Fiat Yamaha press release:
Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo head to Japan this weekend for the second Grand Prix of 2009 at Motegi. In the past the race has always come close to the end of the season and last year it was the scene of victorious celebrations for the squad as Rossi wrapped up the World Championship with a stunning race win and Lorenzo finished fourth, helping to secure the Teams’ and Manufacturers’ titles to give Yamaha the coveted Triple Crown.
With just one race run so far this season there will be no repeat of last year’s championship-winning party, but the Italian and the Spaniard will be keen to keep the momentum high after finishing second and third under the Qatar floodlights. The pair were happy to open their season account with a podium apiece but will be hoping for an even better result in Yamaha’s home country. Both riders will make a stop in Tokyo on the way, where they will be helping Yamaha to launch a new R1.
Prior to last year’s winning bonanza, Rossi had taken just a single victory at the Twin Ring Motegi, back in 2001 before the advent of four-stroke MotoGP machinery. Lorenzo has scored only one podium before at the track with a third in 2006 on the way to the first of his two 250cc titles. MotoGP tyre suppler Bridgestone has traditionally been very strong at the circuit and with all the riders now on the Japanese rubber, hopes are high for an entertaining race.
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.
“My memories of last year at Motegi are incredible, because it was such a special victory after two year’s without the championship. This year of course will be very different, it’s only the second race and it will be quite strange going there so early in the championship. In Qatar we had one or two small areas that could have been better, so we will be trying hard to improve our setting during the practice time so that we’re able to run at the front on Sunday. I expect that Stoner will be strong again, so we just need to reduce the gap to him so that we can put up more of a fight. In the past Motegi hasn’t been a great track for me and I’ve had some bad races there, but I think last year cancelled that all out so I hope it can be successful for us once again this year.”
“HOPING TO CLOSE THE GAP”
“This is my second year with Yamaha in MotoGP and the second time going to our home! I feel very motivated about racing in Japan. Qatar was a huge beginning for us although I couldn’t keep the same pace as Valentino and Casey. I will try to be much closer to them in Motegi; that is the main aim for this race. Last year I took my last pole position of 2008, but in the race I was fourth after a nice battle with Pedrosa, fighting until the last lap. I hope that this year I will be fighting right at the front.”
“THE TARGET IS TO REMAIN CONSISTENT”
“This year Motegi comes at the start of the season, so it will be a very different race to last year, when we had the chance to achieve all of our season goals there. Of course we did that and we have wonderful memories in our team of that race. This year we go there with different targets and the first one will be to improve our setting in order to allow us to remain consistent for the whole race, which wasn’t possible in Qatar. We will work hard in practice and hopefully we can give Valentino the tools to fight on Sunday.”
“BUILDING ON A GOOD START”
“We were very happy with the result from the first race, because to start the season with a podium shows that we are strong and have a good package, now we need to build on this. The gap to the leaders showed that we have some work to do to further improve Jorge’s setting, so this will be our target in Motegi. Hopefully we can make some more steps forward and be at the front in the race. Japan is a very important race for Yamaha and we’re looking forward to putting on a good show.”