Features 6 Jun 2023

Fast Thoughts: Taiyo Aksu

JP250 rider on living and competing in Japan for the 2023 season.

Moving to Japan for 2023 to compete in the JP250 category, 16-year-old Taiyo Aksu has gained a wealth of experience across the opening rounds of the All-Japan Road Race Championship. The Team JP Dog Fight Racing rider made the move after experiencing success in 2022 racing domestically in the Mi-Bike Australian Superbike (ASBK), Supersport 300 category, and has shown flashes of potential across the Motegi and Sugo weekends contested so far this season. He shares his Fast Thoughts on a variety of topics in our latest feature.

Image: Supplied.

The opportunity to race in Japan… 

Yamaha in Japan was looking for five riders to bring up through the junior ranks and kind of like nurture to then take over to Europe and use those steps as stepping stones. It’s kind of like a bLU cRU challenge as well over here. There were already five riders picked at the end of last year, but I was lucky enough to be added to that, because there were a couple of guys in Australia who had helped organise something with me. I’m racing in the JP250 class with Team JP Dog Fight Racing, and there are six riders within the class on Yamaha R3s. We have all got the same fairings, same exhaust, same ECU. There are slight modifications you can do depending on what team you are in, and some differences you can make. Yamaha looks through all of our data and analyses it, then at the end of the year they will choose one rider to go over to Europe.

Differences between the R3s used in the All Japan Championship and ASBK… 

The main difference I would say is the ECU. In Australia, we are not allowed to modify the standard ECU, but we are allowed to run a sub-computer, for example, the Power Commander or Rapid Bike. Whereas in Japan, or at least for all of the Yamahas anyways, I’m not sure about the Hondas, all of the bLU cRU racers run an aRacer ECU which is the same that they run in the ARRC [Asia Road Racing Championship]. Another difference is my bike in Australia runs an Akrapovic exhaust system, whereas in Japan we run a Sakura system. There are a couple of other modifications I’m not 100 percent sure of, but I know the team has done them. But the main difference is the ECU, and the tyres. Tyres over here, we are running the Asia Road Racing spec Dunlops, whereas in Australia we are running the Pirelli slicks. They do work very differently, the tyres, and I’m getting used to the Dunlops over here.

Moving to Japan by yourself… 

It’s interesting, it was a bit difficult to get used to at first. I love the culture over here, as most people know I am half Japanese and I was born here. When I am in Australia, Australia does feel like my home, but I guess when I am in Japan, this also feels like home. I love Japan and it will always have a special place in my heart. It is a bit difficult, I get homesick sometimes and I do miss all of my family back home in Australia, but I guess you have got to do what you have got to do. Outside of the racing, I am really grateful to be living here and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. You could think of it two ways: I could just sook about it and miss my family, or I can just make the most of the experience and enjoy it, which I am doing. I love being over here, and I am so grateful of my parents and family for giving me this opportunity and especially to Team JP Dog Fight Racing for giving me this opportunity.

Image: Supplied.

The first two rounds this season… 

Motegi was the first round, and it was pretty interesting, still trying to get used to the bike and the tyres. The competition over here is intense, too, a lot of people look at Japan and may think it is not that high of a level, but the Japanese riders, especially on their home tracks, are very fast. I had to really step up my game at the first round, I learned very quickly that the guys over here are something else. Once I started to get used to it, I started to build a little bit of confidence and I qualified P10. In the race, it wasn’t really the ending we were hoping for, but I was able to move up to P5 by the end of lap one, and then, unfortunately, another rider collided with me coming out of the first turn which sent me into a highside. I tore my AC joint and did a fair bit of damage to my shoulder. Round two at Sugo provided its challenges, because of my injury I got minimal testing there and couldn’t really find a good set-up, so we were already starting on the back foot compared to everyone else. It ended up being a pretty wet weekend, except for the race, with my free practice time limited. Qualifying in the wet, I qualified P7 out of around 30 riders, and third place in my class which is the national championship. I was really happy with that, I didn’t have much confidence in the wet before that round, so I was pretty happy that I was able to gather my bearings and slowly build into it. In the race, I got off to a really slow start and I dropped to like 15th place. I slowly started making my way up, but it just wasn’t enough. Pretty disappointed with that result, but I’m pretty determined to get back out there at Tsukuba, the next round on the 18th of June.

Returning to compete in ASBK at Morgan Park… 

Morgan Park, I know that the dates do line up and I already spoke to Dad and some of my supporters and sponsors, and it could be possible for me to come back and compete for that round. I am really excited, I was pretty successful there last year and hopefully, I’ll be able to carry on my success there, this year as well. I’m really excited, I have a lot of people that support me back home in Australia and I’ll never forget those people who have supported me from the beginning, so really excited to potentially come back and see what the Japan national level is compared to the Australian national level.