MOTOGP RETURNS TO THE TWIN RING The A-Style Grand Prix of Japan takes place this coming weekend as the MotoGP circus travels to Motegi for the 15th round of the world championship. Opened in 1999, the 4.8km Twin Ring circuit, some 160km north...
MOTOGP RETURNS TO THE TWIN RING
The A-Style Grand Prix of Japan takes place this coming weekend as the MotoGP circus travels to Motegi for the 15th round of the world championship.
Opened in 1999, the 4.8km Twin Ring circuit, some 160km north of Tokyo, sits in a rural landscape and, as its name suggests, boasts not one but two tracks: a "super speedway" oval and the longer, snaking "road course", which the premier class teams will be tackling on Sunday.
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet will be aiming to improve upon last year's premier class outing here, when he crashed out on lap nine. In previous years, when riding in the 250cc World Championship, the Frenchman proved more than capable of conquering the circuit: scoring a couple of top ten finishes at the track. After the disappointment of last week's Portuguese Grand Prix, where a mechanical fault ended his race, de Puniet hopes for a better result at the Twin Ring on Sunday.
Anthony West is also familiar with the circuit, having raced 1000cc V-twins throughout Japan in his younger years, as well as competing in 250s, and one 500cc race, at world championship level. He also took part in an endurance race here once, his team coming second, so he's put enough laps in to know his way around. The 26-year-old Australian, who recently signed to stay with the Kawasaki squad next season, will be hoping to overcome his recent struggles with set up and show both strength and stamina this weekend.
Wild card entry, Akira Yanagawa, will be joining the Kawasaki team for a one-race ride on the Ninja. Currently leading the All Japan Superbike Championship on a ZX-10R, the 36-year-old will be aiming to exorcise his Motegi demons: he crashed out and broke his pelvis on lap six of the Pacific Grand Prix in 2002, riding the 990cc ZX-RR on its debut MotoGP outing.
Kawasaki's MotoGP history at Motegi is somewhat chequered: of the two factory riders and a wild card entry taking part last year, none finished. However, Shinya Nakano secured a 3rd position here in 2004, claiming the team's first podium spot since returning to the class five years ago.
Certainly, with four straights and a lot of tight corners, the super-fast 800cc ZX-RR could do very well here and, with three green bikes due to line up on Sunday's grid, who knows what will happen?
De Puniet: Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #14
"I like this track. It's strange because there's a lot of 'stop and go', and normally I don't like that much, but here it always feels better. Also, I think it's a good track for the Kawasaki and Bridgestone. With the 800cc bike, I'm confident about dealing with the hairpins and the handling in the corners. As for acceleration, last year's bike was good but this year's is even better, which is why I feel we can do well here. I didn't get any podiums at Motegi when I was riding in 250s but I managed some good places and, while I crashed out last year, it was the first time I was fighting near the front of the pack so I think it could go well on Sunday."
West: Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13
"It's good to be at Motegi again, I love Japan and I'm looking forward to riding here. I've done a lot of laps here so I know my way around, and I just hope we don't have as many problems as we had in Portugal. I'm confident the bike will work pretty well here. There are a lot of hard braking areas, which normally I can use to make up a lot of time, and the engine's acceleration is amazing so it should be quick enough on the straights. I think if we can get the bike to exit the corner quicker, we can try and get a good result here in front of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Japanese crowd. But we'll just have to see what happens."
Yanagawa: Kawasaki MotoGP Wild Card #87
"I tested the ZX-RR over a couple of days at the end of August but I'm still not perfect on it. Normally, I ride a superbike and there's a big difference between the characters of the two machines. The Ninja is special, you can't buy a bike like it and it's totally different from anything else. That makes me a bit nervous! But I know Motegi very, very well; I've done well over 1000 laps here, I'm sure. I have bad memories of racing the former ZX-RR here, when I crashed: so this time, my aim is to get to the chequered flag."