Motul MotoGP of Japan Preview
Twin Ring Motegi MotoGP Preview

Motul MotoGP of Japan Preview

Looking ahead to the first of the four remaining rounds that will be raced in five weeks, read the preview ahead of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi which could see the MotoGP championship also decided.

Danielle Overend

After a short break in proceedings within the MotoGP season, the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 teams and riders have took to Social Media to confirm that they are now making their way to Japan for the 15th round of the season in Motegi; what will be the 18th time that the World

After a short break in proceedings within the MotoGP season, the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 teams and riders have took to Social Media to confirm that they are now making their way to Japan for the 15th round of the season in Motegi; what will be the 18th time that the World Championship class has visited the circuit.

Big weekend for the Japanese manufacturers

With less than a week to go before things get underway, we are here to prepare you for what to expect with things to come. Three out of the five manufacturers that currently compete in the top class are Japanese, and this along with the fact that there are only four rounds remaining means a lot is at stake at Motegi.

Honda have dominated in Japan winning six times, whereas as Yamaha have won four and Ducati were victorious four times also. Back in the 500cc days Suzuki won with Kenny Roberts Junior in 1999 ad 2000 when it was first introduced.

Iannone ruled out of the Motegi GP

Already ahead of the round, we have been informed that Ducati rider Andrea Iannone will not be competing in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi as the injuries he sustained in a crash during practice in Misano is prohibiting him.

Instead, Avintia Ducati rider Hector Barbera will be stepping up to take on the Desmosedici GP16 in place of the Italian in what will be his first experience of it. In place of Barbera on his Avintia Ducati will be Australian Superbike rider Mike Jones who will make his MotoGP debut.

Smith fit to return to racing

The Twin Ring Motegi will mean the return of injured Bradley Smith aboard his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. He damaged the ligaments in his knee during an endurance event which meant he missed several rounds and was replaced by British riders Alex Lowes, twin brother to Moto2 rider Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Racing Moto2).

Unfortunately for Alex he also sustained injuries (on his foot) in Aragon and was unable to compete in the last round, and he travelled home before the race.

Miller makes his return

Also returning to compete in the 15th round of the season is Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller who originally broke vertebrae in his back, and in his hand.

As he tried to compete the fractures were extremely painful and the duress they were under was not allowing them to heal and so he was forced to sit out and was replaced by former MotoGP legend Nicky Hayden.

Miller has been declared fit to ride though and will be making his first appearance in several rounds in motegi.

Aegerter sacked by CarXpert Interwetten

Also in between rounds, Moto2 rider Dominique Aegerter confirmed he will be joining the Leopard Racing Moto2 team from next season as the team join forces with Suter Racing Technology in the hope of getting back to the podium.

Shockingly though, the day later, CarXpert Interwetten bosses CGBM Evolution announced that the Swiss rider has been let go and he would be replaced by 16 year old Spanish rider Iker Lecuona.

Will this be the MotoGP championship decided?

The MotoGP championship can be decided in Motegi as a win from championship leader, Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez and a DNF or below 14th for second place in the championship, nine times World champion Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) means it is sealed. However the Spaniard has never won in Motegi so chances are we will still be left wondering at the end of the round.

Pedrosa strong at Motegi

In fact it his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa who has dominated in Motegi over the last five years winning three out of the five races, missing out on a podium in 2014 by one position as he finished fourth and he finished third in 2013.

The Spaniard holds the title of the most MotoGP wins in Motegi with five in his career at the Japanese circuit. Other than him it has been Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo who won the other two rounds out of the last five after qualifying strongly in the majority.

Pedrosa appears to have returned to form of late, as has Lorenzo as the pair have struggled to adapt to the tracks with the new Michelin tyres. But his win Sachsenring did him the world of good and Pedrosa may again be able to succeed in front of his manufacturer’s home crowd.

Rossi looking to spoil Marquez’s early championship success

Desperate to stop Marquez from winning the championship though, and hoping to close the 52 point gap that has opened up, Rossi will be looking for nothing less than a win and hoping Marquez finished as far behind him as possible.

Teammate to Rossi, Lorenzo is also hoping to close the gap between him and his teammate as he hopes to finish second before he moves to Ducati next season.

Developing teams ones to watch in Japan

However, you may have noticed how great two certain teams have been recently; those being Team Suzuki Ecstar and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini who both claimed top ten finished at the last round in Aragon, Spain.

Suzuki have the upper hand being the Japanese manufactured machine, and something appears to have clicked into place with them with regards to the electronics.

Maverick Vinales has won a round this season, and as many riders gambled that Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) would become the ninth different winner of the MotoGP season, Aleix Espargaro may be the underdog that could get the result with the way they have the GSX-RR performing at the moment.

But then again, a track that is made up of some long straights is always going to play to the advantage of the powerful Ducatis and Dovizioso should be the one to prove that being the only factory rider at the 15th round.

Crutchlow the top out of the independent team riders

When it comes to the independent team riders it is Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who has been the strongest over the last five years. However when you remove him and his teammate Stefan Bradl from the mix, it is Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) who was the most successful out of the independents; he finished sixth last year.

The battle is on between him and Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) as there is now a nine point difference between the two in the championship however Crutchlow is sixth and Espargaro ninth.

Vital statistics about the Twin Ring Motegi

Twin Ring Motegi in the north Kanto district of Japan, is a 4.8km (2.98 miles) track made up of 14 corners; six left and eight rights, meaning that the tyres are not necessarily going to be under any more duress particularly as at recent tracks. The longest straight is 762 metres (2500 foot) and the circuit is quite wide at 15 metres (49.21 foot) meaning there should be plenty of room for overtaking when the elite field take to the track.

The track was built by Japanese manufacturer Honda as the ‘ultimate test track’ in 1997, and the MotoGP began racing here back in the millennium. The MotoGP class will complete 24 laps which will mean they will cover a distance of 115.2 kilometres (71.5 miles).

The track is made up of several areas of hard-braking and hard acceleration and so whereas with the previous rounds recently, the tyres have been made up of an asymmetric nature, it is the centre of the Michelins that will be under the most duress during the 15th round of the season. Temperature may also be an affecting factor in Japan especially at this time of year.

Several tyre options available

Available for the MotoGP riders, Michelin have will be bringing the soft, medium and hard compound front Michelin Power Slick, and also the soft and medium rear compound Michelin Power Slick, which will have a slightly harder right hand side of the structure. Also available should it rain, is the Michelin Full Wet available in soft and medium for the front and rear, and in the Intermediate model too.  

Moto3 championship decided as the battle for second heats up

The Moto3 championship has been decided as Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Brad Binder finished second in Aragon which meant no one would be able to come in reach of spoiling his glory. Not that Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) didn’t try; the Italian looked gutted as he watched the South African celebrating.

Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider Jorge Navarro won his home round in Aragon, just 0.03 seconds ahead of Binder and that meant he was able to close the gap between him and Bastianini in the championship to four points as the battle for second heats up.

Antonelli looking to repeat his success in Japan

Last year however it was Ongetta-Rivacold rider Niccolo Antonelli who won on his Honda after starting from fourth on the grid. Miguel Oliveira was second aboard his Red Bull KTM Ajo  KTM, however having progressed to the Moto2 this season with Leopard Racing, it will be between Antonelli and Navarro who was third last year, to try and retain their success this year.

Still could be anyone’s where the Moto2 championship is concerned

There are two in contention for the championship win in the Moto2 class, which will probably mean it will take until the end of the season to see which 600cc rider will take the crown.

Disappointing results from Johann Zarco (Ajo motorsport) of late has allowed injured Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) to catch up to him meaning he only has a one point lead on the Spaniard.  Sam Lowes is currently third; 40 points behind the leaders and looking to extend his lead over fourth position man Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), who is 12 points behind.

Zarco strong in Motegi

Zarco not only secured pole position in Motegi in 2015, he went on to win the Moto2 race with a 4.5 second lead over Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who at the time was riding for the AGR Team. Sandro Cortese, teammate now to Folger, was third on the day but was over 15 seconds behind race winner Zarco. Rins finished down in 11th in Motegi, something that he needs to avoid at all costs this season should he remain in contention of winning the championship, should Zarco ‘pull it out of the bag’ this weekend.

Japan is usually a round where you may see some wildcard appearances in all three of the classes as the sport is so huge in the parts of the world so keep your eyes peeled.

Alarm clocks at the ready…

The Press Conference is due to take place on Thursday 13th October from 09:00 (GMT). Practice on Friday 14th October will take place from 01:00 (GMT) as will Qualifying on Saturday. Race day on Sunday, warm-up will take place from 00:40 (GMT) and the Moto3 race will get underway irst from 03:00 (GMT). The Moto2 race is scheduled to begin at 04:20 (GMT) and the MotoGP starts at 06:00 (GMT).