Grand Prix.The road course consists of a number of stop-start straightaways that run to low gear hairpins. Seven of the 13 corners are taken in first or second gear and the only time the riders reach sixth gear is on the back straight, where last year Dani Pedrosa reached 292k.
From sixth the riders brake down to first gear for turn ten, a 90 degree right-hander that leads to the signature stretch of the track, the tunnel under the oval straightaway.Out of turn ten, the riders accelerate briskly into the tunnel that funnels the riders into the shadows, where they’re shielded from the sky before bursting into the sunshine on the other side. Then follows a challenging final three-turn sequence that leads onto the 762m long front straight and the finish line.Given the nature of the track, it’s imperative a motorcycle be stable for hard braking and the ensuing heavy acceleration.”I have always liked this track,” said Dovizioso. “There are many hard braking and many accelerations and I think that with the characteristics of our bike we can have a good race.”By winning the Qatar Grand Prix, Casey Stoner (Ducati) leads the championship with 25 points to 20 for runner-up Valentino Rossi (20). Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo is third with 16 points.Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa said: “I’m looking forward to this weekend in Japan. My leg is improving all the time and the knee is gaining a little bit more mobility every day. I don’t have the full range of movement yet, but I think that by the time we get to Motegi I’ll have about ten degrees more of movement than in Qatar, which should make quite a big difference. My elbow is also getting better after the hit De Angelis gave me in Qatar – there’s still some pain and stiffness but I hope it won’t be a problem in Japan. My priority is still to reach full fitness so that I can ride at 100 per cent, and then we must focus on the machine, because I missed out on quite a lot of winter testing and we’re still not at the level we’d like to be. It’s a case of taking things one step at time – first to get full fitness and then improve the bike step by step. Motegi is a track I like though, and I’ve won races there in the past so I’m looking forward to getting the best result possible at Honda’s home track”.Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso said: “It’s important to arrive in Japan after the experience of one race. I’m happy we raced in Qatar as we have understood more about the bike. During the race some new issues arose and so we have had the time to analyze them. I think during the race we could have done a bit better. We have collected important data and we had time to do auto critica (to analyze the issues in a critical way) and for me it was an important experience. I look forward to the Japan GP. The GP of Japan is the home Grand Prix for Honda HRC, so I’d like to have a good result there. I like the atmosphere on Sunday; there are many Japanese fans supporting Honda and the Honda riders so I look forward to going there. This year Honda celebrates their 50th anniversary of involvement in motor racing and it’s an honour for me to race for the HRC factory in this important year”.San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex De Angelis said: “Motegi is quite a technical circuit and I like it a lot. The section after the tunnel, which is a series of fast corners, is my strong part. Over the years in 250cc I made so many passes there.
It won’t be an easy race for us because there are so many hard acceleration points coming out of slow corners and last year we had a really tough weekend, struggling to find a comfortable setting despite the best efforts of the team. We had a good start to the season in Qatar two weeks ago, so hopefully the base setting is useful here too.
If we can work well from the first session and make quick progress with the set-up then we should be able to put in a strong performance”.San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias said: “I have always loved Motegi and to race there for HRC gives you an extra motivation to do a good job. We have to be realistic and keep our feet on the ground in terms of our expectations, because the situation we’re in at the moment demands it.
But hopefully we can get a little bit of help and with it being a track I like so much we can improve on the performance from Qatar – this is the principal objective. Motegi is a circuit with lots of heavy braking and I have always been good on the brakes, which I think is why my record is so good there, but this is an area we’re struggling with at the moment. So it is fundamental we fix that particular problem because good braking is a weapon we really need here”.LCR Honda’s Randy De Puniet said: “Despite the delay of the race I think that our first round at Losail was not so bad. Basically, I expected a better result-maybe between 5th and 8th places-but the top ten is an amazing start for us. We still have to fix the problem with the front tyre, but I do not want to lose too much time on it. We must focus our efforts on the next round. I like the Japanese track and think is more suitable to my riding style. Despite last year’s result due to my wrist injury, I still have good memory about this circuit: I obtained my first MotoGP podium here! Thanks to the base set-up we developed in Qatar, I am sure I will enjoy racing there. The straight is shorter than at the Losail race track and the I like the stop-and-go braking points”.Scot Racing Team MotoGP’s Yuki Takahashi said: “Motegi is my home race and I have my fans here. So you can imagine how important a good race will be for me. We used to come to Japan later in the season when it is warmer. I hope the meteorological condition will be good – not too cold. In Qatar I understood several things about my Honda. If you add to it the fact that I know very well this track, you can understand why I’m confident of having a good race”.