The return of fast Japanese riders after a decade or more in abeyance was slightly interrupted in Italy, with one of the new brigade missing injured, alongside another of the rising tide from South-East Asia.
Moto3 rookie Ai Ogura, with one top ten among three debut-season finishes in the points, was out after suffering hand injuries in a Le Mans race crash; while in Moto2 Thai rider Somkiat Chantra joined Malaysian Khairul Idham Pawi on the absentee list. Chantra suffered a left foot fracture at Le Mans; Pawi’s bad hand injuries came the race before at Jerez.
The Japanese revival, which has also brought new faces from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, is largely the consequence of the Honda-backed Shell Asia Talent Cup, equivalent of the Red Bull Rookies series in Europe.
Although former Moto2 race winner Takaaki Nakagami, currently going strong on the LCR Honda, is the only representative in MotoGP, there are four riders in Moto2, with Japan’s Tetsuta Nagashima the highest-placed after a career-best seventh in Spain.
In Moto3, Kaito Toba took his first win in the opening round in Qatar; while Tatsuki Suzuki’s several spells leading races were finally rewarded with second at Jerez. Three more Japanese full-timers and for this race an additional wild card swelled the ranks in the smallest class.
With Mattia Pasini continuing to replace Pawi, Chantra’s place in Italy was taken by first-timer Teppei Nagoe from Japan; while Indonesian Gerry Salim took over Ogura’s Moto3 Honda.
by Michael Scott