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Onboard lap of the Twin Ring Motegi

Onboard lap of the Twin Ring Motegi

Onboard lap of the Twin Ring Motegi

Now in its fifth year of inclusion in the MotoGP calendar, Motegi has matured into a challenging fixture. It has outstanding quality of build and facilities, although the tremendous paddock is not quite matched by the intricacies and character of a somewhat geometric circuit layout.

A bump-free surface offers good levels of grip without being particularly abrasive, but the proliferation 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, and consistency the key to a good race.

A similar set-up to the hard-braking and hard accelerating required at Le Mans will be needed at Motegi, tailored to the particular nature of the Japanese track, which does enjoy some changes of elevation. The fast approach to the 90° Corner, followed by hard downhill braking and then a mini complex of corners, is often the final arbiter on who wins any Motegi race.

Michelin has totally dominated premier-class GPs at Twin Ring Motegi since the track hosted its first GP in April 1999. The French tyre brand has scored pole position, race victory, a full podium and fastest lap at all five races.

"The important factors of machine performance at Motegi are strong acceleration and good braking," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "The track layout isn't too popular with riders, somehow it feels a little artificial, but anyway the Japanese Grand Prix is always a challenging race for us because it's the home race of our biggest competitor.

"So we always know that the fight will be rough on Japanese circuits. Then again, we have won every Grand Prix run at Motegi, both in dry and wet conditions. Over the last three seasons we've always been to Motegi later in the year, this time it's more end of summer rather than autumn which should make things a little easier with a higher track temperature.

"Because there's a lot of heavy braking at Motegi we use a front tyre that's stiffer than usual, maybe the stiffest we use all season. And riders tend to use a stiff front suspension set-up too, so they probably get a little less feel than normal. But at least the surface is both smooth and grippy, even in the wet.

"Motegi isn't that old, so the track hasn't degraded much. Also they don't have F1 or Indy races on this track. (Instead Motegi stages Indy races on an oval track that criss-crosses the GP circuit, hence the Twin Ring prefix.)

"The fact that braking is such a big thing at Motegi means that I don't think our 16.5 front will give too big an advantage over the 17in we ran last year. Same with our ‘big foot' rear because most of the corners are very short, so the tyre's main advantage of extra sidegrip isn't such a big plus here.

"For this reason I don't think this we'll see much of an improvement in the race time. Generally this year we've seen improvements of 15 to 30 seconds but I expect Motegi to be more like 15 seconds. But who knows? I hope I"ll be wrong."

Take an onboard lap of the Twin Ring Motegi by clicking on the video link at the top of the page.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, CAMEL GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN

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