World Champion Valentino Rossi
suffering three successive defeats at the same circuit by the same MotoGP team - doesn't sound likely does it? But that's exactly what's happened at Motegi for the past three seasons...
For while Rossi has steamrollered the opposition into submission on his way to four premier-class world titles (and a fifth could be claimed this weekend) one team has consistently stood up to the Italian at the home of their constructer.
That team is Honda Pons, whose riders Alex Barros, Max Biaggi and Makoto Tamada have brought a temporary but refreshing halt to Rossi's amazing assault by respectively winning the last three grands prix at Motegi (pictured) - with Rossi left runner-up on each occasion.
Team principle Sito Pons knows all about winning both from the saddle and from the pit wall, but even the articulate Spaniard finds it hard to actually pin point the reasons for his team's domination of Motegi for the last three years - not that he's complaining.
"I think the fact that Motegi is the home of our Constructer Honda must have given us wings," said a smiling Pons. "It's difficult to explain just why we have been so successful in Motegi. Of course we always try to do our very best in Japan which is such an important race for Honda and our sponsors but we also put in the same effort and dedication at all the other MotoGP venues."
That first win for the team three years ago was probably the most dramatic in a season of transition between 500cc two-strokes and 990cc four-strokes.
Throughout a very tough season, Barros and Loris Capirossi
had battled gallantly against the odds on the ageing two-strokes against the mighty new 990cc new boys on the block, until round 13 of the title chase at Motegi.
The Honda Pons team were given one of the new all conquering RC211V four-strokes for the very first time. One bike and two riders, it was an agonising decision by the team who would ride the new machine. After much deliberation it went to Brazilian Barros.
The performance by both riders, one in joy and the other in disappointment, in the 24 lap race not only was testimony to their skill and commitment but also to the man management skill of the team principle.