15 May 2019 15:53
We take a look at the history behind the Japanese MotoGP and discover what has made it such a success.
MotoGP has a long history with Japan and in recent years it has also been the venue at which the World Champion has been crowned. Motorsport Live takes a look at what you might expect at Motegi.
Motorcycle racing has been visiting Japan since 1963 but top-level competition only truly established itself in the nation during the mid-1980s, when the iconic figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit joined the calendar. The venue hosted some classic races through the next decade or so but the tragic death of Daijiro Kato in 2003 prompted officials to move the race to Motegi, regarding Suzuka as sufficiently unsafe to host the ever-evolving championship.
The Honda-owned Motegi circuit had hosted the Pacific Grand Prix for four years before taking on the mantle of hosting the Japanese Grand, and it has remained there annually ever since.
Makoto Tamada gave the local fans a home victory upon Motegi’s full-time return as Japanese GP host in 2004, but so far that has been the only triumph by a native in the last decade-and-a-half.
Japan does however have three leading manufacturers in the form of Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki, and the first two have enjoyed success at the venue. Honda has taken five wins at the circuit which it owns since the turn of the decade while Yamaha, along with fierce Italian opponent Ducati, has triumphed twice.
Great racing and unpredictable drama are guaranteed at Motegi. The last two events have seen a fierce fight between Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso as they battled in the rain, the victory decided in the Ducati rider’s favour at the final corner as they came perilously close to touching. Last year it was the same pair duelling for the win but a fall for Dovizioso sealed the win for Marquez, whose triumph also ensured he secured the World Championship on home turf for Honda.
That win marked the second time in three years that Marquez has wrapped up the title at Motegi after a similar outcome in 2016 showing that in recent years Japan has been a happy hunting ground for Marquez and Honda, and the scene of the coronation of MotoGP’s World Champion.
The record books also show us that pole position is not exactly important at Motegi. Just once since 2007 with Jorge Lorenzo in 2013 has the master of Saturday doubled up as the maestro of Sunday, outlining that being fast over one lap at the venue does not equate to being the best in race trim. Overtaking, therefore, is a guarantee at the circuit, courtesy of a layout that permits side-by-side battles and different lines to be taken.
For a slice of Japanese two-wheeled action at a venue where World Champions have been crowned, why not visit Motegi this year? Click here to register your interest.