PACIFIC GRAND PRIX
Twin Ring Motegi
October 3/4/5 2003
PRE-RACE COMMENTS followed by the RESULTS
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM BACK IN JAPAN WITH HIGH HOPES
The MotoGP circus continues its globetrotting tour this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, the 2003 championship’s second visit to the Land of the Rising Sun. Last time The Ducati Marlboro Team visited Japan was for its debut MotoGP event – April’s season-opening Japanese GP at Suzuka – when Loris and Troy made history by scoring a podium finish and a fifth place first time out on the team’s brand-new Desmosedici.
Six months later the Ducati Marlboro Team is a fully established MotoGP force, with Ducati riding high in the constructors’ World Championship, holding second place in its rookie season, ahead of all but one of the Japanese factories that have dominated the premier Grand Prix class for so long. Which means that much is expected of Capirossi and team-mate Troy Bayliss when the pair once again confront Japan’s motorcycle industry in its own backyard on Sunday.
After Sunday’s racing the paddock heads to Malaysia for next weekend’s Marlboro Malaysian Grand Prix, the middle event of three back-to-back ‘flyaway’ GPs. The following weekend the action moves to Phillip Island in Australia, before the circus returns to its European heartland for the season-ending Marlboro Valencia GP at Valencia on November 2.
MOTEGI IS LAST NEW TRACK FOR THE DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM
The 2003 MotoGP World Championship was always going to be a learning year for the Ducati Marlboro Team, but it’s turned out to be some apprenticeship. Although the Bologna factory had been out of GP racing for more than three decades before returning last spring, it has already won its first GP, taken three pole positions and scored seven podium finishes. And all this despite the team having to compete at many racetracks of which it has no previous knowledge. Happily, this weekend’s Pacific GP is the last event that the team goes into ‘blind’. Loris Capirossi may have raced at Motegi since it joined the series calendar in 1999, but most of his team colleagues, including Troy Bayliss, have never seen the track before.
“We are quite happy that this is the last track of the season that we don’t know,” says Ducati Marlboro Team technical director Corrado Cecchinelli, who has already tested with his crew at the three season-ending GP venues – Sepang, Phillip Island and Valencia. “We have already achieved some good results at circuits that are new to us, but the less you know about a track, the harder it is for the riders and everyone else in the team, and however well you work during the weekend, you still lack something. But we always knew it would be like this in our first MotoGP season, and we are enjoying discovering new circuits so that we can gather data and information for next season. In theory Motegi should be good for us”.
Ducati Marlboro Team director Livio Suppo is also confident that his riders can once again go well in Japan. “Last year Loris rode an unbelievable race at Motegi, making the podium even though he was on a two-stroke, so he obviously goes well there,” says Suppo. “And he really enjoyed getting third in our first race at Suzuka, so we go to Motegi with the added motivation of repeating or improving upon that result. It’s always a special emotion for us at Ducati if we can achieve good results in Japan. The weekend will be another challenge for Troy because this is another racetrack that he’s never seen, but then again he’s proved on many occasions that new tracks aren’t a problem for him. On the positive side, Motegi will complete his knowledge of current MotoGP tracks because he already knows the tracks which host the final three GPs of the season.”
MOTEGI FAN CAPIROSSI AIMS FOR SUZUKA REPEAT
Loris Capirossi comes to Motegi this weekend determined to repeat his stunning ride to the podium at Suzuka in April. Winner of the Ducati Marlboro Team’s first GP at Catalunya, Spain, in June, the hard-riding Italian is confident he can once again use his Desmosedici’s speed to devastating effect at Motegi, a circuit he really likes.
“Last year I rode a 500 at Motegi, but I had some good fights with the faster four-strokes, so I think I can go very well this weekend,” he says. “I was just a tenth off pole position last time, which made me very angry, so I’d like to make amends for that this weekend. I really like the track, it’s not very technical, but you have to put a lot of effort into your braking and corner-exit speed. Our bike has fantastic acceleration and its braking stability is also good since we made some chassis improvements a few races ago. Every race the bike is coming better. We had some minor problems at Rio, but our speed in qualifying once again proved that we can be fast at circuits which are new to us. Motegi is particularly important because it’s in Japan, which gives us another chance to show off our speed to the Japanese!”
Capirossi has scored three third-place finishes at Motegi – in the 1999 Japanese 250 GP, and in the past two 500 Pacific GPs.
PAPA BAYLISS RELISHES BACK-TO-BACK RACES
Former World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss went to Rio three weeks ago as a father of two children, this week he comes to Motegi as a father of three! Wife Kim gave birth to the couple’s third child – a baby boy named Oliver – in Monaco during the Rio GP weekend. The current series of races is thus turning out to be a rollercoaster ride for the tough Aussie who is currently the highest-placed MotoGP rookie, holding fifth place in the points chase.
“It was great to get home from Rio and see Ollie for the first time!” beams proud father Bayliss, who shed a tear or two in the Rio pits when he heard about the birth from Kim immediately after the race. “It was a shame I couldn’t be there, but I don’t think they would’ve rescheduled the race to make things easier for us! This is a busy time for everyone in MotoGP, but I’m looking forward to the three races in a row – you can get your head down and keep going, plus you get a lot of races done in a short time. Motegi is another new track for me, but that shouldn’t be a problem, I’ve got used to learning new places this year. To me, all tracks are pretty much the same, you’ve just got to get round them as quick as you can. Most places are easy to learn, but it’s squeezing the last little bit out of them that really counts.”
Twin Ring Motegi is stop-and-go in character with few high-speed corners, unlike fast and flowing Suzuka, venue for April’s Japanese GP. Motegi features plenty of slow turns linked by medium-length straights which put the emphasis on braking and acceleration performance. Unlike Suzuka, most riders don’t feel the track tests their riding skills to the limit. Motegi’s location and this event’s autumn date make for unpredictable weather conditions. The venue’s inaugural World Championship round, the 1999 Japanese GP, was run in pouring rain. Since then Motegi has hosted the Pacific round of the series.
The circuit, christened Twin Ring Motegi because it features both a Grand Prix track and an Indy oval, is one of the newer circuits on the GP calendar. Constructed by Honda to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary in 1998, at a cost of US$350 million, the venue is located in the hills to the north west of Tokyo, between the cities of Mito and Utsonomiya. Motegi’s construction entailed a massive civil engineering project that included the razing of seven hills and the filling of two valleys.
Twin Ring Motegi: 4.801km/2.983 miles
Lap record: Alex Barros (Honda), 1m 49.947s, 157.199kmh/97.679mph (2002)
Pole position 2002: Daijiro Kato (Honda), 1m 49.052s
DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM DATA LOGS
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici
First GP: Australia, 1997 (250)
GP starts: 13 (12xMotoGP, 1×250)
World Superbike victories: 22
World Championships: 1 (Superbike: 2001)
Motegi 2002 results: DNS
Bike: Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici
GP victories: 23 (1xMotoGP, 2×500, 12×250, 8×125)
First GP victory: Britain, 1990 (125)
First GP: Japan, 1990 (125)
GP starts: 196 (26xMotoGP, 59×500, 84×250, 27×125)
Pole positions: 36 (3xMotoGP, 5×500, 23×250, 5×125)
First pole: Australia, 1991 (125)
World Championships: 3 (125: 1990, 1991, 250: 1998)
Motegi 2002 results: Grid 3rd. Race 3rd
Team Suzuki Press Office Monday 29th September 2003.
Team Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts Jr. and John Hopkins will have more than a little extra help at next weekend’s Pacific GP at Motegi.
As well as the presence of top-ranking factory and race department staff and engineers at the circuit outside Tokyo, a third Suzuki will be out for the 13th MotoGP of the season, ridden by factory tester and wild card regular Akira Ryo.
The expectation for the race is to go for the best results possible while concentrating also on developing the Suzuki GSV-R racing prototype, with the long-term aim of coming back fighting in 2004. But the presence of Ryo and the location of the race mean that anything could happen.
Last year, Ryo (35) achieved the all-new GSV-R’s best result, finishing a close second at the opening round at Suzuka in the Japanese GP. A combination of wet weather, intimate track knowledge, and a close understanding of the new machine’s responses meant the rider from Tokyo was able to lead much of the race, finishing close behind eventual champion Valentino Rossi.
Ryo will be riding a rather different machine from those of Roberts and Hopkins, incorporating experimental developments in both engine and chassis. As test rider for the GSV-R project, his main task is to push development forward. But his many laps of the Motegi circuit plus the boost of racing the world’s best on his home ground mean he will be trying his hardest for a good race result.
Bad weather would help Ryo’s quest, and give Roberts and Hopkins an extra opportunity to exploit their proven skills in difficult conditions – and it is always a possibility at the Twin-Ring Motegi circuit, built among mountains almost midway between the cities of Mito and Utsonamiya.
“We’re coming to the end of a difficult season, and it would be good to get some improved results to show our progress – and our intentions for next season,” said team manager Garry Taylor. “The riders, team and factory staff haven’t let up working all year. I think we all need some sort of a reward for our efforts.
Roberts, who won the 500cc World Championship on a Suzuki in 2000 and has twice claimed victory at Motegi, has had a down-beat season, interrupted by injury, and spent working flat out with the team and factory engineers to maximise the potential of the 990cc GSV-R, and solve the teething problems with its ground-breaking new technologies. His machine development skills have been invaluable to the project. Roberts finished a strong sixth in last year’s race.
Hopkins, in his first year with the team, will be returning to action at Motegi after missing the last race, two weekends before at Rio de Janeiro. Hopkins fell heavily in qualifying, and though lucky to escape fractures, he was unable to take part in the race. Last year, he finished 14th, just in the points, riding a 500cc two-stroke.
The Pacific GP is the 13th of 16 rounds, and the first in a trio of back-to-back flyway events, moving on to Sepang in Malaysia and Phillip Island in Australia before the finale in Valencia in November. Ryo will be racing as a wild card in the Malaysian round as well as at Motegi.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. – MOTEGI LIKE THE REST
Racing-wise, we are in the position where we have to go for the best possible result, and hope to finish in the points, and Motegi will be no different. The advantage will be that Suzuki’s top racing engineers and managers will be there to see our problems for themselves, and to discuss with us how to solve them.
JOHN HOPKINS – READY TO RACE AGAIN
I got all checked out back in the USA, and it turns out I have a torn muscle in my left calf, which is still real tender; and I sprained my wrist pretty good, and I’ve been having trouble holding on to the bars of a road bike. But I’ve been cycling, and I should be a lot better for race weekend. I like the track . there’s a lot of hard braking corners, and I don’t mind a bit of hard braking!
ABOUT THIS RACE
This is the fourth Pacific GP at Motegi, inaugurated in 2000 to give the Japanese factories and riders a second race on home soil, as well as the established Suzuka round. This makes Japan the second country on the current calendar to have more than one GP – the other being Spain, with three rounds. But this is the fifth visit to the spectacular if sterile Twin Ring Motegi motor sports and driver education facility, where a full banked tri-oval circuit is another major feature, along with a museum and extensive other facilities. In 1999, the Japanese GP was held there for one year. Motegi is rather remote, with access by road only, in hilly country surrounded by dense forest and small farms. Its advantage is its proximity to the Tokyo hub, some 60 miles north east of the city sprawl.
ABOUT THIS TRACK
The Twin Ring is actually two circuits – the US-style banked oval, with its own pits, grandstands and infrastructure, and the 2.98-mile road-racing track, with pits and paddock within the oval, and the track looping out under the banking through an underpass, then returning through another tunnel for the final chicane back onto the short pit straight. Precise computer-designed corners loop the track back and forth within the oval, with more of the same outside – mainly slow corners linked by short power-burst straights. It seems a sterile design, but there is enough rise and fall in the terrain to inject interest. “It’s a surprisingly fun track,” said double winner Kenny Roberts Jr.
Twin Ring Motegi
Circuit Length: 2.983 miles / 4.801 km.
Lap Record: 1:49.947 – 97.679 mph / 157.199 km/h. A Barros (Honda), 2002
2002 Race Winner: Barros
2002 Race Distance: 24 laps, 71.592 miles / 115.224 km
2002 Race Average: 44:18.913 – 96.938 mph / 156.006 km/h
2002 Fastest Race Lap: see lap record
2002 Pole Position: D Kato (Honda), 1:49.052
2002 Kenny Roberts: Sixth, qualified eighth (Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki)
2002 Sete Gibernau: DNF, qualified 11th (Telefónica MoviStar Suzuki)
2002 John Hopkins: 14th, qualified 16th (Red Bull Yamaha YZR500)
DOUBLE PODIUM FOR XRM0
All Japan MX Championship. Round 10. Kumamoto prefecture, Kyushu.
Suzuki’s development XRM0 four-stroke motocross machine took two podium places at the eighth round of the All-Japan MX Championship at Kumamoto prefecture, Kyushu, yesterday, (September 28th).
Suzuki’s Yoshihide Fukudome was competing on his home track and put his local knowledge to good use with two fighting third places in the two 125cc championship races.
Both races were won by Tetsuya Mizoguchi, riding the Kawasaki KX250FS-R four-stroke machine that has been developed in parallel with the Suzuki XRM0.
Heat 1: Mizoguchi, Kitai and Fukudome made superb starts, but Fukudome stalled on the second lap and re-started in 20th place. In a brilliantly determined ride Fukudome stormed through the field to take an amazingly third place at the flag, behind Mizoguchi and Honda’s Kenjiro Tsuji.
Heat 2: Again Mizoguchi grabbed the holeshot ahead of Fukudome and Tsuji. The Honda rider passed Fukudome early in the race, but he gathered himself for a final assault over the closing laps and just failed to re-take Tsuji at the flag.
YOSHIHIDE FUKUDOME: I used to ride here in my junior high school days when I started motocross and I guess that this track experience helped me today. I had a little pain in the wrist that I injured in the previous round, but I concentrated on maintaining a steady pace. Anyway, this has been a good day for me because I achieved my first double podium of the season. Now I must aim to win races.
In the 250cc Championship, Suzuki doninated once again with Akira Narita taking his Suzuki RM250 to comfortable wins in both races ahead of Suzuki team-mate Kazumasa Masuda. Reigning champion Narita is expected to claim his second title in succession in the remaining two races.
In the ladies class, Saya Suzuki who tied up the tile at the last round, took her seventh win of the season.
FACT FILE – MOTEGI GRAND PRIX – 05/10/03 JAPAN
It took Honda four years and a massive amount of money to build this impressive complex in the rural hills 120kms north of Tokyo. The complex comprises of the 4.801km road circuit, a 2.141km Indy style oval and the Honda museum. The complex was completed in 1997 and the road circuit staged the Japanese Grand Prix in 1999 which was won by Kenny Roberts Junior, in the pouring rain.
The track has staged the Pacific Grand Prix since then with Alex Barros bringing victory for the Honda Pons team last year on his first ride on the RC211V four stroke Honda. The Brazilian also set a new lap record for the circuit en route to his first victory of the season.
The track comprises of a number of straights linked by slow corners with the main back straight 762 meters long. There is plenty of grip on the track surface and the biggest problem for the teams can be the weather at this isolated venue. Heavy rain fell during that opening grand prix in 1999 but often the Autumn weather is mixed and can change quite rapidly.
Next year Motegi will stage the Japanese Grand Prix while Suzuka continues with its safety improvements.
TRACK FACTS – MOTEGI GRAND PRIX – 05/10/03 JAPAN
Pole Position: left
Right corners: eight
Left corners: sixy
Longest straight: 762 metres
Lap record: Alex Barros (Honda Pons) 1m49.947s / 157.199 km/h (2002)
Fastest pole setting lap: Daijiro Kato (Honda) 1m49.052 / 158.490 km/h (2002)
Race Result 2002: Alex Barros (Honda Pons) 44m18.913s / 156.006 km/h
Camel Pramac Pons riders 2002:
Tohru Ukawa fifth
Max Biaggi dnf
COBAS INSIGHT – Antonio Cobas, the Technical Director of Camel Pramac Pons
A large part of the Motegi circuit is taken up by long straights. In fact 2400 metres of the 4800 metres track is made up of straights. This means that Motegi has the highest average throttle use per lap plus the highest percentage of full throttle use out of all the circuits on this year´s
The bikes must be set up with suspension settings that, while improving the performance of the machine when accelerating with low engine revs, should also improve the performance under braking. Four-stroke engine braking is also a crucial factor, there are four major braking points where the speed is reduced from 250 km/h to less than 100 km/h.
With so much throttle use the bikes also consume more fuel per lap and so careful setting of the ignition system is essential if you are not going to run out of fuel. The race has been reduced from 25 laps to 24 since it was almost impossible for most manufactures to reach the end of a 25 lap race with a 24 litres fuel limit. Next year the limit will be further reduced to 22 litres so the number of laps will again have to be modified or a new type of ignition used where the power of the bikes is reduced considerably in respect to the engine capacity.
Regarding tyre use, the number of straights mean that a harder compound has to be used because the central part of the tyre is under pressure and is heated up for a longer period of time than is usually the case at other circuits. For this reason, Motegi is one of the circuits which gives us a rear end chattering problem. This means the theoretical ideal setting for the rear suspension often has to be sacrificed to combat this problem.
Last year Alex Barros brought the team a great victory first time out on the RC 211V four-stroke and a repeat win on Sunday would set us up perfectly for those last four races.
STEPPING OUT OF THOSE SHADOWS
A few random questions around the international media centre at the Rio MotoGP race revealed just what a private man Tohru Ukawa is. It was not the answers to these questions that made this so obvious but much more the lack of answers from many usually so well informed people
This quietly spoken always so polite Japanese MotoGP star has always been happy to stay in the shadows of some pretty impressive team-mates although his own credentials are quite capable of standing up on their own.
Last year he fought for second place in the new MotoGP World Championship with his Camel Pramac Pons team-mate of this year, Max Biaggi. The battle went right to the final race of the year in Valencia where Ukawa eventually settled for a well earned third place. His team-mate last year, a certain Valentino Rossi, has always been very adept at grabbing most of the limelight, even without the help of a team-mate.
“Sometimes Valentino spoke but not so much,” recalled the 30-year-old rider who started his full time grand prix career seven years ago. “He was friendly but like everybody else he was also a rival and a very good rider.”
At the second grand prix of last season Ukawa inflicted a rare MotoGP defeat on Rossi who won 11 of the 16 rounds. Typically his first and only win in the MotoGP class is now a distant memory.
“I´ve won five grands prix but I suppose the biggest was that MotoGP win at Welkom when I beat Valentino,” he conceded. “It seems like a long time ago and I need some wins in the last five races this year. I´ve not finished one on the podium this season.”
After twice winning the All Japan 250cc Championship it was Honda that brought Ukawa into grand prix racing. The giant factory are still seeking a Japanese rider to win the 500cc/MotoGP World title. They thought Ukawa and the late Daijiro Kato were the riders to achieve their dream. Sadly Kato´s challenge ended in tragedy. Ukawa still shares Honda´s ambition although it gets tougher as the years go by.
“For sure a Japanese rider can win the MotoGP World Championship although it´s impossible this year,” admits Ukawa, who finished runner-up to Rossi in the 1999 250cc World Championship. “Next year I may not be riding in MotoGP but I want to stay in the top class. I need some good results in those five races because this year I´ve often finished sixth or seventh or crashed. I´m feeling much more confident but I must get some results starting in Motegi this weekend.”
Coming to live in Europe can be a pretty daunting task for a Japanese rider. That complete change oF culture is never easy and then there´s the language. Ukawa thought he´d got that particular part cracked but he was wrong.
“I studied English in Japan for two years before I came to Europe but when I spoke to my team manager Trevor Morris for the first time I could not understand a word he said and he could not understand a world I said,” explained Ukawa, who worked with Morris up to the start of this season when he joined Camel Pramac Pons. “He then spoke slower to me and my English got better and gradually we began to understand each other.”
Ukawa chose a European base near Aalst in Belgium, the European base of the Honda Racing Corporation. It´s convenient and quiet. This year even the weather played its part.
“When I first came over in 1996 I stayed in an apartment about 50kms from Brussels and I´ve been there ever since, It´s quiet which is fine,” revealed Ukawa, who further enhanced his reputation with Honda by winning the prestigious Suzuka Eight Hour race for them in 1997 and 1998. “Up to this year the weather has always been bad with plenty of cloud and rain but this summer it´s been unbelievable. Thirty five degrees in Belgium is so good and I´ve even been to the beach.”
One thing missing from his life in Europe is a girlfriend and Ukawa would very much like to change that particular situation.
“I only get home to Japan a few times in the season, for the Motegi race and the 8 Hour race and test. This year I also went home to Chiba in Japan between the grands prix in the Czech Republic and Portugal.”
It´s a massive race for Ukawa on home soil on Sunday. His MotoGP futures ways in the balance. A good result in front of the Honda hierarchy could ensure that future. He´s under no illusions about the task that lies ahead.
“I need to win the race on Sunday. It would be my first grand prix victory in Japan and it would not come at a better time.”
It´s time for Tohru Ukawa to step out of those shadows. Motegi would be the perfect location for him to do just that and ensure his MotoGP future.
ROSSI HEADS TITLE RUN-IN AS MOTOGP HEADS EAST
As the massive MotoGP operation packs its considerable bags and heads east for three gruelling back-to-back races at Motegi in Japan, Sepang in Malaysia and Phillip Island in Australia, Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) is in pole position to win his third world premier class title.
His nearest rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) is now 51 points behind Rossi with four races remaining. And so Rossi would have to fail to finish at least two races with Gibernau winning them both for the Spaniard to get within one point of the reigning champion. But in a high-risk, high-stakes sport like MotoGP, nothing can ever be taken for granted when points and titles are up for grabs.
It’s mathematically conceivable that Rossi could wrap up the title at Motegi if he wins and Gibernau finishes fifteenth or lower. But the Spanish charger has found a new consistency to go with his undoubted speed and seems to have lost a habit of throwing away hard won points.
But Rossi is a remarkably consistent performer and it would take a collapse of catastrophic proportions to put the destination of this year’s title in any real doubt. With Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) lying third in the Championship, 88 points behind Rossi, it will be Honda’s title, whoever ultimately prevails.
The only way for Gibernau to maximise his chances of upsetting the flamboyant, but measured and relaxed Rossi, is to pile on the pressure from first qualifying and force the World Champion into making errors. But the wily Rossi often counts a start anywhere in the top four as good enough in real terms as a pole position. And he will know that at Motegi, a front row start will do, as pole is not as critical as it can be at tracks where turn one is a hazardous free-for-all.
Rossi, with his reputation for using free practice and even qualifying for maximising the efficiency of race set-up at the expense of a fast flying lap, is rarely pressured into making final qualifying a race in itself. If he sets pole – fine. If he doesn’t but he’s on the front row – that’s fine too. And he responds well to pressure in races, knowing that if he can’t stay with a fast rider (rare, but more common now than previously) he’ll take the points and do better next time. That makes Gibernau’s task hard – but by no means impossible.
“I will go to Japan in the same mood and just as focussed as I was in Brazil,” said the Spanish star. “We have moved forward in the last races and have been fighting for the win at every Grand Prix. We are
working well in the team and Honda has helped us, but I can only control what we have in-house. I just hope we are in as good shape in Motegi as we were in Rio. The layout of the Motegi circuit is not very technical, so it’s nothing special.”
The Twin Ring Motegi circuit was built by Honda in 1998. Called Twin Ring because the layout features an inner Grand Prix track within an outer ring that’s a banked Indy car track, it lies north west of Tokyo between Mito and Utsonomiya.
The inaugural motorcycle Grand Prix was held the year after completion in 1999 and riders liked the grippy, smooth and predictable surface, although many found the layout of the 4.801km track was short on character. Many of the turns, eight right-handers and six left-handers, are constant-radius second gear corners, requiring good traction and brisk acceleration.
The slowish turns are linked by medium-length straights, the longest of which is only 0.762km long. There are some downhill approaches to the turns which offer a degree of technical involvement for riders, but of greater concern to most is the weather, which is often the major factor at Motegi.
Rossi is more concerned that his team now fully understands how to get the best from the mighty RC211V. And where he struggled in the last four races last season, this year he can remain strong. “The end of the season is good for me,” he said. “We’ve had three good races in a row now and the team is strong. I’m focussed on getting the best from these last four races and am concentrating hard on the Championship. We understand the bike well now and are hoping for success.”
Rossi’s team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V), who has shown strongly in the second half of the season, is raring to go. “I’m really enjoying myself at the moment,” said the American rookie. “We’re working well as a team and we’re really competitive. I’ve tested at Sepang and Phillip Island and should be on the pace quickly. I’ll be pushing hard for a front row start and a podium finish before the season ends.”
Max Biaggi can’t wait to get racing at Motegi. “I would really like to get a good result here because it’s Honda’s track,” said the Italian. “The Japanese technicians know it really well and have a lot of data for setting up the bike. I always like racing in Japan because I know everything is highly professional and the track will be in excellent condition. The Twin Ring is quite stop-go but there are also some longer faster corners.”
Max’s team-mate Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) has not always tasted success at Motegi, his best result being a fourth place in 2002 in the MotoGP class, but the Japanese is ready to give it his best again. “Motegi has always been a difficult track for me, but there is plenty of grip and there are no bumps to worry about.”
Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V), who had a fine race to the rostrum in Rio with a third place, is sure he can improve on that at Motegi. “I know the circuit very well, I’ve won there five times and I hope I can get the right settings on my RC211V so I can spend all the time getting up to peak performance for Sunday’s race. What I’m interested in is winning races and Sunday could be my best chance this season.”
Local boy Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) is another Japanese hopeful. “My home town of Kawagoe is quite near Motegi and I’ve raced and practised there quite a lot,” he said. “But I’ve not ridden the RC211V there yet. I like Motegi a lot although it is a stop-start track – and quite a difficult one too.”
The 250 class contenders are chasing Championship leader Manuel Poggiali (Aprilia) who takes a 22-point lead over Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) to Motegi. With Honda’s Tochigi Research and Development facility right on the doorstep, Rolfo will be hoping the factory can bring some extra expertise to his assistance in his Championship challenge.
“In the past I’ve not had such a good feel for this track,” said the Italian. “But I think I will enjoy it more this year with the bike I have. There are only about three technical areas where you can make up time, and the problem we will have is getting out of the slow corners onto the fast straights.”
Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) echoes Rolfo’s view. “I like Motegi,” he said. “It’s not one of my favourite tracks, but like all circuits it has some good parts I like racing on. The character of the track might not suit my bike, slow corners leading onto fast straights. The bike will handle well around the twisty parts but the straights at Motegi might well be a bit of a problem for us.”
In the 125cc category Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) will be looking to stretch his Championship lead even further. The Spanish teenager currently heads his nearest challenger by 42 points, but he is taking nothing for granted as the season reaches a conclusion.
“Motegi is a very nice track,” he said. “ I’ve always had a good feeling riding there. The grip is good and the surface is very smooth, completely the opposite of Rio. Regarding the championship? I’m not going to think about it, just about the race, and no thoughts about championship strategy. At this stage it would not be smart to think about riding for a safe points position.”
Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) lies fourth in the World Championship and could finish higher if he makes the most of Motegi. “I like the track at Motegi,” he said. “I have a good feeling racing there. I really like the last part of the track, in 2002 I was fast through that section. Last year I qualified on the second row and was going well in the race but had a problem and crashed.”
MOTEGI ANNIVERSARY FOR FUCHS KAWASAKI NINJA ZX-RR
The Fuchs Kawasaki Team will celebrate the first anniversary of the MotoGP debut of their ambitious Ninja ZX-RR project in the Pacific Grand Prix at Motegi this Sunday October 5th.
One year ago at this track the 990cc, in-line four-cylinder ZX-RR made its international race debut in the Pacific GP ridden by factory test rider Akira Yanagawa. The Japanese star qualified 18th but crashed out of the race. For Sunday’s first anniversary outing at Motegi the Ninja ZX-RR will be raced by Kawasaki’s all-Australian squad of regular MotoGP riders Andrew Pitt and Garry McCoy.
The race is an important milestone for Kawasaki, who this year returned to GP competition after an absence of two decades. It has been a steep learning curve as Kawasaki have balanced the challenging task of combining a test and development program with the non-stop pressure of a Grand Prix race schedule for the ZX-RR. And that continuous development program should deliver the latest engine power update parts for the ZX-RR’s first birthday appearance at Motegi.
The Pacific GP carries added significance as a home race for Kawasaki with the Japanese motorcycle and industrial giant committed to the long term success of its MotoGP campaign at the elite level of the sport.
For Pitt and McCoy the race is round 13 of the world championship with the end of season flyaway schedule allowing both riders the rare opportunity of a brief stopover in Australia following the recent Rio GP in Brazil.
In Rio two weeks ago McCoy posted the best Kawasaki qualifying performance of the season and started 13th on the grid and he is planning to capitalise on that performance in Motegi. Unfortunately the Rio race was a frustrating outcome for McCoy with a holed radiator making him an early retirement while Pitt battled the bumpy and slippery Rio circuit for 18th on his Brazilian debut.
Pitt faces a familiar challenge at Motegi; learning another new track as he builds a personal data bank of circuit information during his debut MotoGP season.
Both Pitt and McCoy have enjoyed the sun and relaxation of their beachside break with McCoy making up for lost time aboard his Kawasaki jet ski. The Twin Ring Motegi complex is situated approximately 100km north of Tokyo and is part of a state of the art motorsport facility that also includes an Indy Car oval.
“Motegi has never been kind to me in the past but I’m hoping for a trouble free run through practice and qualifying, to try and get a lot of laps on the bike and do more tyre testing. At the last couple of races little problems have cost us track time. Because we don’t get to test at Motegi it’s difficult to predict how the ZX-RR will perform there. In Rio last week the bumpy track seemed to even things out and worked in our favour, especially in qualifying. Motegi is smoother with some stop-go sections which could help the ZX-RR; it’s the fast changes of direction where we have a problem turning. The boost in engine performance is good timing, Kawasaki are making an effort and putting all their technical resources into the ZX-RR”
“All I know about Motegi is from watching the race on TV last year when Alex Barros won. It’s another new track for me. I might watch the tape of last year’s race again just to try and get a feel for the track but otherwise I’m back in school during Friday free practice learning my way around. As long as the weather is kind and I can get in plenty of dry laps I’m confident of coming to grips with the layout and finding a comfortable race set-up on the ZX-RR before Sunday’s race. The power-up engine parts will be nice birthday present and will hopefully help us make a step forward on home ground for Kawasaki.”
Final Qualifying Saturday October 4
HONDAS FILL FRONT ROW AS MAX MASTERS MOTEGI
As MotoGP paid further respects to the hugely missed Daijiro Kato here at Motegi, Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) went about the business of placing his machine on pole. The Roman timed his fastest lap to perfection in sunny and dry conditions edging local hero Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) into second with Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) qualifying third and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) fourth for an all-Honda front row.
Biaggi revelled in the conditions and now he has the measure of his RC211V, the Roman used his precise, inch-perfect style to put in a 1m 47.696s lap in the final seconds of the session. He timed his lap perfectly and no one had any answers to his sheer speed around the 4.801km of Motegi.
Today’s final qualifying session began with Loris Capirossi launching his Ducati skywards when he ran off-track and then hit a pot hole that buckled the front wheel rim and catapulted him and his machine into the air. Meanwhile Biaggi was taking his time before venturing on track ten minutes into the session.
Events followed the usual pattern for the first half-hour with riders perfecting set-up and testing tyre endurance. Biaggi bettered his first qualifying time from yesterday within that first half-hour and Gibernau was holding pole with a 1m 48.707s lap from that same session. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) then hoisted himself to second place with a 1m 48.767s lap, but that was his best shot and the Spaniard had to settle for seventh place by the end of the hour.
Then Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) showed precisely why he is maturing into a real force in the premier class in his rookie year. The American rocketed to a 1m 48.618s lap that was good enough for him to hold pole with 13 minutes to go.
Then it was another rookie sensation’s turn to grab the limelight as local hero Makoto Tamada posted a 1m 48.245s lap to hold pole for a time. The Japanese, running Japanese Bridgestone tyres, clearly had the measure of this track. He had said after yesterday’s session that there was more to come from him and his RC211V – and so it proved.
But his efforts were bested first by Rossi who briefly held pole, and then by the storming Biaggi. Max waited until the opportune moment mere seconds from the end of the session before firing his machine around Motegi’s 14 turns in a rapid 1m 47.696s lap.
“There were many riders out there capable of setting a fast time,” said Max. “It was a really exciting session and extremely competitive. It always seems like the air is special in Japan and I must congratulate Tamada because he was really quick today. I have a good rhythm and riding the bike is a joy. It’s the first time since Brno that I’ve felt comfortable on the bike.”
Tamada was happy enough with his efforts too. “The soft tyres enabled me to make more than one attempt to get pole,” he said. “And we were inches, just inches from the top spot. We also focussed a lot on the race and I think we’re just about there – we’ve already made our choices. I’ll be starting out with the leaders, well aware of the rhythm I can maintain.”
Rossi has a front row start, but feels there is still more to come from his bike. “Things are getting better with the setting of the bike,” he said. “There are still small things to fix but we have an opportunity in the warm-up tomorrow. At the end of the session we tried for the best lap time with a qualifying tyre but by the last five minutes I had used all the tyres. Anyway third on the front row is not too bad.”
Gibernau was less happy. “A tough day,” he said. “Instead of battling with the bike and the lap times I spent today battling against myself. I feel pretty bad physically, I have a fever and it’s difficult to keep my concentration. I was able to get one quick lap in and hold onto the front row. Now I’ll go and rest and hopefully be fit enough to fight as I want to tomorrow.”
For Nicky Hayden things keep getting better. “Quite a fun session,” he said. “Fifth place and really close to the front row is good. The race tomorrow is going to be real difficult, I’ve got to get stuck in and give it everything. There seems to be so much Hayden support here and I hope to be able to give the fans something to shout about tomorrow.”
Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) struggled after crashing yesterday and could only manage 11th place on the grid. “My times came down, but not by enough,” he said. “My whole body aches but I don’t want to make excuses. And I will go out on the track tomorrow in search of the best result possible.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) is realistic about his chances after qualifying 20th. “This morning I improved my time from yesterday,” he said. “And this afternoon I improved my time from this morning. The only thing is the other riders also improved so I am not too happy about my position.”
The 250 final qualifying session belonged to Tony Elias who stole pole from Franco Battaini within the final minute. Randy de Puniet qualified third (all Aprilia) while Sebastian Porto (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS250RW) took fourth spot on the grid.
“At the end of the session I pushed hard for two laps,” said the Argentine Porto. “I set a front row time and proved that I’ve got a good rhythm for the race. It will be a tough race because as well as the Aprilia riders we’ve got the wild card riders to contend with too.”
Those wild card riders are Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Harc-Pro Honda RS250RW) and Yuki Takahashi (Dy Do Miu racing Team Honda RS250RW) who qualified sixth and tenth respectively. Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) struggled to 11th.
“We’ve improved from the first qualifying session,” said Championship contender Rolfo. “Tomorrow I still have to make some small changes which I am convinced will be positive. The most important thing is to get a good start from the third row.”
Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) qualified on pole in the 125cc class and looks in good shape as he bids to net the eighth win of his career. The World Championship leader dominated the session and his lap time of 1m 57.736s was more than eight tenths of a second faster than second-placed qualifier Stefano Perugini (Aprilia).
Rio Grand Prix winner Jorge Lorenzo (Derbi) qualified third with Hector Barbera (Aprilia) completing the front row in fourth place. Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) heads the second row in fifth place
“I’m pretty happy with how the session went,” said Pedrosa. “The bike is going quite well. I set a good time, taking three tenths of a second off my time from last year and I think I have a good rhythm, but I’m sure it will be tough to escape tomorrow.”
HONDA TEAM QUOTES
Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons 1st : “There was a lot of action in today’s session. It was close and it was tough and the show will be good tomorrow. I’m really happy for the first time since Brno. I can feel the bike working how I want it and that’s a great feeling – I’m really enjoying myself. Thanks to the team, which is working really well and thanks to Honda and Camel too. I just hope my pace is fast enough for tomorrow.”
Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda Team, 2nd: “I’m pleased about today’s sessions: the soft tyres enabled me to make more than one attempt to go for pole and we were inches, just inches from the top spot. We also focused a lot on the race, testing materials for tomorrow, and I think we’re just about there: we’ve already made our choices. I’ll be starting out with the leaders well aware of the rhythm I can maintain. The two most important things you need if you want to try to win here at Motegi are consistency and the ability to be aggressive. We’ll see what the others do and then I’ll try to put up the good pace I know I can achieve.”
Valentino Rossi , Repsol Honda Team: 3rd: “Things are coming better especially with the setting on the bike. We work a lot for the race set-up and we manage to get a good high rhythm. There are still small things to fix but we have an opportunity in the warm up tomorrow. At the end of the session we tried for the best lap time with the qualification tyre. Normally we are always in delay and run out of time. Today we had a little bit too much time and in the last five minutes I had used all the tyres! Anyway – third position and on the front row is not too bad. We wait for tomorrow!”
Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda: 4th: “A tough day. Instead of battling with the bike and the lap times, I spent today battling against myself. I feel pretty bad physically, I have a fever and it was difficult to hold my concentration. The Clinica Mobile gave me an injection which helped, but I have to recover more because if not then tomorrow will be very tough. Anyway, I was able to get one quick lap in and hold on to the front row. Now I will go and rest in the hotel and hopefully I will be fit enough to fight as I want to.”
Fausto Gresini, Team Manager: “It is a real shame because Sete has not been in top physical condition and the fever didn’t allow him to work to the maximum level. He struggled on the bike today but at least he held on to his front row spot, which is the most important thing with respect to the race. Now he needs to rest and hopefully tomorrow with the help of the Clinica Mobile he will be fit to put in a good race. As far as Ryuichi is concerned, he is on the right lines. I think he could be a little higher up in the classification but hopefully he can do that tomorrow in front of the home crowd”.
Nicky Hayden , Repsol Honda Team: 5th: “Quite a fun session. I did my best time quite early and went to P1 (12 mins from end). On the second attempt to go faster after I’d had some time to think about it, I went 2/10th secs slower on the first lap and on the second I got a red helmet then a blue then I guess I’d just abused my tyre too much! Fifth place and really close to the front row is good. The race tomorrow is gonna’ be real difficult. I’ve gotta’ get stuck in and give everything. I’m real happy there seem to be so much Hayden support here. A lot of fans here a really into US dirt track, which is cool. I really hope to be able to give them something to shout about tomorrow.”
Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons: 11th: “I’m maybe trying too hard, but it’s not enough and I’m losing time everywhere on the track. I haven’t really had enough set-up time and there’s still a bit of pain from yesterday’s crash – but there’s no point in making excuses. The crash was my fault and I’ll just hope I feel better tomorrow and see what happens.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 20th: “Thanks to the help of my team and advice from Tady Okada, I am improving my times. This morning I improved on my time from yesterday, and this afternoon I improved on my time from this morning. The only thing is that the other riders also improved so I am not too satisfied with my position. I feel in good shape and tomorrow I will do all I can to make the top six”.
Sebastian Porto, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 4th: “We have solved most of the problems we had yesterday and made a major step forward – particularly in terms of suspension – but the engine is still down on top speed. At the end of the session I pushed hard for two laps, setting a front row time and also proving that I have a good rhythm for the race. Furthermore, I am the top Honda rider. It will be a tough race because as web as the Aprilia riders we have the wildcards to contend with here, but I feel good. I am very confident and I am motivated to put the bad luck in Brazil behind me. I think both the team and I deserve a good result”.
Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda, 11th: ”We have improved from the first qualifying session, even if the results show the contrary. We have returned to the same solutions we had at Rio de Janeiro that gave us a good result, things have gone in the right direction today.”
“I now feel much more confident on the bike, and the level of engine performance is much higher today. Only a series of coincidences prevented me from ending the session higher in the classification. The truth of the matter is I am not worried about the situation.”
“Tomorrow I still have to make some small changes which I am convinced will be positive. The most important thing I have too do is get a good start in the race from the third row, and get with the leading group very quickly. That will allow me to fight for my objective nothing less than a podium finish that will see me maintain my championship aspirations.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, Team Harc-Pro Honda, 6th: “I wanted a front row start and I got in behind Toni Elias and was able to follow him, I didn’t get the front row but I know how Toni rides. I have a good bike and a good rhythm for the race. I have a few adjustments to make in the warm up. At the GP in Suzuka it was the opening round for everybody so I did well. Here at Motegi is that I know the track very well and have a chance to race with the top riders. I just need a good start to get into a good position.”
Yuki Takahashi, Dy Do Miu Racing Honda, 10th: “Ï have improved my machine set up from yesterday but in practice today I crashed before I could go for a fast lap. When I fell I was face down but managed to keep my hands of the track top because I was afraid I might break my wrists. I rolled over and hurt my right elbow but will be OK for the race after therapy tonight.”
Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 1st: “I am pretty happy with how the session went. The bike is going quite good – we need a bit more top speed and we have a slight problem with the front brake but in general I am satisfied. Motegi is one of my favourite circuits, where I feel very comfortable. I set a good time in the final qualifying, dropping my time from last year by three tenths, and I think I have a good rhythm. Even though I have a big advantage over second place, I’m sure my rivals will react tomorrow and it will be tough to escape. ”.
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Honda, 5th: “I was much better yesterday, and this morning than I was this afternoon. I just could not go faster, my feeling while riding the bike was quite strange, as if I was empty. The set up is good, engine also, I just have a small problem with he rear tyre sliding a little. We will be OK in tomorrows warm up.”
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, 15th: “Now I feel much better about the race than I did yesterday. I was much faster this morning, very good. In the afternoon I was looking for a fast guy to follow but couldn’t find one and was riding alone. I went to the pit changed and changed from a C compound tyre to a D and went out again. On my very last lap I got in behind Dovizioso and set my fastest lap, so I’m happy enough with that.”
Simone Corsi, Scot Honda, 17th: “”The bike is good, we just have a couple of things to try in the warm up to see if we can improve on set up. This is my fist time at Motegi but I like the track but there are a couple of corners at the of the circuit where I know I can be faster in the race.”
Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 21st: “In the final qualification session we had a lot of detonation, the counter showed we were way to high. It was very strange after this morning’s free practice when everything went well. We changed the carburetion settings but the engine was too rich and I could not run faster times. The bike set up is good, we just have to work out the engine problem.”
DUCATI MARLBORO MEN MAKE THE BEST OF A DIFFICULT DAY
Ducati Marlboro Team riders Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss made the best of a difficult day at Motegi today, qualifying sixth and tenth quickest for tomorrow’s Pacific GP, round 13 of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship.
Both men started the weekend at a disadvantage because the Desmosedici had never been run at Motegi before yesterday’s first practice session. Things were most difficult for Bayliss who had never ridden here before, while Capirossi complicated matters for himself by falling during the opening minutes of final qualifying, through no fault of his own.
“A difficult day but I think both our guys have done well considering the circumstances,” said Ducati Marlboro Team director Livio Suppo. “This is the team’s first time here, so we needed all the track time we could get, so Loris’ crash cost him a lot. I’m impressed that he was able to maintain his focus and make the second row with a good final lap this afternoon, a great effort considering the closeness of the times. Troy has also done a great job. Once again he’s had to learn a track from zero, and he’s solved the set-up difficulties he had yesterday. It’s always challenging when the team doesn’t know a circuit, but I’m glad to say this is the last current MotoGP track that we’ve had to learn. From now on we won’t be starting race weekends at such a disadvantage.”
UNLUCKY FALL COSTS CAPIROSSI
Ducati Marlboro Team rider Loris Capirossi has been one of the most consistent front-row qualifiers of 2003, starting inside the top four at ten of the first 12 GPs of 2003. But he ended today’s final qualifying session sixth fastest, resorting to his number-two machine for his final fast run because his number-one bike had been damaged when he fell on his first lap. The crash was no fault of Capirossi’s – he was on the grass run-off area when he hit a pot hole that propelled bike and rider into the air.
“I had a rear-end slide at the fast left before the final chicane, which I saved, no problem,” explained Capirossi who ran onto the grass after regaining control. “But then I hit something and the bike just took off. The damage wasn’t bad, though the initial impact had buckled the front wheel rim, but after the obvious damage had been fixed it still didn’t feel quite right, so I used my other machine for my final run on Michelin qualifiers. It’s a shame I lost all that track time with my race bike because we needed more time to work on settings. This track looks straightforward but you need a perfect set-up to go fast, so I wasn’t able to extract the full potential of my Desmosedici today. The race won’t be easy, but my aim is to get a good start and run with the first group.”
BAYLISS GETS FASTER AND FASTER
Like his Ducati Marlboro Team, Troy Bayliss has been getting to know Motegi over the past two days, and his progress has been impressive. The Aussie’s lap times have tumbled session by session – yesterday morning he was 2.4 seconds off pole but by the end of this afternoon’s session he had closed the gap to just 1.2 seconds, good enough to put him tenth for a third-row start. And Bayliss hasn’t only been learning his way round, he’s also been working hard with his crew to improve stability during heavy braking.
“We’ve made some good improvements, gone faster every session and we’re not far off the five guys immediately in front of me,” said the former World Superbike champion. “I made a couple of little mistakes on my fastest lap, but the main thing is that we were looking pretty good on race tyres, so I’m happy about that. We’d been struggling a bit with braking stability, so we’ve been changing things quite a bit, playing around with oil levels, that sort of thing. We’ve another few ideas for morning warm-up, then things should be sweet, or pretty sweet!”
FUCHS KAWASAKI TEAM MAKES DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT AT MOTEGI
The Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team made impressive progress during today’s second, and final, qualifying session for Sunday’s Pacific Grand Prix of Motegi. Both Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt made maximum use of the new, higher power, Ninja ZX-RR engine to dramatically improve on their lap times from yesterday.
McCoy reduced his Friday time by 1.2s while his fellow Australian, and Motegi debutante, Andrew Pitt slashed his previous best by 1.5s as he continued to learn the demanding stadium-style layout.
Final qualifying was frantically competitive, with the previous best qualifying time at Motegi reduced by over a second during the final moments, meaning that, despite the big drop in lap times by both Ninja ZX-RR riders, neither was able to move forward from the sixth row of the grid. McCoy will start 21st after posting his best time with 25 minutes remaining in the session, while Pitt secured 22nd on grid with his fastest time coming on his penultimate lap.
Both Fuchs Kawasaki riders spent most of today’s practice and qualifying sessions fine tuning race set-up and evaluating tyre options, with only minor suspension adjustments.
And with revised electronic management settings, the upgraded engine specification delivered for this race is now more rider friendly and both McCoy and Pitt declared themselves happier with the smoother bottom end power delivery during today’s sessions, which helped control the front end lift problems experienced yesterday.
Garry McCoy – 21st – 1:50.667
“For me it was pretty much keeping the base set-up from yesterday, some new wheels, tyres and brake pads and away I went. The main change was the engine characteristics and less engine braking and both my bikes had the longer gear ratios from yesterday, which help keep the front end down at this track. The new motor now feels better off the bottom end and you can notice the difference at the top end with more rpm on hand. In the fast changes of direction the bike still feels heavy and I can’t dream of taking the lines some other riders are using, but we seem to have a good base for the race. My cold feels worse today and I went to the Clinic at lunch time, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse.”
Andrew Pitt – 22nd – 1:51.008
“I took a big chunk of time, one and half seconds, off my Friday lap so I’m pretty happy with that. I kept the bike exactly the same as yesterday other than just smoothing out the power delivery on the bottom end, which helps control the wheelie problem we are experiencing here. I just kept chipping away at learning the track and doing race distance tyre runs and it looks like we have a good option for tomorrow. I’m enjoying the track and getting a better feel for the new engine package and hope to make more progress tomorrow in the race.”
|QUALIFYING PRACTICE 2 – FINAL TIMES|
|1.||MAX BIAGGI||ITA||CAMEL PRAMAC PONS||1:47.696|
|2.||MAKOTO TAMADA||JPN||PRAMAC HONDA||+0.108|
|3.||VALENTINO ROSSI||ITA||REPSOL HONDA||+0.334|
|4.||SETE GIBERNAU||SPA||TELEFONICA MOVISTAR HONDA||+0.761|
|5.||NICKY HAYDEN||USA||REPSOL HONDA||+0.922|
|6.||LORIS CAPIROSSI||ITA||DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM||+0.999|
|7.||CARLOS CHECA||SPA||FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM||+1.071|
|8.||ALEX BARROS||BRA||GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM||+1.084|
|9.||MARCO MELANDRI||ITA||FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM||+1.186|
|10.||TROY BAYLISS||AUS||DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM||+1.268|
|21.||GARRY MCCOY||AUS||KAWASAKI RACING TEAM||+2.981|
|22.||ANDREW PITT||AUS||KAWASAKI RACING TEAM||+3.312|
MAX TAKES POLE POSITION WHILE TOHRU TOUGHS IT OUT
Camel Pramac Pons rider Max Biaggi put his immense talent on display here at Motegi today to clinch his second pole position of the season with a masterly performance. His speed, precision and timing were impeccable as he romped to the top of the grid just as the final seconds of the session ticked away.
Makoto Tamada qualified second with Valentino Rossi third and Sete Gibernau (all Honda) completing the front row in fourth. The durable Japanese Tohru Ukawa bravely battled to 11th after crashing heavily yesterday and fighting the pain to complete the hour-long session.
Max was getting in the groove yesterday and it came as no surprise when the Roman maestro timed his hottest lap to perfection and snatched pole from Tamada. The Japanese had been lurking in the top four for most of the session and held pole with less than a minute and a half remaining.
But Max was biding his time and with his RC211V dialled in to his exacting requirements, he put together a typically neat and rapid lap that no one could respond to.
With most riders refining their race set-ups throughout most of the day, it was Carlos Checa (Yamaha) who was first to show his hand by hoisting himself to second at the halfway stage behind Gibernau, who left it very late to improve his time from yesterday.
Hayden was another temporary pole-sitter, as was Rossi, but of the dominant Honda riders, who occupy the first five grid positions, Max was the man. And he proved once again that when he has what he needs in a motorcycle, he is a peerless performer.
1. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 47.696s
2. Makoto Tamada (Honda) 1m 47.804s
3. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m 48.030s
4. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 1m 48.457s
5. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1m 48.618s
6. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1m 48.695s
7. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 1m 48.767s
8. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 1m 48.780s
9. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 1m 48.882s
10. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 1m 48.964s
11. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 1m 49.022s
Max Biaggi (pole): “There was a lot of action in today’s session. It was close and it was tough and the show will be good tomorrow. I’m really happy for the first time since Brno. I can feel the bike working how I want it and that’s a great feeling – I’m really enjoying myself. Thanks to the team, which is working really well and thanks to Honda and Camel too. I just hope my pace is fast enough for tomorrow.”
Tohru Ukawa (11th): “I’m maybe trying too hard, but it’s not enough and I’m losing time everywhere on the track. I haven’t really had enough set-up time and there’s still a bit of pain from yesterday’s crash – but there’s no point in making excuses. The crash was my fault and I’ll just hope I feel better tomorrow and see what happens.”
Team Suzuki Press Office Friday, October 3, 2003.
Team Suzuki rider John Hopkins qualified tenth in today’s first qualifying session for Sunday’s Pacific GP, with team-mates Akira Ryo and Kenny Roberts Jr. close behind, in 12th and 13th positions, marking an improvement in team fortunes and reflecting a raft of technical improvements for the Suzuki GSV-R racer’s second home GP of the year.
Hopkins’s best lap came at the end of the hour-long session, and put him third overall, a position he held until near the end of the session. He was bumped to tenth as all riders fitted soft qualifying tyres for their own single fast laps, but the Anglo-American rider still finished up barely a second off provisional pole time, the closest yet for the GSV-R.
All three riders (Ryo is a wild card entry for this race and next weekend’s Malaysian GP) were using different variations of the 990cc V4 engine, under the close scrutiny of top factory race department designers and engineers. This is part of the programme not only to realise the full potential of this year’s machine, but also development for the 2004 version, already in an advanced stage of design at the Hamamatsu headquarters.
Roberts chose a different variation of the new settings from Hopkins, while Ryo’s engine is different again in internal details and specifications.
For Ryo, today’s outing was the first chance to blow away cobwebs and get used to riding in fast company again. The last time the 36-year-old rider from Tokyo raced was at last year’s Malaysian GP. This year he has been engaged full time as factory tester for the MotoGP project, riding mainly at the factory’s Ryuyo test track, and generally alone.
Today’s practice took place in warm and sunny conditions, with the fine weather forecast to stay for the whole weekend. There is one more day of practice before Sunday’s race, the 13th of 16 rounds, and the first of a trio of back-to-back flyaway races on consecutive weekends, in Japan, Malaysia and Australia.
JOHN HOPKINS – Tenth Position, 1:49.887
My left wrist and calf that I injured in Rio two weeks ago are still bugging me a little, but it’s not so bad on the bike. Today’s practice went pretty good: this track somewhat suits our bike, and also my riding style. I like the hard braking, and to me this is a real fun circuit. We have a lot of new parts here, but so far I’m only using the new exhaust, which might make a difference that shows on the data, but not much to the rider. We’ll test some of the new stuff tomorrow, but today I concentrated on finding a liking for what we’ve been running. We’re looking for the best grip possible, and we were struggling a little bit today, because the crash in Rio affected my confidence. But I got to feeling comfortable out there, and it wasn’t too bad a day.
AKIRA RYO – 12th Position, 1:50.362
The feeling today was not so bad. The latest engine makes it easier than ever before to follow the other machines, and when I used a qualifying tyre I was following Capirossi, at a good pace. Then I almost crashed and lost a lot of time . but even so that was my fastest lap! I am confident that tomorrow I can get into the 1:49s. One reason is that I am getting back to racing speed. It is almost a year since my last race. It is also my first time at Motegi this year, except for one test a month ago.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. – 13th Position, 1:50.436
Here we seem to have quite a few more things from the factory – I think it’s the best race of the year from the point of new stuff to try, and actually quite big stuff, in terms of engine specification. It definitely seems to be a better way, if not for lap times, for understanding what the bike needs to do to go faster round a lap. Suzuki would like me to concentrate in this direction, and they have something different for Ryo, so at the moment all three riders are using different engines. We haven’t made a gigantic step, but at least we have a lot of things to try, and they do what the factory says they’re going to do, so they understand the way we
need to go.
GARRY TAYLOR – Team Manager
We’re just about on a second off pole, and that’s the direction we want to go in. The factory people have been working very hard, and gradually the tide is turning. John did really well considering his condition, and as always Kenny put in a hard day’s work. Having Akira adds another dimension. It’s good to see some progress after all the effort.
Team Suzuki Press Office Saturday, October 4, 2003
Team Suzuki rider Akira Ryo led the trio of Suzukis on a day when all three riders gained strength, and improved their prospects for tomorrow’s race.
Wild card Ryo slashed almost a full second off his time to move ahead of full-time Suzuki riders John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts Jr., qualifying 14th, on the fourth row of the starting grid. Hopkins also cut his time; and though Roberts didn’t find an improvement for the stop watches, he had made distinct progress in overall settings for the race. Both the full-timers ended the final practice session with hopes boosted of scoring points tomorrow.
Hopkins qualified 16th, and will also start from the fourth row, with Roberts one row behind, 19th-fastest.
Ryo has not raced since last year’s Malaysian GP, working instead as full-time tester for the MotoGP project. His development machine has a number of differences from those ridden by Roberts and Hopkins. As well as a different engine specification, Ryo is also using a redesigned rear suspension system. The principal benefit is to free up more space for the exhaust pipe, allowing engineers to get closer to the perfect tuned length. Ryo’s four-into-one exhaust exits on the left-hand side of the machine, while the system used by the other riders (also new for this race) has the tailpipe on the right.
These experiments are the outward evidence of Suzuki’s fast-forward development programme, aimed at improving the performance of this year’s radical new V4, using cutting-edge technology for the first time, and also at developing next year’s GSV-R racer. The long-term aim is to return Suzuki to their accustomed position of challenging for race wins and the World Championship, that the company last won in 2000, with Kenny Roberts riding the 500cc two-stroke RGV Gamma.
Today’s practice took place in warm and dry conditions, with the sun shining for most of the session, but the track cooler than yesterday. Similar weather is expected for tomorrow’s race round the 4.801km circuit – the 13th of 16 World Championship rounds.
AKIRA RYO – 14th Position, 1:49.404
I thought I could make a 1:48 lap time and the third row, so I am a little disappointed. I lost some time this morning making rear suspension changes and testing race tyres, but I didn’t get a good feeling. In the end, we found a reasonably good set-up, and I was aiming for the 48s in the afternoon. We also found a good tyre for the race, that is consistent and with a good pace. This is a very stop-and-go track and that can space out the riders. That means the first five or six laps are very important. You need to get a good start and ride hard in the early laps. If I can do that and gain a good position in the early stages, then I think we can hope for a good result.
JOHN HOPKINS – 16th Position, 1:49.650
I was hoping to qualify higher up the grid, but basically I’m pretty much happy with how the day went. We found an improvement to the grip overnight, and carried that on this morning. I was trying some suspension stuff for Ohlins, and that helped us out, so it’s a little bit of a step. I had a good run in the morning, running consistent 1:50s, which I’m happy about. We didn’t run any of the new machine parts today. At the end I went out for a good lap on a softer tyre, but I went too slow too early, and I didn’t get enough heat into the tyre on my out lap. I was a bit sceptical about the grip for my fast lap. But we can certainly aim for the points tomorrow.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. – 19th Position, 1:50.436
We engineered a completely different set-up, and I was able to go quicker on it straight away. It’s stuff we haven’t messed around with all year. The changes seemed quite positive, with the bike immediately feeling more natural. Once again we worked with the new engine spec, and still I’m happy with the initial feel and the way it’s coming off the corner. We already have the race tyre picked out, and the bike feels pretty good in race trim for its lap time, so once again we’re going to try to get in the points. Lap-time wise its hard to really justify the progress, but at least there is a lot more stuff here, and generally it’s positive.
GARRY TAYLOR – Team Manager
It’s been a mixed and interesting day. Akira used everything he has to get the best out of the development bike, and he did a great job. The different style of suspension and exhaust seem to be an improvement. John did some good consistent times, and probably deserved to be higher up the grid. Kenny also worked hard, and it’s good that he feels the factory engineers are making significant progress. The direction is good.
SATURDAY OFFICIAL QUALIFYING TIMES MOTEGI, JAPAN
1. Max Biaggi (Honda) 1’47.696
2. Makoto Tamada (Honda) + 0.108
3. Valentino Rossi (Honda) + 0.334,
4. Sete Gibernau (Honda) + 0.761
5. Nicky Hayden (Honda) + 0.922
6. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) + 0.999
7. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) + 1.071
8. Alex Barros (Yamaha) + 1.084
9. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) + 1.186
10. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) + 1.268
14. Akira Ryo (Team Suzuki) + 1.708
16. John Hopkins (Suzuki Grand Prix Team) + 1.954
19. Kenny Roberts (Suzuki Grand Prix Team) + 2.774
Raceday Sunday October 5
Track temperature: 29 degrees
Ambient temperature: 23 degrees, bright sunshine, very light breeze
MAX BIAGGI WINS AS HONDA RIDERS NET TOP FOUR PLACES
Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) was way ahead of the controversy that was eventually to surround the Pacific Grand Prix when he won by 3.754 seconds from Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda RC211V) in front of 56,000 Japanese race fans in fine autumn weather. But although Makoto Tamada (Pramac Honda RC211V) crossed the line third after barging his way past Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) on the final lap, the Japanese rider was later disqualified for what Race Direction described as “riding in an irresponsible manner.”
This elevated Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) to third and Gibernau to fourth although the Spaniard made the finish in fifth before the authorities stepped in. Gibernau, who did not make a protest, later said, “I’m sure it’s the correct decision, I don’t want revenge or anything.”
Gibernau had to take to the gravel trap after Tamada made contact with him in the downhill braking area to the second tunnel section and although he did not fall off, the move was deemed sufficiently beyond usual forceful racing manoeuvres to warrant a disqualification.
Race director Paul Butler said, “We want to give a message to the riders that these things (MotoGP bikes) are fast, heavy and dangerous. We’ve spoken to the rider and there was an element of ‘it’s a fair cop’ to his reaction.”
Tamada’s Pramac Honda Team appealed, but the appeal was thrown out by the FIM stewards. There was further off-track involvement when John Hopkins was served a ban from next weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix for a first turn, first lap incident when he collided with Carlos Checa (Yamaha) and Troy Bayliss (Ducati). Hopkins’ Suzuki Team appealed against the decision. The appeal was thrown out.
On track, events were typically compelling. The first turn incident and subsequent avoiding action taken by those who rode through it unscathed deprived the riders stationed behind the chaos of getting in touch with the early leaders. Gibernau made it out of turn one in the lead with Biaggi tucked in behind him, with Hayden, Rossi and Tamada in touch.
On lap three Biaggi took the lead from Gibernau and began to make a gap, which by lap six stood at 1.236 seconds on lap seven. Rossi was pushing hard in second having disposed of Hayden and Gibernau – hard enough to run wide at turn one on that lap and take to the gravel before rejoining the track in ninth place.
But the reigning World Champion set a fastest lap of 1.48.885 seconds on lap 16 as he dug deep to make up the final few yards on Biaggi’s immediate pursuers. He soon made short work of them taking Tamada on lap 18, Hayden on lap 19 and then Gibernau two turns after he’d disposed of his American Repsol team-mate.
But Biaggi had now carved out a 5.007 second lead over his pursuers and there was little even Rossi could do in the remaining four laps to put any real pressure on Biaggi, who was riding a composed and rapid race. He won with comparative ease, but no MotoGP win is ever easy.
“This was a tough and complicated race because the rhythm was fast from the start,” he said. “I made a good start and got ahead of Gibernau on the brakes. When I learned what happened to Rossi I just tried to maintain the rhythm and build up a good lead. Two laps from the end I nearly fell and it was a miracle I managed to stay on the bike. This has been one of the best Grands Prix of the year and I would like to dedicate it to Daijiro Kato.”
Rossi had to be content with extending his points advantage over title rival Gibernau. “After a few laps I made a mistake braking,” he said. “I went straight on and the situation was very bad with Gibernau in second place and me in ninth. After I recovered I made the fastest lap and got back to the second group. Now I’ll arrive in Malaysia with a big advantage.”
Hayden who was bounced up to third by the disqualification of Tamada was happier with his continued competitiveness at the front of the field than his inherited result. “It’s not the way I want to move up the tables,” said the American rookie. “I want a proper podium and that’s what I’ll be working for.”
Gibernau was sanguine about the result and happy to come away with what he did after suffering from a fever. “It was one of my most difficult races,” said the Spaniard. “Luckily I didn’t fall and I can look forward to the next race when I hope to be in better shape. I felt very weak when I got off the bike.”
Tamada said, “I know what I can do when braking and I’ve got a front tyre I can trust, so I decided to play all the cards I’ve got. When I saw that I was on the inside and half a length in front of Gibernau I started taking the corner. I’m sorry that Sete took exception to what I consider to be a normal race manoeuvre. I’m also upset about the sentence that I feel is exceptionally harsh.”
Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons RC211V) finished eighth. “I didn’t make a great start,” he said. “But it wasn’t that bad either. What really affected my race was the incident involving Hopkins which made me lose touch with the leaders. I can’t be happy when I finish 20 seconds behind the winner.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V) finished 18th. “I wasn’t able to set a good rhythm,” he said. “Luckily we don’t have to wait for two weeks until the next race because I’m keen to get on with things. As always I will give maximum effort in the last three races.”
Rossi leads the World Championship points table with 282 points to Gibernau’s 224, with Biaggi on 199 and Capirossi on 131.
Tony Elias (Aprilia) won the 250 race from Roberto Rolfo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) with Manuel Poggiali third (Aprilia). Elias made his break right from the start, leading into turn one and never relinquishing his lead throughout the 23 laps of the 4.801km track.
But although Elias hauled himself into remote title contention with his win, Rolfo was the man who did the most to improve his Championship chances by taking points off Poggiali. And perhaps more crucially, Rolfo showed the San Marinese title leader that he simply will not give up his chase for 250 honours this year.
The last six races in the 250 World Championship have now been won by six different riders and Rolfo is the only rider to have scored points at all the 13 races so far this year. His consistency is as much to do with his absolute determination to take the fight to his rivals at every opportunity as it is to do with his ability to ride within the limits of himself and his machine.
Rolfo had to use all his wiles to get the better of Poggiali and the Italian made his move on the penultimate lap. But Poggiali pounced back before Rolfo finally made his pass stick and when Poggiali got his machine a bit too loose in his bid to re-pass Rolfo he lost touch and Rolfo netted second in comparative comfort.
“There’s huge satisfaction to be had from second on the podium,” said Rolfo. “We had some huge problems during practice but we knew how to rescue the situation. The result is very important for the Championship and second place was in my hands – that’s why I fought so hard.”
The World Championship points tallies show Poggiali on 206, Rolfo with 188 and Elias in the hunt with 176.
Hector Barbera (Aprilia) started from the front row for only the third time in his career and won his second Grand Prix in a tight contest. Casey Stoner (Aprilia) was second and Andrea Dovisioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) was third. World Championship points leader Daniel Pedrosa (Telefonica Movistar Junior Team RS125R) was sixth.
Pedrosa led from the start having started from pole for the second successive race and the third time this season and pulled out an impressive lead in the opening laps. He set one of the fastest laps of the race on lap three at 1m 58.979 seconds and looked to have the 21-lap contest well under control.
But on lap 15 his steering damper worked loose and the title leader lost two and a half seconds form his 4.112 second lead as he struggled to address the problem which hampered his braking into turns and acceleration out of them for the rest of the race.
With Pedrosa dropping back the battle raged for the lead in the final laps between Barbera, Stoner and Dovisioso. But Barbera made no mistakes and left no gaps for his close pursuers to exploit.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Pedrosa. “Six laps from the end with more than four seconds advantage the steering damper came loose. The bike was virtually unrideable and that’s a shame because I could have made a major step towards the title. We have had problems for three races now and hopefully the bad run will end in Malaysia.”
The World Championship points standings now show Pedrosa with 198, Perugini on 159, Alex de Angelis with 147 and Dovisioso with 146. The next race is at Sepang in Malaysia next weekend.
HONDA TEAM QUOTES:
Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Pons: 1st: “ This was a tough, difficult and complicated race because of the rhythm throughout the race was very high. I made a good start and got ahead of Gibernau to take the lead. When I saw that Rossi had overshot the corner I maintained the rhythm to try and build up a good lead and not lose concentration for a second. Two laps from the end I nearly fell. I really thought I was going to ground as the bike wobbled, but it was a miracle that I managed to stay on the bike. I am obviously very happy and the team has worked really well this weekend. It has been one of the best Grand Prix of the year and I would like to dedicate it to Daijiro Kato.”
Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team, 2nd: “After a few laps I make a mistake in the braking at the first corner. I lost the control of my bike. I go straight on at the corner and the situation was very bad with Gibernau in second place and me in ninth. After it was possible to recover. I ride well, make the fastest lap and it was possible to come back to the second group. At the end it was possible to overtake everyone and to make a good lap on the last lap. Also Sete have some problems so I recover some points. It is possible to arrive in Malaysia with a big advantage.”
Nicky Hayden , Repsol Honda Team: race 4th – elevated to 3rd after Tamada disqualification : “I just heard that Tamada has been disqualified and I guess that has moved me up to third. It’s not the way I want to move up the tables. I want a proper podium and that’s what I’ll be workin’ hard for. That was a wild race for sure! I wish I was scrapping for the win but I’m pretty happy with a season’s best placing. I was ridin’ real hard. Felt like a squirrel a few times. I was all over the place. I need to smooth things out a little bit. At the end of the race a made a little mistake and a gap opened between me and the Gibernau, Tamada fight. I would like to have been a little closer to take advantage but hay! I’m still learnin’ every week. Moved up the riders table as well in the right direction!”
Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda: 4th: “I think it was one of my most difficult ever races. I was physically struggling all weekend – yesterday I had a 38º fever and also this morning. In the race I gave everything but I could only see two metres ahead because my eyes were watering. In fact, I almost hit another rider several times because I couldn’t see. Despite my condition, the fantastic work by the team over the weekend allowed me to fight at the front. It is a shame that Tamada made what I thought was a dangerous move on the last lap. Luckily I didn’t fall and now I can look forward to the next race when I hope to be in better shape. Finally, I would like to thank the Clinica Mobile staff for their help leading up to the race and even afterwards, because I felt very weak when I got off the bike”.
Fausto Gresini Team Manager: “I was worried today because Sete had a fever today and yesterday, but he gave his all and had a great race. It was perfect until the last lap. It is a shame because I thought Tamada was out of order but the important thing is that Sete is okay. We have clearly not had much luck this weekend but now we have to put this behind us and think about the next race. Ryuichi pushed 100% and rode very well. He was brave and I salute him.”
Tohru Ukawa, Camel Pramac Pons: 8th: “ I did not make a good start, but it wasn’t bad either. What really affected my race was the incident involving Hopkins on the first corner, which made me lose touch with the leaders, and I was not able to reduce this difference during the rest of the race. The bike was sliding a lot in the inside of the corners, but I cannot be happy with the race when I finished 20 seconds behind the winner.”
Sito Pons: Team manager: “ I am very happy with this victory and especially for the fact that Max and the whole team have performed fantastically and I would like to really congratulate them on their great work. It seems like we are finally coming to terms with the new engine configuration and Max can ride, as he would like. It has certainly been the best race of the season so far. On the other hand, I feel sorry that Tohru could not round off the progress he has shown with a podium finish, but after his big crash on Friday he has not been 100% fit for the rest of the weekend.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari, Telefonica Movistar Honda: “I wasn’t able to set a good rhythm in the first half of the race. When I caught Haga I couldn’t get past him quickly and I lost a lot of time. I am not really happy with today’s result. Luckliy we don’t have to wait for two weeks until the next race because I am keen to get on with it. As always, I will give maximum effort in the last three races”.
Makoto Tamada, Pramac Honda: disqualified: ” In some parts of the circuit I was faster than Gibernau, and in others he was faster than me. So it looked as though I had all I needed to make a fight for the third place on the podium. The first opportunity was the S-bend: I got in first but Sete overtook me on the way out. This meant that the second and last opportunity would be in deceleration and braking into the 90-degree right-hand corner. It was like a battle of wits to see who would be the last to put on his brakes. I know what I can do when braking and I’ve got a front tyre that I can trust, so I decided to play all the cards I’d got. When I saw I was on the inside and half a length in front of him, I started taking the corner. I’m sorry that Sete took exception to what I consider to be a normal race manoeuvre, and I’m also upset about the
sentence that I feel is exceptionally harsh.”
“I think the penalty inflicted on Makoto Tamada today is too harsh and rigid”, added sports director Gianluca Montiron. ” It was quite clear that Tamada had no intention of obstructing Sete Gibernau or putting him out of the race. It was a normal race manoeuvre. We’re appealing and just trust that the commission will review its ruling. I’d like to thank Honda and Bridgestone for all the great work they’ve done to make us competitive this weekend. It was one of the finest and most sporting races I’d ever watched.”
Roberto Rolfo, Fortuna Honda, 2nd: ”This is a huge satisfaction to be second on the podium. We had some problems during practice but we knew how to rescue the situation in an adequate way and that made everything good with the Fortuna Honda.”
“I knew that the start was going to be one of the most important moments of the race and Ii was concentrating at my maximum. At the end of the first straight I was with the leaders and only Elias was untouchable, second place on the podium was in my hands. That’s why I fought so hard so that nobody else could possibly escape. The bike worked perfectly today, both the chassis and the engine, that’s why I could fight for the podium.”
“This result is very important for the team and the championship, we pulled back four precious points in respect to Poggiali. But I say sincerely I was never worried about the race. We are fighting for the championship and the best thing we can do is to continue this way with a view to the future, and with a much better evolution of the bike. If we do the results will come for me.”
Yukio Takahashi, Dy Do Miu Honda, 4th: “That was a hard race and I must say I enjoyed it but I really wanted to finish on the podium today. I studied how to race against the European riders because they go so hard right from the start – I have to learn to do the same. I had a great race with Aoyama San and I just managed to beat him.”
Hiroshi Aoyama, Harc-Pro Honda, 5th: “Ï have the same feeling about the race as Takahashi San, the Europeans go so hard right from the start. That made it difficult for me, as I was just too slow at the beginning of the race. I saw Rolfo and Poggiali and wanted to get with them and race against them but they were gone when I got into my rhythm.”
Sebastian Porto, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, dnf: “The crash was a bit strange when I got on the throttle it delivered a lot of power and the back end came round and I was and the back end came round. Luckily I didn’t get hurt, all I have is a swollen left ankle.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Scot Honda, 3rd: “I am a little disappointed with my race, it was possible for me to win the race today the bike was really good. In the race I got bad cramp in my lower leg and had some trouble changing down through the gearbox.”
Dani Pedrosa, Telefonica MoviStar Honda Jnr Team, 6th: “This has been a difficult race for us. We had a problem in the warm up and had to use the spare bike but we didn’t know how it would be in the race. I got a really good start and opened a gap on the others but late in the race I had problems with the steering damper and lost a lot of time. It was a pity because today I could have extended my lead in the championship. I know this is part of racing and these things can happen. I don’t blame anybody.”
Thomas Luthi, Elit Honda, 10th: “The first lap of the race was not so good for me. I got a perfect start but at the first corner I was on the inside line and a lot of riders rode around the outside of me. That left me on the wrong side of the track at the second corner, I lost a lot of places but after about three laps I found my rhythm and started to move forward. I saw the big group about 500 meters ahead of me so it was go, go, go, and I slowly caught them. Only Giansanti was a problem. On the last lap he outbraked me but he left enough room for me to get passed again. ”
Masao Azuma, Ajo Motorsports Honda, 13th: “The result is not satisfactory. I was not so good in qualifying and started from the sixth row. I gave my maximum on the second lap and got up to 10th place. But I was riding too hard at many braking points and was running straight on. After that I was quiet, not too aggressive. The bike was better than qualifying but we still have some work to do before next week.”
Simone Corsi, Scot Honda, 15th: “Ï am not satisfied with my race, I was had really bad chattering on the front wheel early. This is strange because in the warm up there was no problem. The chatter also caused me a few problems with rear wheel slides. Pity because the engine was really good today.”
Race Classification MotoGP : (24 laps = 115.224 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Max BIAGGI /ITA /Camel Pramac Pons /HONDA/43’57.590/157.267
2/Valentino ROSSI /ITA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/44’01.344/157.043
3/Nicky HAYDEN /USA /Repsol Honda /HONDA/44’03.231/156.931
4/Sete GIBERNAU /SPA /Telefónica Movistar Honda /HONDA/44’17.046/156.115
5/Marco MELANDRI /ITA /Fortuna Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’17.499/156.089
6/Alex BARROS /BRA /Gauloises Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’18.528/156.028
7/Tohru UKAWA /JPN /Camel Pramac Pons /HONDA/44’19.897/155.948
8/Loris CAPIROSSI /ITA /Ducati Marlboro Team /DUCATI/44’25.477/155.621
9/Shinya NAKANO /JPN /d’Antín Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/44’39.321/154.817
10/Akira RYO /JPN /Team Suzuki /SUZUKI/44’47.696/154.335
11/Ryuichi KIYONARI /JPN /Telefonica Movistar Honda /HONDA/44’50.804/154.157
12/Noriyuki HAGA /JPN /Alice Aprilia Racing /APRILIA/44’51.179/154.135
13/Olivier JACQUE /FRA /Gauloises Yamaha Team /YAMAHA/45’03.210/153.449
14/Nobuatsu AOKI /JPN /Proton Team KR /PROTON KR/45’05.125/153.340
15/Kenny ROBERTS /USA /Suzuki Grand Prix Team /SUZUKI/45’06.645/153.254
Fastest Lap: Valentino ROSSI 1’48.885 158.732 Km/h Lap 16
World Championship Positions:
1 ROSSI 282, 2 GIBERNAU 224, 3 BIAGGI 199, 4 CAPIROSSI 131, 5 BAYLISS 112,
6 UKAWA 103, 7 HAYDEN 101, 8 CHECA 93, 9 BARROS 90, 10 NAKANO 84, 11 TAMADA 69,
12 JACQUE 61, 13 EDWARDS 51, 14 MELANDRI 40, 15 HAGA 40.
Race Classification 250cc: (23 laps = 110.423 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Toni ELIAS /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/43’57.125/150.740
2/Roberto ROLFO /ITA /Fortuna Honda /HONDA/43’58.608/150.656
3/Manuel POGGIALI /RSM /MS Aprilia Team /APRILIA/43’59.284/150.617
4/Yuki TAKAHASHI /JPN /Dy Do Miu Racing Team /HONDA/44’03.143/150.397
5/Hiroshi AOYAMA /JPN /Team Harc-Pro /HONDA/44’03.288/150.389
6/Randy De Punet /FRA /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/44’17.532/149.583
7/Naoki MATSUDO /JPN /Yamaha Kurz /YAMAHA/44’23.063/149.272
8/Fonsi NIETO /SPA /Team Repsol Telefonica Movistar /APRILIA/44’25.542/149.133
9/Alex DEBON /SPA /Troll Honda BQR /HONDA/44’36.929/148.499
10/Choujun KAMEYA /JPN /Burning Blood RT /HONDA/44’37.044/148.493
11/Chaz DAVIES /GBR /Aprilia Germany /APRILIA/44’46.828/147.952
12/Christian GEMMEL /GER /Kiefer Castrol-Honda Racing /HONDA/44’53.046/147.610
13/Alex BALDOLINI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/44’58.140/147.332
14/Dirk HEIDOLF /GER /Aprilia Germany /APRILIA/45’00.512/147.202
15/Masaki TOKUDOME /JPN /J Racing /YAMAHA/45’00.655/147.194
Fastest Lap: Toni ELIAS 1’53.612 152.128 Km/h Lap 6
World Championship Positions:
1 POGGIALI 206, 2 ROLFO 188, 3 ELIAS 176, 4 DE PUNIET 172, 5 NIETO 151, 6 WEST 118,
7 BATTAINI 117, 8 PORTO 109, 9 MATSUDO 95, 10 GUINTOLI 88, 11 DEBON 64,
12 OLIVE 36, 13 FAUBEL 34, 14 AOYAMA 31, 15 TAKAHASHI 29.
Race Classification 125cc (21 laps = 100.821 km)
Pos/Rider /Nat /Team /Motorcycle /Time/KM/H
1/Hector BARBERA /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/41’54.483/144.346
2/Casey STONER /AUS /Safilo Oxydo-LCR /APRILIA/41’54.647/144.336
3/Andrea DOVIZIOSO /ITA /Team Scot /HONDA/41’54.787/144.328
4/Stefano PERUGINI /ITA /Abruzzo Racing Team /APRILIA/41’57.214/144.189
5/Steve JENKNER /GER /Exalt Cycle Red Devil /APRILIA/41’57.453/144.175
6/Daniel PEDROSA /SPA /Telefonica Movistar jnr Team /HONDA/41’57.698/144.161
7/Mika KALLIO /FIN /KTM-Red Bull /KTM/41’57.747/144.158
8/Pablo NIETO /SPA /Master-MXOnda-Aspar Team /APRILIA/42’03.683/143.819
9/Alex De ANGELIS /RSM /Globet.com Racing /APRILIA/42’07.499/143.602
10/Thomas LUTHI /SWI /Elit Grand Prix /HONDA/42’07.678/143.592
11/Mirko GIANSANTI /ITA /Matteoni Racing /APRILIA/42’07.836/143.583
12/Alvaro BAUTISTA /SPA /Seedorf Racing /APRILIA/42’14.331/143.215
13/Masao Azuma /JPN / Ajo Motorsports / HONDA/42’14.590/143.200
14/Gabor TALMACSI /HUN /Exalt Cycle Red Devil /APRILIA/42’15.099/143.172
15/Simone CORSI /ITA /Team Scot /HONDA/42’17.885/143.014
Fastest Lap : Jorge LORENZO 1’58.545 145.797 Km/h Lap 8
World Championship Positions:
1 PEDROSA 198, 2 PERUGINI 159, 3 DE ANGELIS 147, 4 DOVIZIOSO 146, 5 NIETO 132,
6 BARBERA 130, 7 JENKNER 115, 8 CECCHINELLO 105, 9 STONER 100,
10 GIANSANTI 73, 11 UI 71, 12 KALLIO 68, 13 TALMACSI 57, 14 LUTHI 55, 15 LORENZO 50.
MAGNIFICENT WIN FOR MAX WHILE TOHRU TAKES SEVENTH
Camel Pramac Pons star Max Biaggi dominated here at Motegi today, taking his Honda RC211V to an emphatic win, his second of the season, and the 12th of his MotoGP career in the premier class. Valentino Rossi (Honda) was second and local hotshot Makoto Tamada (Honda) was third on track, before being disqualified for what Race Direction termed “riding in an irresponsible manner.” Nicky Hayden (Honda) was elevated to third place.
The Roman started the race from pole position (his third of the season) and got a clean start while a certain amount of mayhem occurred behind the leading group. A three-rider crash involving John Hopkins (Suzuki), Carlos Checa (Yamaha) and Troy Bayliss (Ducati) held up Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) and prevented the Japanese ace from hanging onto the leading group at the start. He eventually finished seventh.
Once Max had disposed of early pace-setter Sete Gibernau (Honda) at turn one on lap three, he smoothly pulled away from the pursuing group and extended his lead to 1.236 seconds by lap seven. Rossi was behind him at this stage and it looked like Max’s Italian rival was set to make it a straight fight until he ran wide onto the dirt on lap seven.
Max now had Gibernau, Nicky Hayden and Makoto Tamada (all Honda) behind him – and that was where they were to stay as the imperious Roman worked on extending his lead. By just after mid-race distance Max had a three second cushion over his pursuers and he was relentless in working his advantage even harder.
Rossi was riding hard to get back into contention after lying as low as ninth when he rejoined the track after his excursion. But he had no answer to Max’s consistently rapid laps and after disposing of Hayden and then Gibernau on lap 19, he eventually finished 3.754 seconds behind Biaggi.
Gibernau looked set for a solid third place, but reckoned without the determination of Tamada who after overtaking Hayden on the penultimate lap, made a move on the Spaniard on the entry to the second last downhill right-hander before the bridge to squeeze inside for third. Gibernau had to take to the run-off and eventually finished fifth before the race authorities disqualified Tamada.
Hondas machines filled the first four places, with Marco Melandri in fifth, Alex Barros in sixth (both Yamaha) and Tohru just unable to get on terms with them.
1. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 43m 57.590s
2. Valentino Rossi (Honda) 44m 01.344s
3. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 44m 03.231s
4. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 44m 17.046s
5. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 44m 17.449s
6. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 44m 18.528s
7. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 44m 19.897s
8. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 44m 25.477s
9. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) 44m 39.321s
10. Akira Ryo (Suzuki) 44m 47.696s
World Championship standings after 13 of 16 rounds
1.Valentino Rossi (Honda) 282 points
2. Sete Gibernau (Honda) 224 points
3. Max Biaggi (Camel Pramac Pons) 199 points
4. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 131 points
5. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 112 points
6. Tohru Ukawa (Camel Pramac Pons) 103 points
7. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 101 points
8. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 93 points
9. Alex Barros (Yamaha) 90 points
10. Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) 84 points
Max Biaggi (first): “That was a good race. I got a good start and so did Gibernau, so I followed him and he was really trying but I had time to get into a good rhythm and then I managed to overtake him on the brakes and keep my race rhythm. The laps were mainly in the 1m 49 second area and I couldn’t go any faster – but it was enough to make a break and keep the lead.”
Tohru Ukawa (seventh): “The start was bad. My start itself wasn’t that bad, but I was caught behind the chaos and that dropped me back. Then it was difficult to stay in the low 1m 50s lap times or the high 1m 49 second times, the rear was spinning up and the bike was snaking on the brakes too. I’m 20 seconds away from the race winning pace and that’s not really good enough, but I’ll be fit for Malaysia and I’ll work on from there.”
HOPKINS DISQUALIFIED FROM MALAYSIAN GP
Twin Ring Motegi, Japan- Sunday, October 5, 2003:
Team Suzuki rider John Hopkins has been disqualified from next weekend’s Malaysian GP, as punishment for a first-corner accident at Sunday’s Pacific GP at Motegi in Japan.
Hopkins collided with Carlos Checa, causing both to fall, and also Australian rider Troy Bayliss, who was closed behind. American rider Colin Edwards was also involved, but did not fall. Hopkins admitted at the time that he had got into the first corner too hot in his enthusiasm to make a good start, and publicly apologised to all the other riders.
After the race, however, Race Direction elected to punish his error by disqualifying him from the next round, at Sepang in Malaysia next weekend. According to the official statement, he had “ridden in an irresponsible manner causing danger to other riders.” The team immediately protested the decision, but it was confirmed by the FIM stewards later that evening. A disappointed Hopkins left the circuit without making any further comment.
Team manager Garry Taylor said: “We appealed, but it was rejected, and we are deeply disappointed. “In our opinion, the punishment is overly severe. “There have been many similar incidents in the past that have gone completely unpunished. In our view, it was a normal racing incident. “However, we have to accept the authority of the stewards,” concluded Taylor.
As a result, only two Suzukis will take part in next weekends race, ridden by team regular Kenny Roberts Jr., and wild card entry Akira Ryo, who finished 15th and tenth respectively in today’s race.
RYO SHOWS THE WAY AT MOTEGI
Team Suzuki Press Office Sunday, October 5, 2003.
Team Suzuki rider Akira Ryo finished 10th in today’s Pacific GP, the top Suzuki finisher on a day that brought disaster to John Hopkins, who crashed out at the first corner.
Ryo, a wild card entry in his first race since last year’s Malaysian GP, was riding a development machine incorporating obviously promising new ideas and solutions. He finished five places ahead of team regular Kenny Roberts Jr., who was 15th.
Hopkins’s race lasted only a few hundred yards, ending in the gravel with three other riders after colliding in the way into the first corner. The 20-year-old Anglo-American rider took full blame for the crash, the result of his own excess enthusiasm after promising qualifying times and a good getaway from the line.
Ryo finished the first lap in 11th place, with Roberts 12th; but while the 2000 World Champion lost ground in the closing stages, experimental engine and chassis parts on full-time tester Ryo’s machine meant he was able to hold his own in a battle with Jacque and Nakano until the latter half of the race, when he paid the price of choosing a too-soft front tyre. Even so he managed to hold the position to the end.
Roberts dropped to 15th, but was circulating steadily, and lost the position only two laps from the end of the 24-lap race round the 4.801km circuit north-west of Tokyo.
The race was won by Max Biaggi, his first victory of the season, with defending champion and current points leader Valentino Rossi second, after Earlier running off the track briefly.
The Pacific GP, 13th of 16 World Championship rounds, was run in sunny, dry conditions after rain overnight. Next weekend the GP circus moves to Malaysia, with the Australian GP one week later closing off a trio of gruelling back-to-back flyaway races before the finale in Spain.
AKIRA RYO – 10th Position
This is my first race after a blank year, and it was quite a strange feeling not to be riding alone as a tester. Among such good riders, I almost enjoyed it! I’m very happy to be the best Suzuki, proving that development is now going in the right direction. I chose a different front tyre for the race, a little bit softer, and really we needed more set-up time with it. In the second part of the race it was giving me problems turning into the corners . that’s why I lost touch with my closest rivals. I got a good start, but then I lost some positions in the first corner when I had to go wide to avoid the crash with John and the other riders. It was a difficult race for me.
KENNY ROBERTS Jr. – 15th Position
I finished right around where I expected – nothing flash. We need help from the factory. We had three different bikes out there, and still no results to speak of at the moment. If people are happy to be outside the top three, then there are some reasons to be happy. I’m not one of those people.
JOHN HOPKINS – Did not finish, crash
We’d been running pretty decent times all weekend, and I wanted the best start possible. I went into the first turn too hot, and there was nowhere to go except into Checa. I deeply apologise to him; I made a huge mistake. I also want to apologise to the other riders involved as well.
GARRY TAYLOR – Team Manager
With the level of the competition, you’ll never make any progress being a pussy on the first lap. Unfortunately sometimes this type of accident happens. John feels really bad about it. The important thing is nobody was hurt. Kenny had a tough weekend with the current bike. There were definitely some improvements here, but he wants a lot more, and so do the rest of the team. Ryo-San did a great job on the development bike, and proved there is more in the pipeline.
FUCHS KAWASAKI’S PITT MAKES IMPRESSIVE MOTEGI DEBUT
Making his debut at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, Fuchs Kawasaki’s Andrew Pitt came agonisingly close to a points scoring finish in today’s Pacific Grand Prix.
The Australian raced his Ninja ZX-RR to 17th place, having started from 22nd position on the grid. Pitt shadowed experienced Grand Prix rival, Nobuatsu Aoki, for much of the race, but was unable to make a pass on the Japanese rider after being baulked by Olivier Jacque as the Frenchman returned to the race after running off the track. Pitt was just four seconds adrift of Aoki’s points scoring 15th place at the finish.
While Pitt was happy with the consistency of his race lap times, Fuchs Kawasaki team-mate, Garry McCoy, was left disappointed when an electrical problem forced him to retire from the race on lap 11.
A good start was spoiled for McCoy when a turn one incident involving Troy Bayliss, John Hopkins, Carlos Checa and Colin Edwards forced the Australian to back off the throttle, dropping him to the back of the field. But by lap four McCoy had settled into a consistent pace and was just one place behind his team-mate when forced to pull into the pits.
While their results may have been very different, both Fuchs Kawasaki riders declared themselves impressed with the latest Dunlop race tyres, which allowed Pitt to record his fastest time of the race just four laps from the end. McCoy’s fastest time came on the tenth lap, his last before retiring.
Andrew Pitt – 17th
“I had a good rhythm going in the race and thought there was a good chance of pipping Aoki for the final points scoring position. But then Jacque pushed his way between us and I lost contact with the Proton. Once he’d cleaned off his tyres Jacque upped the pace again and Aoki was in a position to go with him; stretching the gap even more. I’m a little disappointed not to get some points here, but I can take some consolation from the fact that I raced with some guys the whole way and did some quick laps at the end. The consistency of the race tyre that Dunlop supplied us with today was impressive; they’ve obviously been working hard even since Brazil and it’s paid off.”
Garry McCoy – DNF
“Normally the outside of turn one is the place to be on the first lap, but not today. It was a total mess; there were bikes and bodies all over the place in front of me. By the time I got going again and dealt with De Gea and Serizawa the group in front, including Andrew and Nobu, had pulled a gap and I was working to close it down to those guys. The bike and tyres were feeling comfortable, but then on the back straight the motor wasn’t pulling; it was just dying on the downshifts and there wasn’t any point in continuing.”
Harald Eckl – Team Manager
“It was a pity Garry’s bike developed an electrical problem, because after being delayed at the first corner you could see from the lap times he was pushing to close the gap to the riders in front of him. And for Andrew, the incident with Jacque cost him time in his battle with Aoki. Most important today was the very consistent performance of the Dunlop tyres here at Motegi, with them staying on the pace right to the finish.”
|MOTOGP RACE – FINAL RESULT|
|MAX BIAGGI||ITA||CAMEL PRAMAC PONS||43:57.590|
|VALENTINO ROSSI||ITA||REPSOL HONDA||+3.754|
|MAKOTO TAMADA||JPN||PRAMAC HONDA||+4.864|
|NICKY HAYDEN||USA||REPSOL HONDA||+5.641|
|SETE GIBERNAU||SPA||TELEFONICA MOVISTAR HONDA||+19.456|
|MARCO MELANDRI||ITA||FORTUNA YAMAHA TEAM||+19.909|
|ALEX BARROS||BRA||GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM||+20.938|
|TOHRU UKAWA||JPN||CAMEL PRAMAC PONS||+22.307|
|LORIS CAPIROSSI||ITA||DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM||+27.887|
|SHINYA NAKANO||JPN||DANTIN YAMAHA TEAM||+41.731|
|ANDREW PITT||AUS||KAWASAKI RACING TEAM||+1:11.533|
|GARRY MCCOY||AUS||KAWASAKI RACING TEAM||+14 LAPS|
CAMEL CLUES – PACIFIC GRAND PRIX, 05/10/03 MOTEGI
BIAGGI GIVES TAMADA WINNING WATCH
Max Biaggi was in a generous mood after taking just the third pole position of the season for the Camel Pramac Pons team in Motegi. The MotoGP pole setter is always awarded a watch for such a feat but Biaggi gave it to second placed Makoto Tamada.
Tamada, riding the Pramac Honda, was in pole in front of his home crowd until the very last lap of the final qualifying session when Biaggi took over. It would have been his first pole position in his debut MotoGP season.
“Tamada did a fantastic job and so I think he deserved the watch,” said Biaggi after his pole setting lap which was over one and a half seconds quicker than last year´s pole, set by the late Daijiro Kato.
GIBERNAU SORTED FOR TWO YEARS
While the world waits for World Champion Valentino Rossi to make up his mind where he will be riding next year, his closest rival this season has already put pen to paper.
Spaniard Sete Gibernau signed a new two-year deal with Telefonica, the title sponsor of Fausto Gresini´s Italian-based Honda team before leaving to ride in Motegi. This year since switching from Suzuki, Gibernau had brought the Gresini team four Grands Prix victories before the race in Japan.
Rossi is still contemplating a big offer from Yamaha before deciding if to renew his contract with Honda. Until he makes the decision all other moves and changes are on hold. Once the 24-year-old Italian makes that long awaited announcement, next season´s team line-up at both Honda and Yamaha will be a lot clearer.
MALAYSIAN TIMES CHANGES
The races at next Sunday´s Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang have been delayed one and a half hours to avoid a television clash with the final Formula One car Grand Prix of the season at Suzuka in Japan.
The new time Schedule (Malaysian time): 12.30 125 cc, 14.00 250cc, 15.30 MotoGP.
Australian Troy Bayliss rushed home to Monaco after the Rio Grand Prix to see his new son who was born on the day of the race. Wife Kim gave birth to Ollie, their third child. The former World Superbike Champion had just over a weekend at home to change a few nappies before flying off for the three week stint in Japan, Malaysia and Australia. Then it´s back to those nappies before that final race in Valencia.
AZUMA TO RETIRE
A veteran of the 125cc class announced in Motegi that he would retire at the end of the season. 32-year-old Japanese star Masao Azuma will retire from a successful World Championship career at the final Grand Prix of the season in Valencia at the beginning of November.
In seven years of racing in such a competitive class, Azuma has won ten Grands Prix and finished on the podium 19 times in 106 races. His first victory riding the Honda was in
Australia in 1998 and his final win victory last year in the Rio rain.
THREE IN A ROW HONDA
Valentino Rossi´s victory in Rio two weeks ago brought Honda their third consecutive World Constructers title in the MotoGP/500cc class. Honda have now won the Constructers title in the MotoGP/500cc class 15 times. They need one more victory to equal the wins of the Italian MV-Agusta factory who won 16 titles between 1956 and 1973.
The late Dairo Kato was inducted into the MotoGP Hall of Fame at a special ceremony attended by his father Takashi in Motegi on Saturday. Also at the very special presentation were World Champions Mick Doohan, Angel Nieto and Kenny Roberts Senior. Takashi Kato accepted the MotoGP Hall of Fame medal on behalf of his son from Carmelo Expeleta, the CEO of Dorna. Also present where Fausto Gresini, Manager of Kato´s Honda team and Seguru Kanazawa, the President of HRC.