The Fiat Yamaha Team heads to Yamaha’s homeland of Japan this week for the first in a punishing triple-header of ‘flyaway’ races in Japan, Malaysia and Australia. There are just five more races still left to go and championship-leader Jorge Lorenzo and his team-mate Valentino Rossi are determined to record a few more top results before the curtain comes down on the year in early November.
Lorenzo took a superb win at Motegi last season, passing his team-mate to take a memorable victory. The 23-year-old loves the track and is looking forward to getting back on the podium this time out, having missed out for the first time this season at the last race in Aragon. The Spaniard leads the championship from 56 points from Dani Pedrosa but, despite the points gap, he knows that he can not afford any mistakes if he is to realise his dream of clinching a first premier class world title.
Nine-time champion Rossi also has happy memories of the Japanese circuit, having won there in 2001 and then again with Yamaha in 2008, when he sewed up his eighth world title. He arrives in less than perfect shape this time however after an injury-hit season, with his damaged shoulder still limiting his power and capacity to ride. He knows that the right-handed Motegi track will be extra hard on his body this weekend but is looking forward to Sepang and Phillip Island, which he hopes will be a little easier, as he looks to finish his difficult season on a high.
Motegi has been a victim of the weather over the last couple of years, with qualifying cancelled in 2009 due to torrential rain and then the ash cloud earlier this year meaning the entire race had to be postponed, hence its delayed appearance in the calendar now. 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 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.
Jorge Lorenzo – “Get back on the podium”
“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 – “We will do our best”
“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!”
Wilco Zeelenberg – “We can’t relax too much!”
“After missing out on the podium for the first time this season we know that we have some work to do, because our rivals have taken a step forward. Jorge has a strong lead still but we can’t afford to relax too much because anything can happen. He likes Motegi a lot and we hope that we will be quickly able to find a good setting for our M1. As always our target will be the podium and as many points as we can take without risking too much.”
Davide Brivio – “A tough run of races”
“Valentino is understandably disappointed that he isn’t in as good physical shape as he had hoped, and this is a pity for him because the leg is really quite good now! Aragon was hard on him but generally our bike goes well at Motegi so we hope it will be better, even if the nature of the track will still be hard on him. This run of races is tough on everyone but we will be working as hard as ever and hoping for some good results as we head towards the final races. Unfortunately I had to miss the last round because of a problem with my back; I still have some pain but I have managed to fly to Japan and I am really looking forward to getting back to work.”
Valentino Rossi : Information
Lives: Tavullia, Italy
GP victories: 104 (78 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 236 (176 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 59 (49 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
World Championships: 9 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 6 x MotoGP)
Jorge Lorenzo: Information
Lives: Barcelona, Spain
GP victories: 33 (13 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Brazil, 2003 (125cc)
First GP: Jerez, Spain, 2002 (125cc)
GP starts: 141 (47 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 40 (14 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
World Championships: 2 (250cc, 2006/7)
Motegi: Record Lap
C. Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1’47.091
Motegi: Best Lap
J. Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2008, 1’45.543
Grand Prix Results: Motegi 2009
1. J. Lorenzo (Yamaha) 43’47.238
2. V. Rossi (Yamaha) +1.304
3. D.Pedrosa (Honda) +3.763