Championship leader, Jorge Lorenzo, heads to Motegi for this weekend’s Grand Prix of Japan determined to get back on the rostrum, after a fourth place last time out at Aragón ended the Mallorcan’s run of podium finishes that started with second place in the season opener at Qatar.
Lorenzo still holds a 56-point advantage over Dani Pedrosa at the top of the championship standings heading into this weekend’s race, which was postponed back in April due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland. The Fiat Yamaha rider took one of his four wins last season at Motegi and is keen to do well in Yamaha’s home race, as he looks to defend his position at the top of the standings.
“I’m not comfortable, but my position in the championship is good,” declared Lorenzo, during this afternoon’s press conference at Motegi. “We’re not in the best shape technically; we have a little disadvantage in terms of power, but the latest evolution engine should improve things. I am thinking about the championship, so I must keep going fast but I must also be prudent, calculating and not doing any crazy things. This weekend I hope to be able to fight for the podium, and maybe even for the victory.”
Casey Stoner’s first win of the season at Aragón was the culmination of a dominant weekend for the Australian on board his Ducati and, while Motegi is a very different circuit to Aragón, the Ducati rider is hopeful that the improvements made to the stability of his Desmosedici GP10 in Spain will also pay dividends this weekend in Japan.
“The changes we made to the bike at Aragón seemed to work there, but we will have to wait and see if they work here at Motegi as well,” said Stoner. “We’ll see if we can carry on the form here this weekend but, if not, then we’ll just have to keep on fighting as we’ve done all season. We’ve always been pretty fast here in the past, but it never seemed to come together on race day.”
Marco Simoncelli has had some solid results so far in his MotoGP rookie season, but the former 250cc World Champion has also had his fair share of crashes aboard the San Carlo Gresini Honda. The Italian currently lies tenth in the championship standings, tied on points with Marco Melandri, but is hopeful of leapfrogging his teammate this weekend, at a track on which he won the 250cc race in 2008.
“This season for me started not so easy, but race by race we’ve improved,” explained the former 250cc World Champion. “After Laguna we had some problems with the new electronics on the bike, but in Aragón we found a solution, so I’m happy to be here and confident of a good race at Motegi.”
Alvaro Bautista has an impressive record at Motegi in the 250cc class, having finished second to Simoncelli in 2008 before taking victory in last year’s race. Despite this success, Motegi is not a circuit that the Suzuki rider counts amongst his favourites.
Bautista took a hard fought eighth place last time out at Aragón, his third in a row, but is determined to finish higher up the order this weekend at Motegi.
“The season started well, with a good winter testing programme and two good races, but then I got injured and didn’t seem to be able to improve myself or the bike. Now, with the new frame, we have made improvements and I’m enjoying racing the bike. Suzuki, the team and myself are all working hard and we’re definitely getting closer with each race. In Aragón we had our third eighth position in a row, but I think it’s possible to fight for sixth or seventh place here in Motegi.”
Hiroshi Aoyama has had a tough debut season in MotoGP, missing six races after sustaining a back injury during warm-up at Silverstone ahead of the British Grand Prix. The Japanese Grand Prix is Aoyama’s fourth race since returning from the injury at Brno and the Interwetten Honda rider is motivated to put in a good performance in front of his home crowd this weekend.
“I have good memories of Motegi, after taking my first podium finish and my first victory here,” declared Aoyama. “Racing in your home Grand Prix provides a lot of motivation as well as extra pressure, but the pressure has been good for me in the past and I hope it will be the same this weekend.”
“My aim here at Motegi is to finish inside the top ten, but also to race for Shoya Tomizawa, who I know would have been looking forward to racing in his home Grand Prix this weekend.”