Ai Ogura became the first Japanese rider to win a motorcycle Grand Prix on home soil since Hiroshi Aoyama in 2006 when he won the Moto2 race on Sunday, September 25.
The Idemitsu Honda Team Asia rider beat Moto2 championship leader Augusto Fernandez by just over a second after 22 laps at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Tochigi Prefecture. Boscoscuro rider Alonso Lopez finished third, meaning all of the podium finishers started outside the top 10 on the grid.
Starting 13th on the grid, Ogura got off to a fast start and made rapid progress, passing Cameron Beaubier on Lap 1 to move into fifth place.
The 21-year-old Japanese rider surged into a podium position on Lap 5 and later got into a heated battle with Lopez for the lead.
Decisive Moment in the Race
With 10 laps to go, Ogura took the lead from Red Bull rider Fernandez, who pulled within 1.2 seconds at the end of Lap 15.
Heading into the final lap, Ogura held a 1.5-second lead over the Spaniard then cruised home in a time of 40 minutes, 56.2690 seconds for one of the most significant wins of his career.
"It's the best day of my life. It was incredible, I still can't believe what just happened, I just have to thank all the Japanese fans."Ai Ogura
He added, "This victory has a lot of meaning, especially for Japanese fans, because since 2006, [no] Japanese rider has won at home. It’s fantastic to achieve this result. For sure it is the most special of the victories of this season.
"I want to thank my team and all the people who support me. I knew I needed to push from the beginning because I started in the 13th position. Fortunately, I made a good start. After I kept a good pace, I could manage the race."
It was a thrill not only for Ogura, a native of Saitama Prefecture, but also the Japanese fans in attendance and Aoyama, who is part of Idemitsu Honda Team Asia.
With his third win of the season, Ogura now trails Fernandez by just two points with four rounds remaining. The next race is the Thailand Grand Prix held at the Chang International Circuit from September 30 to October 2. (See the full rider standings on the MotoGP website.)
Miller Victorious in MotoGP Race
Ducati rider Jack Miller of Australia won the MotoGP race, beating Red Bull’s Brad Binder by 3.409 seconds after 24 laps. Jorge Martin of Prima Pramac Racing was third, 4.136 seconds behind Miller.
There was a scary moment in the MotoGP race when Takuya Tsuda’s Suzuki burst into flames on Lap 12 but the Japanese rider escaped unhurt.
Overall MotoGP leader Fabio Quartararo finished eighth and holds an 18-point lead over Francesco Bagnaia, who crashed out of Sunday’s race on the final lap.
Spain’s Izan Guevara won the Moto3 race for his Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team, finishing 0.593 seconds ahead of Italy’s Dennis Foggia on a Honda.
Japan’s Ayumu Sasaki was third on a Husqvarna, 1.741 seconds off the pace.
Author: Jim Armstrong
The author is a longtime journalist who covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here.