Next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi will be a significant event for both Nicky Hayden and Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa.

For Hayden, it will be his last Japanese GP for home manufacturer Honda - which built the Motegi circuit to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1998 - whilst Pedrosa will be keen to show the HRC bosses that his shock mid-season switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres was a correct one.

Less than one day after claiming his first podium of the season, with a second place finish behind Valentino Rossi in last Sunday's storm-shortened Indianapolis GP, Hayden was officially confirmed as a Ducati Marlboro rider for 2009.

Hayden, who won AMA Superbike title for Honda before moving to MotoGP with the Japanese factory in 2003, now hopes to carry his podium momentum into his final four RCV rides.

"Indy gave us a little bit of a boost, so we'll see if we can keep that going at Motegi," said Hayden, Honda's only MotoGP world champion since the departure of Valentino Rossi at the end of 2003.

"I'm looking forward to it because I'm planning on finishing the season strong. I owe that to Honda, they've been a big part of my career, so it would be nice to get some more podiums.

"This will be my last race on a Honda at their home track, so it would be really nice to get a result for all the Honda people who have worked with me," he confirmed.

However, whilst Hayden finished on the Motegi podium at his first attempt in 2003, the Kentuckian has failed to better fifth position since.

"First time I went to Motegi as a rookie in 2003 I battled with Sete [Gibernau], Valentino [Rossi] and Makoto [Tamada] and they ended up giving me third, my first top-three result. I thought 'wow, this is going to be a good track for me'," he admitted.

"But since then I really haven't done much there. I've struggled in some of the hairpin corners. It's an okay track, I like the combination in the back when you come under the first bridge, that all flows together really nice.

"I like those tunnels, because they're different, it almost feels like you need headlights! Braking stability is probably the biggest thing, plus acceleration. You need a bike that's good going back through the gears, so you need a good clutch and engine braking set-up."

Whilst Hayden will have little external pressure on his shoulders next weekend, Pedrosa - who will remain at Repsol Honda for a fourth season in 2009 - will be anxious to impress.

Pedrosa's tyre switch has forced the Repsol Honda pits to be divided in two (pictured) and the Spaniard, Honda's only MotoGP race winner since the start of 2007, will be eager to justify the decision at one of Bridgestone's strongest circuits.

"Indianapolis was an important weekend for us, with lots of work and with all kinds of different weather. That made it quite tough, but it did give us experience in different conditions, so we could learn about my new machine and tyres in both dry and wet conditions," said Dani, who was eighth at Indy during his first race on a pneumatic RC212V and Bridgestone tyres.

"I hope that we can use the data we gathered there to help us achieve a good result at Honda's home race," he confessed. "I am feeling quite confident for the Japanese round. Motegi is one of those tracks that I like because the surface has good grip and not so many bumps. It is important to have good braking power and good acceleration from your machine, which means that the tyres are very important because you need to be able to brake late into the corners and accelerate strongly out of the corners.

"My favourite section of the track is the middle bit, climbing the hill towards the highest point. To achieve a fast lap you need to get your braking points absolutely correct, and the final section is probably most important for a good lap time. It's the kind of circuit where you need to use an aggressive riding style.

"The atmosphere in the paddock is very different - the Japanese get very excited about getting autographs!" concluded the #2.

Pedrosa's best MotoGP finish to date at Motegi is seventh at the 2006 event, although he qualified on pole for last year's wet/dry race.

Honda could use its home GP to announce that Andrea Dovizioso will ride alongside Pedrosa next season.


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