Despite a largely lacklustre year Valentino Rossi, somewhat remarkably, still holds third place in the championship, and is only 22-points behind Andrea Dovizioso.
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“It’s always nice to go to Motegi, because it’s like a home race for us, as a Yamaha team. However, the triple-header also means the end of the season is nearing and that we have to keep focused 100%. These next few weeks will be very demanding for our riders and their crews. Both our guys are in fine shape, so I feel positive we can do some exciting racing in front of the Asian and Oceanian fans, who always make this part of the MotoGP calendar very special. Though Motegi’s stop-start character doesn’t traditionally play in our favour, Vale and Maverick like the track a lot, so we look forward to starting work on Friday in the first practice sessions.”
Feeling in top shape, the Italian again aims to fight with the front-runners this weekend. Rossi narrowly missed out on a podium spot in Buriram, but he fancies his chances in Motegi, a track where he stood on the rostrum on numerous occasions. Rossi graced the premier class top step at this Japanese circuit in 2001 and 2008, he scored second place in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2015, and achieved third place in 2010 and 2014.
“After the Grand Prix in Thailand I went back to Italy, because I didn’t want to stay away for five consecutive weeks. So I went back to Italy for one week and stayed at home and trained to get ready for the three races in a row. I came to Japan feeling quite optimistic that I can be strong here too. Usually Motegi is a good track for me, I like it. I hope it will be dry, because last year was a nightmare, it was always wet. We’ll see what happens at the upcoming three races, not just this one in Japan. If we really improved the bike last time round, we should be competitive at the next three GPs.”
Vinales looking to continue podium form
Two weeks ago Viñales returned to the podium in Buriram and off the back of that results currently holds fourth position in the championship standings.
“After the GP in Buriram my thoughts were that a race and a weekend like the last one should be normal for us, we were back where we should be. We had made a positive change to the bike and I felt very good, and the team has worked well. I think we’re finally getting the results after much hard work. The small changes in the bike are finally paying off. In Thailand my strong points were corner speed and I was also very fast at the turn-in. Then again, the tyres that were brought to Buriram were different from the usual ones, that could have helped me too. On the other hand, we made a change in the weight distribution, which also played a part. I’m very curious to get to Motegi and find out if it was the tyres or the new configuration that made the difference. Motegi is a very special circuit for us because it’s Yamaha‘s home Grand Prix. It will be very important to do a good performance in Japan in front of all our managers and our wonderful fans, who are always supporting us. I can‘t wait to be there.”
Vinales at Motegi
Since Vinales began his Grand Prix racing career in 2011, he has visited the Motegi podium four times, securing two second places at the Japanese Grand Prix in Moto3 in 2012 and 2013, a second place in Moto2 in 2014, and a third place in the MotoGP class in 2016. This year he hopes to reach the top step of the rostrum and add 25 points to his tally, thereby narrowing the 26-point gap that separates his fourth place from third in the championship standings.
The Twin Ring Motegi circuit was built in 1997 for test purposes. It was first visited by the MotoGP circus in 1999 for the Japanese Grand Prix. A year later it hosted the Pacific Grand Prix and it remained a major attraction for motorsports fans ever since. Its 4.8km lay-out features six left and eight right corners, and various hard braking and acceleration areas. In 2004 Motegi replaced the Suzuka circuit on the MotoGP calendar, to once again become the host of the Japanese Grand Prix and keep up its status as a circuit that produces lots of memorable and exciting racing moments as the end of the season draws near.
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