MOTOCROSS: World round six preview

McFarlane excited about 'supercross' challenge After a decade-long absence, the Motocross World Championship returns to Japan this weekend, on a layout which Australian Andrew McFarlane (Ricci Yamaha YZ250F) is looking forward to sampling --...

McFarlane excited about 'supercross' challenge

After a decade-long absence, the Motocross World Championship returns to Japan this weekend, on a layout which Australian Andrew McFarlane (Ricci Yamaha YZ250F) is looking forward to sampling -- Sugo.

The circuit, just one piece of the sprawling Sugo Land motorsport complex, 280km north of Tokyo, is said to be extremely technical, and very much disparate from the normal fare served up on the Continent.

That's a supercross-like spectre which appeals to the hawkish Australian, who has claimed overall honours at the past two MX2 rounds in Belgium and Germany.

"I have heard it's technical, and I think I can do okay there," said McFarlane, who turns 28 on May 30. "My supercross skills are good, and I am in very good form at the moment. Of course, to win in Japan is important for Yamaha, and if you're going to win a GP, then this is probably the place."

Before he began his world motocross career in 2001, McFarlane's supercross form in Australia was impeccable, which included dual national titles (125 and 250cc) in 1996. Four years later, McFarlane was third in the 250cc championship behind fellow guns Chad Reed and Michael Byrne.

McFarlane is currently third in the MX2 standings after taking home 87pts out of a possible 100 in the last two rounds. That's hoisted the Brisbane rider up to 155pts, just 19 behind Italian Antonio Cairoli (YZ250F). Three-time 125cc world champion Alessio Chiodi (YZ250F) is second, just 1pt behind Cairoli -- despite failing to win a race all year.

McFarlane has only won a single race himself, but it has been enough to move him clear of a deadlock with compatriot Jeff Leisk on the all-time Australian GP winners' list. Leisk won three 500cc races during the late 1980s before announcing what many felt was a premature retirement in 1990. His zenith was a second in the 1989 500cc championship behind British rider Dave Thorpe, and in front of the legendary Belgian Eric Geboers.

British rider Stephen Sword (Kawasaki KX250F, 152pts) and Cedric Melotte (YZ250F, 143) are running fourth and fifth in MX2, and appear the only other bona-fide championship contenders at this stage - Mickael Maschio (YZ250F) is the next in line on 98pts.

This Sunday's GP will be the eighth time that Japan has hosted a world motocross round, with all the other events held at the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit, west of Nagoya. In the last GP held at Suzuka, Belgian Stefan Everts emerged with the 250cc honours en route to his second world championship (he won the 125cc title in 1991).

Everts (Yamaha YZ450F), the current MX1 leader, has the chance to join American Mike Kiedrowski as only the second multiple Japanese GP winner this weekend, although it won't be a straightforward task with free-wheeling Mickael Pichon (Honda CRF450R) in rare form. Pichon, already venerated for his two world 250cc titles in 2001-02, whitewashed round five to reduce Everts' MX1 lead to just 9pts (204 to 195).

That's set the French wiz up for a big surge at Sugo, which has recently been better known for hosting world Superbike rounds from 1988 until 2003.

Behind the top two, Joel Smets (Suzuki RM-Z450) and New Zealander Josh Coppins (CRF450R) are caught in a 167pt stalemate, followed by Coppins' countryman and championship rookie Ben Townley (KTM 450SXF, 148).

The New Zealand connection are still searching for their first wins this year, although Townley emerged with the overall honours in the Spanish-hosted round two -- an accession to the MX1 pointy end that left seasoned observers agog.

For more information on the 2005 Motocross World Championship, visit www.motocrossmx1.com/

-ma-

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About this article
Series General
Drivers Chad Reed , Andrew McFarlane , Mickael Pichon , Joel Smets , Stefan Everts
Tags MOTORCYLE