The last time Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro visited Japan they were standing on the top step of the Suzuka 8 Hours podium.
The duo will return with their usual Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machinery for this weekend's MotoGP round at Motegi, which top satellite rider Smith will start with a four point lead over Factory Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso in the battle for fifth in the world championship.
“I am really looking forward to throwing my leg over the YZR-M1 at the Japanese GP, which is certainly a special one for me this year,” Smith said. “Last time I raced in Japan, I was part of the Suzuka 8 Hours conquering team with Pol and Katsuyuki [Nakasuga] so I have some great memories which will give me extra motivation for this weekend.
“In addition, I will be wearing a special helmet at Motegi which I hope the Japanese fans will appreciate.
“The circuit itself is certainly one of the more challenging tracks that we go to. The stop and go nature means there is a lot of aggressive braking and we must pay special attention to the tyres as well at this race.
“Yet, I have always enjoyed the track and so I aim get a strong setup quickly and then get the show on the road. I need to finish inside the top six in order to keep my championship ambitions alive, but I am ready to fight right until the chequered flag.”
Espargaro meanwhile has slipped to the back of the championship top ten and is in search of a trouble free weekend to halt the side.
“We now head to the other side of the planet for the first of the three fly away GPs. It's all back to back races, so it's vital to start confidently in order to get the momentum going. Japan has been very good to me in the past as I won my 2013 Moto2 title there and also the Suzuka 8 Hours, therefore I am hoping to score another result to remember, on Sunday. Plus, the crowd in Motegi is really enthusiastic about MotoGP so I'd love to put on a great show for them.
“In terms of the track itself, I need to say that it is a special one and very demanding, that's why we are certainly not expecting an easy weekend. Still, we are well prepared and aim to hit the ground running on Friday in order to be able to attack qualifying at full speed and get a solid starting position for the race. I am really excited for the Grand Prix but also ready to work hard so that we can finish where we want to, especially as its Yamaha's [anniversary home GP.”
Nakasuga will be joining his former Suzuka team-mates on track this weekend, competing as a wild-card in a special 60th anniversary Yamaha livery.