The first of three back-to-back races occurs this weekend at Motegi for the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 14 of the 2010 MotoGP Championship.
The current leader, Fiat Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, has a 56-point lead over Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa. Both Spaniards have been battling for points, and with five races remaining, the 2010 MotoGP Title could be taken by either rider. Lorenzo won at Motegi last year, edging out his teammate Valentino Rossi and Pedrosa.
Ducat Team rider Casey Stoner, who won at Motegi in 2008, is in third with 155 points. Trailing him by 15 points is nine-time world champion Rossi. Pedrosa’s teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, is in fifth only one point behind Rossi.
Here’s what riders are saying leading up to this weekend’s race.
Jorge Lorenzo says: “Motegi is Yamaha’s home and I always feel proud to ride there. Last Year I got my first victory at this track in MotoGP and it was one of the best moments of the season. I like Motegi and I think it can be great for us also this season. The main goal is to get back on the podium and continue getting as many points as possible. We will try to be fast from Friday and start this run of three races as well as we can.”
Valentino Rossi says: “Aragon was a hard weekend, both because we couldn’t find the right setting for our M1 and because I had a lot of trouble with my shoulder. The leg is now almost back to normal again – I have even started running – but the shoulder is a problem and we know now that this is not going to change until we have time to treat it properly.”
“I have some great memories from Motegi, especially winning the championship in 2008, but I am expecting this weekend to be quite difficult on my body. We have a hard three weeks ahead but after this race two of my best tracks are coming up, and I am hoping for some good results. We will do our best and see what happens!”
Dani Pedrosa says: “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 says: “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 i n 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.”
Casey Stoner says: “Motegi is a circuit with a lot of stop and go sections, not much of it flows together and it’s not one of my favourite layouts. On the positive side the surface is smooth, with not too many bumps, which have really made us suffer at a lot of tracks this year.”
“You need a bike that is stable under braking and efficient under acceleration so I am hopeful that the setting we found at Aragon can be useful here again. In Spain we finally managed to improve the stability and found a bit more grip and if we can do that again this weekend we will have the chance to fight for a good result again.”
Nicky Hayden says: “As always this Grand Prix has a little extra flavour because it’s the home round for the big Japanese factories. I actually scored my first ever MotoGP podium at Motegi but I’ve not had much out of it since then other than a couple of front row starts and a few results I’d rather not remember. It is the first of three races in a row in three different countries with very different climates. It is not an easy grind but I always enjoy it. We have to try and build on the good form we showed at Aragon and stay at the same level if we can. It won’t be easy but that has to be our objective.”
Marco Simoncelli says: “I was fairly happy after the race at Aragon although we needed to have a look at how and where I can improve my performance in the final stages of the race, when the tires are worn. My rivals managed to keep up their pace in the same conditions but my speed dropped off noticeably and I couldn’t stay with them. We have to improve the set up but we can use the one we found at Aragon as a base. Now we go to Motegi, a circuit I always quite liked on the 250. I won in Japan in 2008 and I was forced to retire from the race when I was leading last year but it is a circuit where I have always been fast and I hope that proves to be the case again in MotoGP. I’m feeling positive so let’s see!”
Marco Melandri says: “Following our disappointment at Aragon we go into the next run of races looking to give our best, even though we know it will be tough. Motegi is the first of three races in a row outside of Europe and it is a place where the weather is always uncertain so we just hope we get chance to do a good job in practice and prepare as well as possible for the race.”
“Unfortunately I’m not feeling too optimistic about the trip; I like the track despite the fact it is not very technical but for me it is going to be a tough race because you need a bike that is stable under braking and that is where we are having the most problems at the moment. We believe in miracles!”
Loris Capirossi says: “My finger is at about 90 percent, but it is only a finger so I am totally ready for the weekend. I am still having physiotherapy every day to get it better and will continue until the race, so by then it should be ok. I love Motegi, It is my favorite race track of the year and I have good memories from there. I have won three times and it would be amazing to challenge the front guys – especially as it is a big weekend for Suzuki. I know that it is tough out there, but anything is possible and we have got to keep believing in ourselves.”
Álvaro Bautista says: “Motegi is not one of my favourite circuits, it is a bit too plain and does little to test a rider, it is just a lot of straights and then short corners put together, so it is difficult to get a flowing rhythm. I have done quite well there in recent years though so I probably don’t dislike it that much!”
“We still have a lot of work to do on the GSV-R, but we are improving every race and so is my riding, I know I need to qualify better on the Saturday, because this is leaving me a lot of work to do in the race, so that is my first priority this weekend. If I can get on the first couple of rows who knows what might happen in the race.”
Hiroshi Aoyama says: “I am looking forward to Motegi. My family will be there to support me and also my friends and fans will come to see me ride. My agenda is quite full that weekend, but I am happy to be home. Physically I am much better. It is three months now that I have injured my back and the bone almost completely healed. I hope and I wish that I can achieve the best result of this season so far for my team in Motegi.”