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WCTJapanMay 22/23, 2004
World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 3 Motegi, Japan
Fujinami records a double win at his home Grand Prix

Repsol - Montesa – HRC rider Takahisa Fujinami recorded his first ever home Grand Prix victory, by winning both days of the two day competition, and in doing so moves to the top of the championship. However Fujinami did not have it all his own way, as his Repsol - Montesa – HRC team mate Dougie Lampkin was a close runner on both Saturday and Sunday, and is tied on points in the overall standing, his Japanese rival holding the advantage due to having the most round wins. The Repsol - Montesa – HRC team completed their domination of the Japanese Grand Prix, when Marc Freixa made it a Montesa 1-2-3 on Sunday.

The fantastic and unequalled facilities at the famous Twin Ring circuit, Motegi provide the perfect backdrop to the most prestigious round of the year. Without their European based support trucks the teams find themselves housed in luxury in the garages along pit lane, whilst this may be usual for Moto GP this is a special occasion for the trials mechanics. The steep wooded grounds on the outside of the circuit play a suitable host to the majority of the fifteen sections that make up a World trials championship course, and back in the main track complex two of the best ever man made sections can always be found. This year the first and last sections had been constructed to reflect traditional style Japanese gardens complete with flowing water and decorative trees.

Heavy rain in the days just prior to the trial had left ground conditions wet and heavy, not for the first time in Japan, but despite the conditions the graded riders predicted a low scoring trial after their Friday afternoon course inspection. With this in mind the riders were suitably nervous as they entered the first artificial zone on Saturday morning, here a large slippery log was causing the main problem. Fujinami opted for safety by taking a well placed dab to open his account at this home GP, and having watched an over confident Raga take an early trip over the handlebars at the same tricky point, Lampkin did no more than match his team mate.

As the competition made its way first to the steep rocky face immediately outside the oval banked circuit then to the depths of the more muddy wooded areas, a three way battle for the lead had developed between the three Repsol – Montesa – HRC riders. After eight sections Fujinami and Lampkin were locked for the lead on two marks apiece, with Freixa in close guard having dropped just one mark more at this stage. However it would be the Japanese rider who arrived to exchange his first lap punch card as the clear leader having remained unpenalised for the remainder of the sections on his first visit. In contrast Lampkin had lost a soft two at section nine and then a disastrous five marks two sections later when he fell back from the final step in a one of the easier hazards on the course. During the same period Freixa had added seven marks to his score with an equally disappointing close to his first lap.

With the three Repsol Montesa riders out in front, Jarvis and Raga completed the top five at the halfway point, having both ridden themselves back into contention and to leave themselves in a position to challenge for the top places during the second lap. With the pressure mounting Fujinami was beginning to show signs of letting his performance slip, this pressure was increased further as his rivals raised their own games to get with in striking distance of the early leader. Lampkin looked like he was going to mount yet another of his amazing comebacks. But a five within the first few metres of section five when he slipped slightly backwards in an attempt to rescue his bike on the large double step was to spoil what otherwise was a faultless lap, as he remained clean through the remaining fourteen sections.

Raga was making his own way back up the leader board, by posting the best second lap score, his three mark loss being considerably better than his morning performance. Although under much pressure in front of his home fans, Fujinami regained his composure to finish strongly and net the win by a single mark from Lampkin. Raga’s late efforts did not go totally unrewarded as he took third place come the finish, to leave Jarvis and Freixa to round out the top five respectively.

Though much of the attention was focused on the battle between the leaders, the debut of the new Honda four stroke machine ridden by Tomoyuki Ogawa certainly created its own sphere of attention. After an obviously nervous start, Ogawa was very much the talking point as he posted the third best second lap score, his loss of only seven marks securing him and his new machine ninth place overall, to deliver the dream debut for this much awaited new Honda trials model.

The physical display of emotion as he mounted the podium, was a clear sign of just how important a victory it was for Fujinami. “ This is my home country and it is also the home country of Honda, so by winning today I feel that I have rewarded all those people that support me, it is an incredible feeling and one I love so much. I made a really good first lap, much better than I had expected or even imagined, and although I had a good advantage it almost brought too much pressure, as I felt everyone thought I could not lose from this position. It would be true to say I felt the pressure on the second lap, especially as the other riders were riding very well. Thankfully I managed to hold on.”

Lampkin’s expression as he handed in his final score card was a clear indication of his disappointment. “ The win was there for the taking on both laps, but I bad two bad mistakes, which both ended up in fives. Right now I feeling a little disappointed as I know I should have won, as the conditions really suited me. However it isn’t all bad news, as with Raga finishing third it means that I am now back in front in the championship, which can’t be such a bad thing. Hopefully they will toughen some sections up ready for tomorrow, when I will be doing every thing possible to make sure that it is me that climbs to the top of the podium rather than anyone else. Leaving here in front would be a real bonus. ”

Raga looked almost relieved as he climbed onto the podium. “ After the start I made this morning, third place is perhaps the best result I could expect. My day started very badly with a five in the first section, then I took another five in section eight when I broke a high marker post with my front brake lever. I was pleased with my second lap score, especially when I do not consider myself to be particularly strong in these type of conditions. I hope tomorrow I can put myself in a position to regain the lead in the championship.”

Fifth place was less than Freixa had hoped for. “ Obviously I am disappointed with my position, as I was close to the leaders after the first lap. I made some mistakes during the second lap, which is too often the case with me this season, and something I must address once again. Also I had some problems with the control, but I do not think I was alone with this problem.”

Sunday dawned with only slight modifications to three sections, so it was immediately obvious that it was going to be another tense and nervous day. The lack of any real severity was indicated as Freixa cleaned the first eight sections, although he was not quite alone, as Fujinami had remained feet up during the first seven hazards and Lampkin was still clean after section five. The battle between the three Montesa riders continued throughout the first lap, and by section eleven there was nothing to separate Lampkin and Fujinami, as Freixa suffered a most unwanted five. However this situation was about to change again quickly, as Lampkin was docked a five at the next hazard, when the observer deemed him to have touched a marker flag. This was a point Lampkin was later to dispute by way of an official protest, although his case was eventually dismissed.

Upset by the incident Lampkin conceded another three marks in section thirteen to leave Fujinami as a clear leader after the first lap, and demote himself to third place at this point behind Freixa who was finally finding his form in the slippery conditions. Lap two unfolded very much as yesterday, with Fujinami beginning to feel the pressure, but doing just enough to hang on for his second victory of the weekend. Freixa finished strongly and could count himself unlucky to only secure third place for his efforts.

Lampkin’s fight back was incredible, he cleaned every section on the final lap, but this was still not enough to stop him being defeated on the tie break. Fajardo took a surprise fourth place and in doing so further dented his team mate – Adam Raga’s championship campaign by pushing him down to fifth on the day and leaving him trailing Lampkin and Fujinami by seven points in the championship, after having held the lead when he arrived in Japan. Ogawa again claimed ninth place to complete a highly successful debut for the new four stroke Honda.

Delighted with his double victory, Fujinami commented. “ It has been a fantastic weekend for me and my team. I dreamed about winning both days before the trial and now it is true, it is the best feeling I can ever imagine. Again I started very well, so I had a good margin when I began to feel the pressure on the second lap. With the crowd cheering my every move, I was fighting hard to maintain my concentration and to complete my second victory. Although I am very pleased with my results, I know from this weekend that I must be stronger mentally if I am to win the championship.”

Lampkin had little to say, apart from the decision that had made the difference. “ I realise that it’s a case of swings and roundabouts during the season, some decisions you win and some you lose, but this was just blatant. The rule book quite clearly states that a rider can only be penalised for hitting a marker if the observer has to move or repair a marker after the section has been ridden. This was not the case, as even if I did brush it, the marker was still in its original position with no mark on it. For me to protest tells you just how strongly I felt about the whole thing. I should be leading the championship, but instead I am now tied for the lead. ”

A place on the podium was just what Freixa had hoped for. “ Finally after five years, this is my first time on the podium in Japan. In some ways although I am happy to be in this position, I am also disappointed as I came very close to taking the victory. Today there was very little to separate the top riders, and after the first lap I knew I must continue to ride well to the finish if I was to get a good result. This was the big difference between today and yesterday. Now I must continue at this level in the other trials.”

World Outdoor Trials Championship Round 3 Motegi, Japan

Day 1

1 Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)
2 Doug Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
3 Adam Raga (E-Gas Gas)
4 Graham Jarvis (GB-Sherco)
5 Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)
6 Jeroni Fajardo (E-Gas Gas)
7 Albert Cabestany (E-Beta)
8 Kenichi Kuroyama (J-Beta)
9 Tomoyuki Ogawa (J-Honda)
10 Fumitaka Nozaki (J-Scorpa)
11 Antonio Bou (E-Beta)
12 Taichi Tanaka (J-Gas Gas)
13 Isao Shibuya (J-Yamaha)
14 Shaun Morris (GB-Gas Gas)
15 Tadeusz Blazusiak (POL-Gas Gas)
Day 2

1 Takahisa Fujinami (J-Honda)
2 Doug Lampkin (GB-Montesa)
3 Marc Freixa (E-Montesa)
4 Jeroni Fajardo (E-Gas Gas)
5 Adam Raga (E-Gas Gas)
6 Graham Jarvis (GB-Sherco)
7 Albert Cabestany (E-Beta)
8 Antonio Bou (E-Beta)
9 Tomoyuki Ogawa (J-Honda)
10 Kenichi Kuroyama (J-Beta)
11 Fumitaka Nozaki (J-Scorpa)
12 Taichi Tanaka (J-Gas Gas)
13 Josep Manzano (E-Beta)
14 Sam Connor (GB-Sherco)
15 Tadeusz Blazusiak (POL-Gas Gas)

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