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Japanese Riders Dominate World Grand Prix Event

June 26, 2000
Kato (center), the winner of the 250cc grand prix race, is congratulated by runners-up Ukawa (left) and Nakano. (AFP/Jiji)

The Japanese motorcycling grand prix was held on April 9, 2000, at the Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, where for the first time ever Japanese claimed victory in all three events: the 125cc, 250cc, and 500cc races. The Japanese national flag was hoisted a total of eight times in salute to the Japanese racers who claimed all three spots on the victory podium in the 125cc and 250cc races and first and third places in the 500cc event. Some 42,000 fans were on hand to witness a thrilling day of racing, culminating in triumph for their fellow countrymen.

Clean Sweeps
"I didn't know what to do, suddenly finding myself out in front," said an elated Yoichi Ui, who achieved his first victory in the 125cc event after 60 world grand prix starts. "It was frustrating not being able to catch the leader," smiled Noboru Ueda, concealing the disappointment of finishing second. Masao Azuma wound up in third place.

In the 250cc race, Daijiro Kato, Toru Ukawa, and Shinya Nakano waged a three-way battle, with Kato, who won the Japan grand prix event at Suzuka in 1997 and 1998, grabbing his third crown. Disappointment at having been beaten was evident on the faces of Ukawa and Nakano as they stood on the podium in second and third places.

The 500cc race, the day's final event, was, as rider Norifumi Abe said, a "highly charged battle," with eight cycles banding together midway through the race to scrap for the lead. Simultaneous cheers and groans met the riders as they traded positions. On the eighteenth lap, Abe, who had lurked in third position throughout the race, surged ahead to victory. "I felt the real race would begin on the last three laps, so I told myself to hang back in third and be patient," said Abe. Though he qualified for the finals in eighth position, Abe remained true to his words, coolly biding his time, and never once looked back as he cruised to the finish on all cylinders. Tadayuki Okada took third, sending Japan's national flag up the pole for the eighth time of the day.

Super Cycles
In recent years in World Grand Prix motorcycling, the performance of Japanese riders, who have the big advantage of being smaller and lighter than their Western counterparts, has been nothing short of spectacular. Japanese motorcycles likewise are the sport's premier machines. Japan boasts such leading manufacturers as Yamaha, Suzuki, and Honda, and the majority of the cycles used in World Grand Prix events today are supplied by these makers.

The hot performances by Japanese riders and machines have encouraged more Japanese to become motorcycle-racing fans. For these enthusiasts, who were thrilled to see their countrymen sweep every event at Suzuka, the next great hope is for Japanese racers to achieve overall championship honors for the current season in all three classes. The riders are battling for victory on the world's race tracks in pursuit of this goal.

Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.