The 14th round of the 2010 MotoGP Championship occurs this weekend at the Motegi circuit, a track that has been hosting motorcycle GP racing since 1999. The track contains much history, and will be a part of history this year as the battle up front continues.
Going into the 12th-consecutive MotoGP at Motegi, Fiat Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo leads the championship by 56 points over Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa. With five rounds remaining, the two Spaniards will be battling intensely for needed points to take home the championship.
In third with 155 points is Ducati Team Casey Stoner, who is coming off his first win of the season at Aragon. Fourth and fifth place are held by Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi and Pedrosa’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Both are separated by a point.
Here is a brief history of Grand Prix events at Motegi from MotoGP:
1999/Japanese GP – On the first visit by the Grand Prix circus to Motegi, Kenny Roberts won a very wet 500cc race, from pole position, riding a Suzuki. Second was reigning world champion Mick Doohan with hometown hero Norick Abe finishing third. There was also much to entertain the home crowd in the smaller classes with Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) winning the 250cc race from Tohru Ukawa, and Masao Azuma (Honda) winning the 125cc race from Hideyuki Nakajoh.
2000/Pacific GP – Just one week after clinching the world title in Rio, Kenny Roberts repeated his win of the previous year at Motegi – this time in the dry from Valentino Rossi who was in his debut year in the premier- class. The focus of interest for the Japanese spectators was the race long battle in the 250cc race between the eventual winner Daijiro Kato on a Honda and Shinya Nakano riding a Yamaha. Roberto Locatelli (Aprilia) won the 125cc race to clinch the world title.
2001/Pacific GP – Valentino Rossi scored his first victory at Motegi from Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi in the 500cc race. This was the last occasion that all three riders on the podium rode the Honda V-four two-stroke NSR500 – the machine that has had more success than any other in Grand Prix history. Once again the smaller classes were won by home riders; Tetsuya Harada the 250cc class on an Aprilia and Youichi Ui the 125cc race riding a Derbi.
2002/Pacific GP – Alex Barros won the race on his debut ride on the V5 Honda four-stroke. Second was Valentino Rossi followed by Loris Capirossi taking the last ever podium in MotoGP by a two-stroke machine. Toni Elias (Aprilia) became the first non-Japanese rider to win in the 250cc class at Motegi. Third in this race was Yuki Takahashi who was having his first ride in a 250cc Grand Prix aged just 18. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) dominated the 125cc race by winning from pole and setting a new lap record.
2003/Pacific GP – In an all Honda podium, Max Biaggi won from Valentino Rossi with Nicky Hayden finishing third – his first podium in his debut year in MotoGP. Makoto Tamada had crossed the line third but was disquali- fied for riding “in an irresponsible manner causing danger to other riders” when making an overtaking move on Sete Gibernau. Spanish riders again took the honours in the smaller classes, with Toni Elias (Aprilia) repeating his victory of the previous year in the 250cc race and Hector Barbera (Aprilia) winning the 125cc race ahead of current MotoGP rivals Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso.
2004/Japanese GP – After six riders were eliminated from the race in a first corner incident, Bridgestone had two riders finish together on the podium in a MotoGP race for the first time – winner Makoto Tamada (Honda) and third place finisher Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki). This was Kawasaki’s first podium in the premier-class since Kork Ballington finished third at Imatra in Finland in 1981 riding the square-four two-stoke machine. Youichi Ui finished 15th on his MotoGP debut riding the Harris WCM machine to become the first rider since Anton Mang in 1977 to score points in both the 125cc and premier-class of Grand Prix racing in the same season. In the 250cc race Dani Pedrosa (Honda) won from fellow Spaniard Toni Elias, while the 125cc honours were taken by Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) on his way to winning the world title.
2005/Japanese GP – Loris Capirossi (Ducati) dominated the MotoGP class by winning from pole and setting a new lap record. This was the first win in the premier-class by a non-Japanese motorcycle in a race held in Japan. Max Biaggi finished second – the last of his 111 podium appearances in Grand Prix racing. Hiroshi Aoyama gave the home fans plenty to cheer by winning the 250cc race riding a Honda and Mika Kallio (KTM) won the 125cc race.
2006/Japanese GP – The three winners from 2005 all repeated their success, the only change being that this time Aoyama was riding a KTM in the 250cc class. This is the last occasion that a Japanese rider won a GP in Japan.
2007/Japanese GP – Loris Capirossi took the MotoGP win for the third successive year, in drying conditions, resulting in riders changing bikes during the race. Capirossi’s team mate Casey Stoner finished 6th to clinch the world title. Mika Kallio (KTM) won for the third successive year at Motegi – this time in the 250cc race. Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) won the very wet 125cc race in which there were 20 crashes.
2008/Japanese GP – Valentino Rossi won his first MotoGP race at Motegi, to clinch his sixth world title in the premier-class. Marco Simoncelli (Gilera) won the 250cc race to give Dunlop their 200th consecutive 250cc GP win. Stefan Bradl (Aprilia) scored his second 125cc win of the year.
2009/Japanese GP – In 2009 the Japanese Grand Prix was the second round of the year and held in April. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) won for the first time in any class at Motegi; Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) won the 250cc race and Andrea Iannone (Aprilia) in the 125cc class. Each of these riders left Japan leading the world championship standings, but none of the three went on to take the world title.