San Carlo Gresini Honda riders Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis head to the latest round of MotoGP in Motegi eager to make an impression on their Honda employers following a promising performance during the Qatar season opener.
Although the factory Repsol Honda team could not match their Ducati and Yamaha rivals in Qatar, both de Angelis and Elias were amongst the top satellite competitors on the way to a pair of top ten finishes.
de Angelis' run to sixth position was a particularly impressive performance, although the San Marino rider arrives in Japan feeling a little more cautious after difficult experience at Motegi in 2008.
“Motegi is quite a technical circuit and I like it a lot. The section after the tunnel, which is a series of fast corners, is my strong part. Over the years in 250cc I made so many passes there. It won't be an easy race for us because there are so many hard acceleration points coming out of slow corners and last year we had a really tough weekend, struggling to find a comfortable setting despite the best efforts of the team.
“We had a good start to the season in Qatar two weeks ago so hopefully the base setting is useful here too. If we can work well from the first session and make quick progress with the set-up then we should be able to put in a strong performance.”
HRC backed rider Elias, meanwhile, is particularly keen to impress Honda on their home ground, even if he didn't score around the Japanese circuit when riding for Alice Ducati last season.
“I have always loved Motegi and to race there for HRC gives you an extra motivation to do a good job. We have to be realistic and keep our feet on the ground in terms of our expectations because the situation we're in at the moment demands it, but hopefully we can get a little bit of help and with it being a track I like so much we can improve on the performance from Qatar – this is the principal objective.
“Motegi is a circuit with lots of heavy braking and I have always been good on the brakes, which I think is why my record is so good there, but this is an area we're struggling with at the moment. So it is fundamental we fix that particular problem because braking is a weapon we really need here.”