Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
After an enthralling and historic Indian Grand Prix, MotoGP heads to a familiar place, a frequent destination on the calendar since 1963, Japan. Home to many riders throughout the three classes, past and present, as well two very storied manufacturers in Honda and Yamaha, Japan is steeped in the history of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Playing host to the cohort of riders will be the Mobility Resort Motegi, formerly known as the Twin Ring Motegi, a circuit that bore witness to the crowning of champions, and many other historical moments in the modern MotoGP era.
Ever since it joined the calendar in place of Suzuka, Motegi has maintained its current configuration, a 4.8 kilometre loop round 14 times to form the circuit. Six times it turns left, and eight to the predominant right. The circuit features a mix of high speed, as well as tight corners, with gradual elevation changes complementing the topography of the land, a staple of Japanese race tracks. The circuit also features two predominant straights. One being the traditionally longer start/finish straight, but also a half a kilometre back straight too.
This year's Japanese grand prix is set to play a definitive role in the championship. 44 points cover the top three with seven rounds still to go.
Francesco Bagnaia, who had gotten off to a stellar defence of his world championship crown, has hit a road bump in his 2023 campaign. After a highside crash ruled out the Italian in Catalunya, Pecco saw another non-score hit him at the Indian Grand Prix, after he'd passed his immediate title rival Jorge Martin. This saw Bagnaia's title lead shrink from well over 30 points to a measly 13 points, a metaphorical illustration of his recent fortunes.
On the other hand Jorge Martin has found the form that saw him garner praise from his rookie campaign two years ago. A win in San Marino, as well as the Sprint in India have put him in arms reach of Bagnaia's scarlet Ducati. Should the uptick in form for the Spaniard continue for the rest of the Asian tour, Martin might just find himself the first world champion for an independent team, since Valentino Rossi.
Challenging them both is Marco Bezzechi. The Italian stole the show in India, coming from the back of the field in the Sprint race after a first-lap tangle with teammate Luca Marini, before he set a pace too hot for anyone in the main Grand Prix.
While the Ducati riders head to Japan on the crest of a wave, it is less so for the host manufacturers. It has been a difficult year for both Honda and Yamaha. Neither manufacturer has seen the top step of a podium in over 12 months. It's not all doom and gloom though, Marquez and Mir both showed great pace at the previous round in India, following Honda's updated packs, whilst Quartararo came through for a third place podium. Perhaps a ray of hope will shine on the Japanese manufacturers, as we return to the Land of the Rising Sun.