From Asia to the World: Riders Wearing the IDEMITSU Colors

From Asia to the World: Riders Wearing the IDEMITSU Colors

The MotoGP™ World Championship kicked off in Qatar. Idemitsu Kosan, now in its 12th year of supporting the Asian rider development program, is once again sponsoring the teams from all three MotoGP™ classes and the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup this season. Racing bikes wearing the IDEMITSU livery expressing Apollo, the god of the sun, will continue to bring young Asian riders closer to realizing their dreams.

Apollo, the god of the sun in Greco-Roman mythology, is said to be full of boundless energy, with high aspirations and a gaze that looks to the future. Idemitsu’s trademark depicts Apollo, his long hair blowing in the wind. At first, Idemitsu was not well known on the European grand prix stages, but 12 years have passed since, Idemitsu has come to be known as one of the world's leading oil manufacturers from Japan.

In the MotoGP™ class, Takaaki Nakagami will represent IDEMITSU Honda LCR. Nakagami, in his seventh year, said, “Last year was my toughest season in MotoGP™. I couldn’t race as I wanted to and the Honda teams as a whole struggled, but I felt a great evolution in the 2024 RC213V. It is not yet ready to fight with the top group, but it has a lot of potential and I look forward to its future evolution. This year, I want to show a strong Honda and a strong Takaaki Nakagami.”

This year began with winter tests held in Sepang, Malaysia, and Losail, Qatar, where the season opener will be held. This year’s racing bikes are a significant improvement over last year’s specifications. With a better balance, Nakagami said “it led to better acceleration and top speed.”

Nakagami entered Moto2 class in 2014 with IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, and in the four years through 2017, his best overall ranking was 6th, and was on the podium nine times, including two wins. In recognition of his success, he moved up to the MotoGP™ class in 2018 with the LCR Honda IDEMITSU team. Although he has not been on the podium so far, he has shown world-class performance with three 4th place finishes and one pole position.

Nakagami excels in mid- to high-speed turns and has shown his true potential at Qatar, venue of the season-opener, the Circuit of the Americas in the United States, the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands, the Silverstone Circuit in England, and the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Even his rivals are well aware of his prowess in the high-speed rounds. His favorite track is the Jerez Circuit in Spain, which has continuous mid-speed turns, and he is aiming for his best result, to finish on the podium there again this year, and to win.

“This is the seventh season for me thanks to Idemitsu and other sponsors, Honda, and the fans. I want to make this a season where everyone who has supported me so far feels happy.”

The season-opener, the Qatar Grand Prix, will be an important race for Nakagami to verify the performance of the 2024 RC213V, and he is eager to get the season off to a good, fresh start and “get into a good flow.”

IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia will again compete in the Moto2 class, and Honda Team Asia in Moto3 class this year. Hiroshi Aoyama, who won the 250cc class (currently Moto2) in 2009, continues his role as team manager for both Moto2 and Moto3 teams. IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia entered the Moto2 class in 2013 as part of its efforts to discover and nurture Asian riders capable of competing on the world stage, followed by Honda Team Asia entering the Moto3 class in 2016.

Somkiat Chantra (25 years old, Thailand), in his sixth year, is joined by Mario Aji (20 years old, Indonesia) from Moto3 class last season, to represent Idemitsu Honda in the Moto2 class. Chantra, who became the first Thai rider to win a world grand prix race in 2022, attracted attention last year when he took his second victory in the Japanese GP.

“I feel myself improving with each passing season,” Chantra said. “This is my sixth year. This will be a very important year for me.”

During the winter, private tests were held in Jerez, Spain and Algarve, Portugal. Official tests in Jerez followed, where the team showed rapid development. This year, Alberto Iotti is chief mechanic. A master mechanic, Iotti was instrumental in winning the Moto3/Moto2 titles with Pedro Acosta (current MotoGP™ rider with KTM) and is also known to have worked with the late Shoya Tomizawa, and is expected to further bring out Chantra’s talent.

Mario Aji, who moved up to Moto2 from the Moto3 class, was too big for Moto3 bikes, and had hoped to compete in Moto2 from early in his career. His wish has been granted, and he is more motivated than ever.

“I can finally ride in Moto2. It’s amazing, and I’ve never been so excited. I want to adapt to Moto2 as soon as possible and try to get as high a position as possible,” Aji said.

Ai Ogura, racing for IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia until the end of last season, will aim for the title with MT Helmets - MSI Team while continuing to be sponsored by HRC.

In the Moto3 class, Taiyo Furusato (18 years old, Japan), who is entering his third season, is expected to be the lead rider for Honda, winning the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup in 2021, becoming the first rider in history to win every race in the season, and also winning the Rookies Cup that same year in his debut race, demonstrating his extraordinary talent. In 2022, at the age of 16, Furusato entered the Moto3 world championship, and in his second year he was in contention to win the Thai GP, finishing 2nd and achieving his first podium finish.

Furusato, who showed promising results in the winter tests, said, “This is my third year, so I want to achieve better results than ever before. This year we have a new bike on Pirelli tires. There are many things I am experiencing for the first time, so I focused on getting used to them during the off-season tests. First of all, I want to do my best to get my first win.”

Furusato will be joined by teammate Tatchakorn Buasri (23 years old, Thailand), who is competing in the world championship for the first time. “I am very happy and proud to have this opportunity. This is my first season, so I want to do my best to improve in each race.”

In 2014, Honda and MotoGP™ organizer Dorna Sports jointly launched the Asia Talent Cup to nurture promising Asian riders to compete on the world stage. From 2017, Idemitsu has been the major sponsor of the renamed Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup. All riders compete on HRC’s NSF250R racing bikes.

Many riders have participated in this rider development series. In addition to the four members of Honda Team Asia competing in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes this season, the Asia Talent Cup has produced many riders competing on the world stage such as Ai Ogura, Ayumu Sasaki, Ryusei Yamanaka, and Deniz Öncü.

This year, the 11th year of the series, 20 riders from 8 countries will take part in the series of 6 rounds / 12 races. Japanese hopefuls Ryota Ogiwara, Zen Mitani, Riichi Takahira, Seiryu Ikegami, and Rintaro Takemoto will participate in the series, which kicks off in conjunction with the Qatar GP.

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