Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will enjoy plenty of support this weekend as the Twin Ring Motegi hosts the long-awaited 2010 Grand Prix of Japan. With the factory Honda squad arriving in Japan in very competitive form after...
Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will enjoy plenty of support this weekend as the Twin Ring Motegi hosts the long-awaited 2010 Grand Prix of Japan. With the factory Honda squad arriving in Japan in very competitive form after a series of strong performances, hopes are high that a Honda RC212V will be challenging for victory once again this weekend. This is the event that was postponed from its original date in April this year due to the widespread travel disruption caused by the erupting Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
Dani Pedrosa comes to Japan full of confidence having establishing himself as the rider to beat in the second half of the MotoGP season. Since the championship resumed at Brno in August after the short summer break, Pedrosa has substantially outscored his all MotoGP rivals and has steadily chipped away at the early season championship lead built up by Jorge Lorenzo, reducing the gap by 16 points in four races. Although the deficit of 56 points is still a large one with five races remaining, Pedrosa will be quietly confident that he can continue to apply pressure at a circuit he likes, and which should suit the performance characteristics of the Honda RC212V. Pedrosa turns 25 years old on Wednesday 29th September and the perfect birthday present would be to significantly outscore his Spanish title rival once again this weekend.
In last year's Grand Prix of Japan, which was the second race of the year, Pedrosa came from 11th on the grid to score a remarkable podium finish - made all the more impressive by the fact that he was still recovering from pre-season injuries. Dovizioso also had a strong ride from seventh to a fighting fifth place after he too was handicapped by the cancellation of Saturday qualifying due to heavy rain, an unusual event which meant that grid positions were decided by each rider's fast time from the one dry practice session of the weekend.
In recent races Dovizioso and his RC212V have continued to display the potential and speed that made him a regular podium visitor earlier in the season and, even though recent results haven't gone the way of the Italian, the 24-year-old will be determined quickly to banish the memories of his last-lap fall at Aragon and establish himself as a front-runner once again this weekend. Lying in fifth place in the championship with Valentino Rossi just one point ahead and Casey Stoner a further fifteen points in front, Dovizioso's goals are clear - to overtake those riders once more and re-take the third place in the championship he has held for large parts of the 2010 season.
The impressive Motegi facility was opened in 1998 to celebrate the Honda Motor company's 50th anniversary, and the venue played host to its first World Championship race the following year, when it hosted the Pacific GP. It has been home to the Japanese GP since 2004. The MotoGP timetable returns to normal this weekend after Aragon's adjusted practice sessions, with the track action beginning on Friday with an hour of free practice, followed on Saturday by a further practice session and then qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday's 24-lap Grand Prix of Japan starts at 15.00 local time (GMT + 9 hours).
DANI PEDROSA -- World Championship Position: 2nd -- 228 points
"We start the most intense period of the season this weekend, with five races in six weeks, and my goal is to make the best possible finish to the championship. I think we're very strong at the moment and we must take full advantage of it. This final stage begins in Japan - the most important race for Honda because it's their home Grand Prix - and I'm looking forward to getting to the circuit and starting the preparations for this special race. I would love to win at Motegi because I've never won here in MotoGP and I've been on the podium for the last two seasons. I always feel very motivated in Japan. I love the circuit and the atmosphere you feel there. The fans are very enthusiastic but also educated, and I feel a lot of support. We couldn't race in Motegi at the beginning of the season due to the problems with the volcanic ash clouds, so I think the fans will be even more excited to welcome us. It will be very important to start this tour of Asia in the best way. As I've said before, I will approach this final section of the season simply thinking race by race. We're doing a good job in the team, the RC212V is working well - we know it better and better - and so this a good chance for us to try to win more races and to finish the year in the best possible way."
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO -- World Championship Position: 5th -- 139 points
"We have another chance to get a strong result this weekend and I'm very motivated going into this race. It is Honda's home GP and it's really important to do well here for Honda as well as for the team and myself. Last year, qualifying was cancelled because of rain and we didn't have a lot of set-up time, but still I had a good race and my pace was strong, so I'm confident we can fight at the front again. Plus I always look forward to racing in Japan because the atmosphere is so different and special here. The layout of the Twin Ring Motegi, with its many areas of hard acceleration from low speed, is good for us and should allow us to use all the power and strong points of the RC212V. We are determined to get a good result here because we've been close for several races now without coming through on our potential. Our target remains third position in the championship, so a podium finish in Motegi is really important for me. It's what we're aiming for and I'm looking forward to the challenge at Honda's home GP."