It is now the time of year when I go crazy for motorsports. I have mentioned it before but I’ll say it again, autumn is very popular for motorsports in Japan with both the F1 Japanese Grand Prix and the MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan being held. This year has been particularly busy with me visiting Singapore as well to see the Singaporean Grand Prix. I thought I would have been too tired to really enjoy the MotoGP event as it was held in the last weekend of October, but to my surprise I was just as happy to attend this event as I always have. This year marked the first time that I attended the event and a significant amount of rain came. It also marked my return to the Yamaha tour that I have enjoyed so much in the past. I spent the past 2 years on the basic Motegi Twin Ring tour that is operated by the circuit itself. They are pretty much the same but things are still a little different. I enjoy going to MotoGP as I’m a huge fan and even though it was raining pretty bad on the first day, the sun came out and I felt I didn’t miss anything.
As always, my trip to Motegi involved waking up in the early morning and taking a bus up to the track. Motegi, for those who don’t know, is located about 3 hours north of Tokyo. It is actually almost right in the middle between Mito and Utsunomiya. There really isn’t anything to do there aside from enjoying racing and a lot of Japanese people have no idea where Motegi is or what is important about it. I took my usual Saturday Sunday tour and was a little worried when we left. Typhoon Francisco was approaching with a second typhoon anchored off the coast as well. Francisco was thankfully sparing the area from a direct hit and ended up travelling out in the Pacific next to the coast of Japan. It passed on Saturday meaning Saturday was unpleasantly wet. Some reports said a torrential rain hit, but honestly, it was just a heavy rain. The writer probably lives in a dry area because for anyone who lives in Tokyo, Vancouver, or London, it was just a regular rain or at most a heavy rain. The entire event was unfortunately thrown around due to the weather. Usually the event is run for 3 days with Friday being reserved for practice and Saturday being the main qualifying day. Friday was cancelled due to fog and the inability of the medical helicopter to perform as necessary. Saturday morning’s free practice was also cancelled due to the rain but thankfully they were able to run in the afternoon with an extended qualifying session for all 3 classes. The Sunday sessions were also extended to allow more time to prepare as Sunday would prove to be sunny and warm. While things were looking pretty bad at first, thankfully everything ended up good and I would like to think everyone had a great time since I did have a great time.
This year marked the first time that I had visited almost the entire track. I spent a lot of time on Saturday walking to all of the different areas to see what the different vantage points are like. Usually I stick to the main straight when I am on the Yamaha tour. The main grandstands are not the best place to see the race as you are very far from the course itself. The atmosphere with other fans is great but my backup location at the 90 degree corner is also great. This year, I started off checking the other areas such as the inside of the 90 degree corner. I must say that comparing the outside of the turn with the inside of the turn, I preferred the inside. The outside may have more food options and a screen to see what is happening, but the inside of the corner is more exciting as you can see the riders turn in better. I then headed to the 4th corner where they had free seating. The views are nice but you are still pretty far from everything. Even though you are far from the track itself, the 4th corner is a good place if you have a camper and I did see a lot of people camping there. Next to the 4th corner is a large berm to provide better views of the track on the outside of the super speedway. You can see the riders exit the first underpass; head along the 130R; and into the S curves. It isn’t bad but with the rain, boots are highly recommended. You can then head past the berm and into an underpass. After you pass the underpass, you’ll be at the outside of the S curves. I found this to be the best place to get photos of the action. You can see them coming up from the entrance to the S curve and then out of it as well. I had some of my best action photos from this point. It is also a short walk to the V corner, but the vantage point wasn’t as good. I would recommend the inside of the 90 degree corner personally, but if you can’t get tickets there, the inside of the V corner is pretty good too. I actually loved the short straight leading to the hairpin near the end of the circuit. You are very close to the bikes and you can see them zoom past and feel the speed. I would love to spend a lot of time there but the hike out there was just too far for me to do it often and the services were too sparse.
While the rain did put a damper on the festivities on Saturday, the fans did make the most of things. For the second year in a row, they created the Grand Prix Oasis just outside the main gate. It is a great place to get away from the noise of the bikes and to enjoy some of the local specialties and the lesser events compared to rider interviews inside the main area. They situated it next to the main amusement area that has a couple kart tracks as well as a new zip line attraction. The zip line looks like fun, but for only 1 run at 1200 yen, I decided it wasn’t worth the price. I ended up just drinking at the standing bar that had a lot of craft beer. Of course, where there is beer, there is Dru. I didn’t spend all of my time there as I did make time for a couple of other events. I made sure I saw a great artist by the name Ranka Fujiwara. She designed the main poster for the event for the second year in a row and she is a huge Cal Crutchlow fan. She made a special happi to support him as well as getting a hand puppet made in his likeness. It was very cute and she was a weird and interesting person to listen to. Inside the main entrance is where all of the main events take place. This year, due to the rain, most of the interviews were cancelled. Honda made sure their B list riders made it up for a short interview but Yamaha cancelled all of their shows. It was a shame but with the rain it was understandable. Thankfully Bridgestone did their best to keep their interviews going and I was able to see one of my favourite riders, Colin Edwards along with Nicky Hayden do short interviews. It wasn’t the most interesting interview to watch but you can’t expect too much with the cold, rain, and typical questions they are asked each year.
In terms of the race, things were pretty eventful there too. Qualifying was a gamble and the field was pretty mixed up from their usual forms. The races themselves had a lot of big events, and if you don’t want to know about it, skip this paragraph. In the Moto3 race, there were a couple huge crashes that blew open the championship. The leader, Luis Salom and the second place rider, Alex Rins, both crashed. Luis Salom actually crashed twice and didn’t finish the race but Alex Rins did finish the race with no points. The third place rider, Maverick Vinales, awesome name by the way, did finish the race in second place. This has ensured that the top 3 riders in the championship are now only separated by 5 points. The winner of the final race in Spain will probably be the champion of the Moto3 Class. For the Moto2 class, it was a different type of drama. On the first lap, the 2nd place rider in the championship got taken out by another rider’s bike. Basically, he couldn’t stop his bike and ended up crashing into a bike without a rider on it. One of the riders involved was left lying on the track so the race was red flagged. It was a terrible accident but thankfully all of the riders were okay. This lead to a restart and when the race ended, Pol Espargaro won the race and the championship that day. Obviously there was a huge celebration and the new champion got to celebrate with a win. For MotoGP, things were not as eventful, but for me, a Valentino Rossi fan, it was very eventful at the beginning. Rossi shot to second at the very beginning and held it until he ran wide at the 90 degree corner. He did it twice and by the 3rd lap he was in 11th place. He fought back to get a good points score but I was sad that he couldn’t finish higher. Jorge Lorenzo managed to win the race ensuring that the championship would go to the final race in Spain. The second placed rider, Marc Marquez finished second maintaining a 13 point lead. He doesn’t have to finish too high to win the championship in the next round.
This year, the race was a great success considering the problems that occurred. The rain could have caused a lot of problems but I think it wasn’t bad. People were in good spirits and people did make the most of it. Japanese people really didn’t mind and just toughed it out. I did find a couple of dogs with the cutest outfits and I’ll have to copy them in the future. Maybe I’ll bring Sox with me someday, but I don’t think any bus will let us take him. The only black eye on the entire event was the special helmet and shirt that Marc Marquez brought with him to the event. He wanted to thank Honda and the Japanese fans with a special design. He ended up doing a very ignorant racist symbol where he is characterized as pulling his eyes in a slant. Being only 20 years old, I can forgive him for being a stupid little kid and not knowing the significance of what he did. I would almost liken it to Prince Harry wearing a Nazi costume for Halloween in 2005. Kids are stupid and don’t realize the significance of these symbols. Thankfully, Ranka Fujiwara did a little parody about his second place using the same style of image and Marc publicly apologized for the image acknowledging his ignorance on the symbolism. I may not be his fan now but I still respect his ability to ride. Hopefully next year will have no black eyes and I have nothing to really consider as being bad during the entire event. Even with this specific image, I found the event to be as enjoyable as ever and I can’t wait for 2014!
2013 Air Asia Grand Prix of Japan is part of a series of posts recounting my trips to Twin Ring Motegi and the Japanese round of the MotoGP series. To read my other posts about this race please follow the links below:
- 2012 AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan
- 2011 Grand Prix of Japan
- 2010 Grand Prix of Japan (Twin Ring Motegi)
- 2008 A-Style Grand Prix of Japan
- MotoGP (Official Site)
- Twin Ring Motegi (Japanese)
- Twin Ring Motegi (English)
- Twin Ring Motegi (Wikipedia)
- 2013 AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan Results (MotoGP.com)
- Ranka Fujiwara (Official Twitter)
- Ranka Fujiwara (Official Facebook)
- Marc Marquez Special Motegi Helmet and Shirt (Twitter)
- Marc Marquez Apology (Twitter)
- Ranka Fujiwara’s Parody (Twitter)
- Prince Harry and his Nazi Costume (BBC)