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The Motul Grand Prix of Japan is an important round not just for the Japanese riders, but also for the Japanese manufacturers.
Alongside a plethora of wildcards, three full time riders call the Japanese GP home and will be out to set the Twin Ring Motegi alight in front of their home crowd. In the Moto2™ World Championship Takaaki Nakagami will be looking to continue his run of seven point scoring finishes. A podium in Misano was a ray of hope after two somewhat difficult years in the intermediate class, many thought after a streak of four straight podiums in 2013 that the Japanese rider would be a title contender, but he has since struggled. The Idemitsu Honda Team Asia rider’s best result at Motegi came in 2012 when he was seventh in the Moto2™ race.
The Moto3™ World Championship currently houses both Hiroki Ono and Tatsuki Suzuki, two Japanese riders who have shown flashes of speed in a year of mixed results. Ono, from Nara in Japan, made his World Championship debut as a wildcard in the 125cc race in Motegi back in 2008 and made his full time World Championship debut in 2015 having made multiple wildcards and spent time in the CEV championship. The Leopard Racing rider’s best result so far has been tenth, achieved last time out at the Aragon GP. Multiple times Ono has qualified well and been strong in the early stages of a race, but on six occasions these flashes of speed have ended in the gravel.
Suzuki has also shown promise during his debut season in the World Championship, the pouring rain of Silverstone allowing him to score his first points of the season with a solid tenth. In Aragon he was just outside the points with a spirited ride to 16th. It hasn’t been an easy year for the CIP rider on the Mahindra, but he has shown continued growth in his rookie season. Suzuki will be looking to draw on his experience from the Japanese domestic series for a strong result at his home GP.
On eight occasions Japanese riders have taken victory at Motegi, though their last podium came in 2009 when Hiroshi Aoyama, now a Honda test rider, was second in the 250cc race. The potential for a podium is within all three riders, especially if forecasts are correct in predicating torrential rain on Sunday.
The Japanese GP is also the round for Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki who made their return to the World Championship in the 2015 season. As Honda owns the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, there is extra pressure on them to win at the circuit, although their last victory came in 2012 when Dani Pedrosa took the win. Since the introduction of the MotoGP™ class in 2002, Honda have won five times, Yamaha with four victories and looking to draw level with their rivals in 2015. But it was Suzuki that took the first victory at Motegi back in 1999 when Kenny Roberts Jnr claimed victory before repeating the feat in 2000 on his way to the 500cc title.
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