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WMXJapanMay 29, 2005
2005 FIM Motocross World Championship Round 6
Grand Prix of Japan – SUGO, Japan

Pichon second after Japanese thriller

Martin Honda rider Mickael Pichon scored his fourth podium from six races this afternoon at a busy Sugo circuit for the Grand Prix of Japan, the first Motocross World Championship event to visit the country of the rising sun in ten years.

Mickael Pichon

Mickael Pichon

The sixth round of the 2005 FIM series took place under grey clouds and temperate conditions in front of almost 27,000 fans, who began packing the circuit from as early as 8am. The Sugo motocross course is located several kilometres from the permanent Motorsport facility and former World Superbike circuit and 30km from the city of Sendai (tenth largest in the country and home to 1 million). The track was well received by the teams and riders thanks to some good preparation with the terrain and a challenging layout.

Pichon started the weekend in customary fashion by notching his sixteenth consecutive pole position. The former double 250cc World Champion has now ruled qualification for over a year although his MX1 rivals were closer than usual in a sunny and hot Saturday afternoon session as the first six riders (including Josh Coppins) were within one second of each other. In MX2 RWJ Honda’s Erik Eggens was looking strong in his return to action after a dislocated shoulder at round three in Portugal and although he crashed on the first corner of the second qualification heat he carved through the pack to seventh place.

Pichon dallied with World Champion Stefan Everts at the front within the opening two laps of the first moto before setting a pace that his Belgian rival could not match and beat a solitary and error free path to the chequered flag; his fifth victory of the season and third consecutive moto success. Josh Coppins, struggling slightly with his set-up, was challenged by Joel Smets and then Steve Ramon for fourth place but the New Zealander couldn’t be shifted and registered his seventh top four finish from a total of eleven.

The second MX1 affair was the best race of the season. Pichon and Coppins formed part of a five rider group with Suzuki’s Smets, Yamaha’s Everts and KTM’s Ben Townley joining the fun. The quintet circulated closely, each using a variety of lines to engage in some tasty overtaking manoeuvres, and remained glued together for almost the entire moto. Pichon again led but was confronted by a more determined Everts. Eventually the jet-lagged Frenchman fell back into the clutches of Townley and also Smets. Townley would retire with an engine problem mere minutes before the chequered flag and Smets pipped the Grand Prix of Europe winner on the final lap to place the Honda third and down to second overall as Everts celebrated. Coppins was based mainly towards the rear of the action and could not drag along with Smets when the battle for top three places hotted up on the final lap.

RWJ Honda’s James Noble was again able to equal his best ever GP moto finish as he climbed to fifth in the second race. The Briton had claimed ninth in Moto1 and an impressive sixth overall behind KTM factory rider Steve Ramon.

Sarholz Honda’s Ken de Dycker was second fastest yesterday after qualification and took two top ten finishes to place three points behind Noble in the Grand Prix classification.

The crowd were able to cheer local hope Kenjiro Tsuji who finished nineteenth overall. The top Honda Japanese representative was seventeenth and sixteenth scoring nine World Championship points. A recently sustained broken collarbone prevented Yoshihide Fukudome from giving the 2006 MX2 prototype twin-exhaust Honda a Grand Prix bow.

Honda’s highest placed representative in MX2 was Patrick Caps who ended the day ninth overall. Erik Eggens crashed on the first lap of Moto1 and charged from last to sixteenth. He was again coming through the field after a poor start in the next race but gained eleven positions to break the top seven. The Grand Prix yet again was a Yamaha white-wash with Billy Mackenzie enjoying his first overall victory from Antonio Cairoli and Cedric Melotte.

Pichon now lies just eleven points behind Everts in a close MX1 Championship chase nearing the halfway point of the season. Coppins is fourth, trailing Smets by just one point. Thanks to his recent run of good results James Noble has climbed to seventh.

Josh Coppins’ team-mate in the CAS squad Jussi Vehvilainen is certain to make his comeback from damaged ankle ligaments next weekend at the British Grand Prix. Martin Honda rider Javier Garcia Vico is also confirmed to line-up alongside Mickael Pichon at Matchams Park and has been riding in Italy this week after recovering from injured vertebrae in his neck.

The World Championship paddock now rushes back across the world to prepare for the seventh round of seventeen that will occur in just seven days time at Matchams on the English south coast.

Joshua Coppins

Ken De Dycker

Mickael Pichon:
“The first moto was great even though my start was not as good as the second race. I came through quickly and had a good lead. I then just had to ride smoothly and guard the space between me and Stefan. In the second moto I had the holeshot and was leading again but I could feel Stefan pushing really hard right behind me. It was a tough race and I tried everything I could. I think it was a hard GP for everyone because of the jetlag. I hardly slept at all yesterday and needed four or five coffees between the motos to stay awake. With these kinds of conditions I have to be happy with second. The Grand Prix as an event was very good and it was a great idea to come back here. The track was unbelievable and the best so far; some places in Europe have to try and do the same. There was a big crowd and the people are so friendly. It is good for everybody to come here and important for the industry.”

Josh Coppins:
“The GP was up and down, there were some good things to come out of the weekend but overall it was a bit disappointing. In the first race I struggled with the set-up of the bike to make a fast lap. I was fighting the bike and could not run with the first three riders, which was frustrating. In the second moto I started well again but Ben and Smets came past and I was trying hard to overtake Joel and nearly made it on two occasions. It was getting tasty with Smets and I could see Ben fighting with him in front. I thought I would sit back slightly because they way those two were going at it someone was going down! With a few laps to go I wanted to pass Smets but got sideways in a rut and lost a lot of time. I should have been more aggressive with Smets; I was too nice because I did not want to take him out. My rhythm was screwed and fourth again was the best I could do at that stage. I was a little bit off the pace this weekend.”

Ken De Dycker:
“It was an unspectacular weekend. I had two bad starts. In the first moto I used a lot of energy and crashed through the deep ruts over the back of the circuit. I came back to tenth and that was OK. In the second I felt quite tired but I was holding a position and just went for safety and points.”

James Noble:
“I gated well in the first race but then I got stuck behind Jorgensen after he cut across me. Theybers came through and I struggled for about twenty minutes to keep with him. I picked up towards the end of the moto and passed him for ninth. In the next moto I held tight on the second corner as everyone drifted wide. I lost a couple of places early on but then pushed through to sixth. When Ben Townley’s engine failed that put me up to fifth. I can’t seem to break above that position at the moment!”

Erik Eggens:
“I crashed on the first lap of the first moto and had to come back from last to sixteenth. My speed was OK but the result was not good. I was happier with the second heat because the start was awful but I found a way through from 25th to 7th. It is good to be back racing and I am really looking forward to the next GP because I can feel myself getting better every time.”

2005 FIM Motocross World Championship Round 6
Grand Prix of Japan – SUGO, Japan

MX1 - Race 1 Result
1 PICHON Mickael (Honda)
2 EVERTS Stefan (Yamaha)
4 COPPINS Joshua (Honda)
5 RAMON Steve (KTM)
6 SMETS Joël (Suzuki)
7 JORGENSEN Brian (Yamaha)
8 THEYBERS Danny (Suzuki)
9 NOBLE James (Honda)
10 DE DYCKER Ken (Honda)
11 PYRHONEN Antti (TM)
12 COOPER Paul (Honda)
13 LEOK Tanel (Kawasaki)
14 NEMETH Kornel (Suzuki)
15 LEURET Pascal (Honda)

Mickael Pichon (Honda)
MX1 - Race 2 Result
1 EVERTS Stefan (Yamaha)
2 SMETS Joël (Suzuki)
3 PICHON Mickael (Honda)
4 COPPINS Joshua (Honda)
5 NOBLE James (Honda)
6 LEOK Tanel (Kawasaki)
7 DE DYCKER Ken (Honda)
8 RAMON Steve (KTM)
9 ATSUTA Yoshitaka (Suzuki)
10 THEYBERS Danny (Suzuki)
11 LEURET Pascal (Honda)
12 VAN DAELE Marvin (Honda)
13 COOPER Paul (Honda)
14 NEMETH Kornel (Suzuki)
15 HUCKLEBRIDGE Mark (Honda)

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