The MotoGP paddock finally arrives in Japan this week for round 15 of the 2011 World Championship at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The race had been delayed for the second year running, this year due to the Tsunami and earthquake which caused widespread devastation in the country. Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo now has just four races left to close the gap to Championship leader Casey Stoner, currently 44 points ahead. Lorenzo is no stranger to the Motegi podium having taken victory in 2009. He narrowly missed out on a 2010 podium after a fierce battle with then team mate Valentino Rossi, ultimately finishing in fourth.
Ben Spies arrives in Motegi for his second ever Japanese MotoGP race. Last year saw the Texan deliver a master class in overtaking having lost several places after running wide on the second lap to avoid a rider. Spies recovered from 15th place to take eighth at the line, carving his way through the competition to do so.
Designed in 1997 as a test venue, Motegi features a somewhat geometric track layout. The surface offers good levels of grip without being overly abrasive but the number of second gear turns, linked for the most part by mini-drag strips, means braking and acceleration are the main prerequisite to a fast lap time. As part of Yamaha’s 50th anniversary of Grand Prix racing the team will again run the special ‘YZR-M1 WGP50th Anniversary Edition’ livery this weekend.
Jorge Lorenzo “Japan is a home race for Yamaha and for us it is always a pleasure to ride here. Motegi is a track where I have won before and last year I had a nice fight for the podium. I would like to win again here, so that is my aim this weekend. After all the confusion with Fukushima we are here, fit and ready to put on a good show for Yamaha in this special year for them. We will begin on Friday and try to do everything really well!”
Ben Spies “I really enjoyed the race here last year once I got over the frustration of losing so many places in the opening laps. I managed to overtake quite a few riders on my way back up to eighth which always makes the race more exciting. I hope to be higher this year from the start so won’t have to do so much catching up! We’re racing in the red and white livery again which always seems to bring me luck!”
Wilco Zeelenberg “Here we are finally in Motegi, at a very exciting time for us. A 44 point gap is a big one to try and close in just four races but we go into every round aiming to win, we will never give up until the end of the season. Jorge is in great form and looking forward to the challenge. He does love the track here and we’ve seen he really knows how to fight here. All the guys will be giving everything from the first session on Friday to see what we can do.”
Massimo Meregalli “This is our second ‘home’ race. I’ve never been to Motegi before so I am curious to see how the facilities are at the track. The circuit can be a challenging one for Yamaha but we have seen from Jorge in 2009 that victory is possible. This is our fourth race in the red and white colours and they usually bring us good results so we plan to keep going like this!”