Japanese riders competing at Suzuka: From the left, Maxi Hattori, wildcard entrant Genki Nakajima, Koji Hirama, Ryusei Yamanaka, Kai Saito, Koki Suzuki, Yuki Kunii, and Takuto Suzuki. Apart from Nakajima, the eight riders compete in the series regularly.

-Promising young Asian riders rising to the challenge, dreaming of taking on the world-

For the Japanese riders, Suzuka is their home race. For riders aspiring to race in the IATC, the eight regular Japanese riders’ reasons to start racing, their experiences, how they had to opportunity to join the IATC, are all lessons to be learned.

In 2014, the managing body of MotoGP racing, Dorna, started the Asia Talent Cup in order to nurture future MotoGP and SBK riders in Asia and Oceania. In 2017, Idemitsu is the main sponsor of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup (IATC), which will be competed over five rounds with two races each.

All racing bikes are Honda NSF250R, and all tires are supplied by Dunlop, ensuring equal conditions for all riders, encouraging riders to hone their skills.

Each fall, IATC selects riders for the next season. This year, of all the riders selected from each Asian nation, Japan has its largest share of 8 riders.

Asking the riders at Suzuka about their careers, a large number, started racing on small machines such as 74Daijiro pocket bikes, moving up to mini bikes, then riding NSF100s in the HRC Trophy before moving on to road racing in local championships such as the CBR250R Dream Cup or NSF250R Challenge. Some riders honed their skills at SRS Moto (Suzuka Racing School). One thing in common was that all riders were racing from a young age, and at around 15, they already had a decade of racing experience.

IATC selection begins with the screening of resumes, and is finalized on the track. Last year there were around 2000 applicants, 200 of which were selected for track tests, and of those, 16 were chosen to enter the series. Although resume screening focuses on eagerness, but some racing experience is also a requisite. Each year, final selection is conducted at a cart track in Sepang, Malaysia, on Underbone bikes.

World Grand Prix Moto3 rider Kaito Toba, and Ayumu Sasaki were both IATC champions, moving on to the Moto3 Junior World Championship and MotoGP Rookies Cup, before securing their seats in Moto3 racing.

Eight Japanese riders are hot on their heels, honing their skills in the IATC. The shortest path from Asia to the world is the IATC.

Takuto Suzuki

2

Takuto Suzuki

Birthplace: Shimane, Japan

Birth date: September 14, 2002 (14 years old)

Influenced by his father who had raced in the All-Japan Road Racing Championship, Suzuki started racing on a 74Daijiro at the age of 4. He competed in the HRC Trophy on a NSF100 since he was 10, and won the 2015 Grand Championship Junior Class. Since 2016, Suzuki has attended the SRS-Moto. He competed in the Okayama Championship, set the track record in the J-GP3 class, and became champion. This year, he plans on competing in local championship such as Suzuka and Okayama, in addition to the IATC.

  • Takuto Suzuki

    2

    Takuto Suzuki

    Birthplace: Shimane, Japan

    Birth date: September 14, 2002 (14 years old)

    Influenced by his father who had raced in the All-Japan Road Racing Championship, Suzuki started racing on a 74Daijiro at the age of 4. He competed in the HRC Trophy on a NSF100 since he was 10, and won the 2015 Grand Championship Junior Class. Since 2016, Suzuki has attended the SRS-Moto. He competed in the Okayama Championship, set the track record in the J-GP3 class, and became champion. This year, he plans on competing in local championship such as Suzuka and Okayama, in addition to the IATC.

  • Yuki Kunii

    5

    Yuki Kunii

    Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

    Birth date: February 18, 2003

    Kunii started racing at 4, on a pocket bike given to him as a birthday present. Riding packet bikes and mini bikes, he moves to SRS-J at the age of 9, and at 12 became J-GP3 champion in the Tsukuba Championship. He also won the year-end NSF250R Challenge Grand Championship. Since 2016, Kunii has been racing in the IATC, and is ranked 6th with two wins. In 2017, he races in the IATC, and the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship.

  • Koji Hirama

    8

    Koji Hirama

    Birthplace: Saitama, Japan

    Birth date: December 1, 2000

    Influenced by his father who had raced in local championships, Hirama starts his racing career at 4 on a pocket bike. At 12 he moves up to mini bikes, racing in mini bike races such as Akigase and Okegawa. In 2016, 16-year-old Hirama steps up to road racing, competing in the J-GP3 class in Tsukuba, Motegi and Sugo local championships. This year he joins the IATC, and aims to become a rider like Moto2 rider Jorge Navarro, liking his riding style.

  • Haruki Noguchi

    9

    Haruki Noguchi

    Birthplace: Nara, Japan

    Birth date: June 20, 2001

    Noguchi is enthralled to become a racer by watching MotoGP on the television since he was young. At 6 he begins kids bike racing, at 11 he moves onto NSR50, and at 13, RS125R road racing. Since he was 14, Noguchi joined 56Racing led by Maya Nakano, and competed in the CBR250R Dream Cup and J-GP3. Last year he competed in the Dream Cup and NSF250R Challenge Cup, and passed IATC selection to gain entry this year.

  • Kai Saito

    10

    Kai Saito

    Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

    Birth date: November 22, 2000

    Saito, influenced by his father competing in mini bike races at Okegawa, started on kids bikes with his peers when he was 8, and competed in the HRC Trophy on an NSF100 at the age of 10. The following year he competed in the Sugo ST150 on a CBR150, and a year later rode a CBR250R to compete in the Dream Cup and Motegi Endurance Race with his father. In 2015, Saito competed in the Asian SAC. In 2016 he was back at the CBR250R Dream Cup, and joined the IATC this year.

  • Ryusei Yamanaka

    12

    Ryusei Yamanaka

    Birthplace: Chiba, Japan

    Birth date: November 6, 2001

    Joining his 4 years older brother’s pocket bike practice, Yamanaka started riding when he was nearly 3 yers old, and at 3 was already racing. He starts riding mini bikes at 9, but it was mainly for practice. At 12, he makes his road racing debut at a local Motegi championship on a CBR150. At 13 he competes in J-GP3, holding the lap records at Motegi and Suzuka. Yamanaka joined the IATC last year, and also races in the Red Bull Rookies Cup this year.

  • Makishi Hattori

    17

    Maxi Hattori

    Birthplace: Nara, Japan

    Birth date: December 10, 1999

    Influenced by his father, a bike-lover, Hattori first rides a 74Daijiro at 3, and starts racing at 12. Branching out from his home tracks at Sportsland Ikoma and Kinki Sportsland, he entered Kansai-region mini bike races on an NSR50. Since he was 14, Hattori competed in championships such as the CBR250R Dream Cup, and races on tracks all over the nation. From 2017, he joins, and is focused mainly on, the IATC.

  • Koki Suzuki

    18

    Koki Suzuki

    Birthplace: Kanagawa, Japan

    Birth date: December 28, 2000

    Influenced by his parents, both bike riders, Suzuki first ride a 74Daijiro at 9 years old, and since he was 12 competed in the HRC Trophy on an NSF100, and the Grand Championship. Honing his mini bike skills until he was 14, Suzuki then made his road racing debut on an RS125R in the Tsukuba and Motegi championships. Last year, Suzuki switched to an NSF250R, and battled with ATC riders such as Kunii, Yamanaka and Noguchi, and became champion at Motegi.

※Click on images to enlarge.

IATC Round 3, Japan at the Suzuka Circuit, June 2 - 4, 2017

Noguchi, Kunii Win One Each, Race 2 Dominated by Japanese Riders

In Race 1, the first Suzuka race, 8 riders battled for supremacy. Ruisei Yamanaka, Haruki Noguchi, Azroy Anuar and Yuki Kunii in particular fight hard for the top spot. In the late stages of the race, Yamanaka, Noguchi, Kunii and Anuar leave the other riders behind, but at the last chicane on the last lap, Noguchi overtakes Yamanaka on the inside, crossing the finish line first.

In Race 2, the second Suzuka race, again 8 riders formed the lead group, with Can Alexsander Öncü, Anuar and Kunii determined to lead. The group is inseparable into the final lap. By the last chicane, 5 riders were neck-and-neck, and into the chicane, Öncü was followed by Yamanaka and Anuar. Yamanaka takes the lead but highsides on acceleration and is out. Öncü, Anuar were too close to avoid a collision, and were also out. Kunii takes the checkered flag, with Noguchi 2nd, and wildcard entrant Genki Nakajima 3rd. Japanese riders dominated the podium.
Fierce battles raged in both races. In Race 1, five riders were inseparable at the front into the final lap. In Race 2, a last-lap pile-up caused mayhem.

Fierce battles raged in both races. In Race 1, five riders were inseparable at the front into the final lap. In Race 2, a last-lap pile-up caused mayhem.

  • Fierce battles raged in both races. In Race 1, five riders were inseparable at the front into the final lap. In Race 2, a last-lap pile-up caused mayhem.

    Fierce battles raged in both races. In Race 1, five riders were inseparable at the front into the final lap. In Race 2, a last-lap pile-up caused mayhem.

  • Haruki Noguchi wins, Azroy Anuar is 2nd, and Yuki Kunii finishes 3rd in Race 2.

    Haruki Noguchi wins, Azroy Anuar is 2nd, and Yuki Kunii finishes 3rd in Race 2.

  • Kunii wins Race 2, with Noguchi 2nd and Genki Nakajima 3rd.

    Kunii wins Race 2, with Noguchi 2nd and Genki Nakajima 3rd.

※Click on images to enlarge.

Round 03 Japan Race Results

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