After several dark years for Japan in the world championship, in recent times it looks as if Asian riders are returning to the fore across all categories, young talents who could ultimately reach the reigning class and enjoy significant success.
Looking at the young Japanese riders in Moto3, it’s clear that the Asian school is on the up, with riders who are fast and already mature despite their tender age, thanks to a training and work method that appears increasingly similar to the European way. This is confirmed by Ai Ogura who, after just missing out on the title last year, now moves to Moto2 where he’s already achieving results that far exceed expectation.
From the Asia Talent Cup with enthusiasm
The fact that there are five Japanese riders in this year’s Moto3 class (Suzuki, Sasaki, Toba, Kunii and Yamanaka) has a lot to do with the Asia Talent Cup, where their talents were highlighted on what is an international stage. One shining example is Ayumu Sasaki, the 2015 champion of the Honda single series and 2016 winner of the Red Bull Rookies Cup. Number 71 has been quietly gaining experience in the world championship and reached the podium with Tech3 in 2020, something he’s already come close to doing again in the early stages of 2021.
It’s a similar story for Kaito Toba, who has already been on the Moto3 podium and also hails from the Asia Talent Cup, where he was crowned 2014 champion before moving on to the Rookies Cup.
The CEV as a launch pad
While Tatsuki Suzuki has grown in the world championship after only one year of CEV, the same can’t be said of Ryusei Yamanaka and Yuki Kunii, who developed their skills in the Moto3 Junior world championship. For Yamanaka, now riding the KTM for team PrustelGP, his CEV experience came with team Monlau, while Kunii made up the ranks of the Asia Talent Team.
Yuki is a perfect example of a rider who has grown thanks to the team for young talents, headed up by Alberto Puig and Hiroshi Aoyama. The 18-year old competed in the Asia Talent Cup, where he finished fifth in 2017, before moving on to the CEV Moto3 class, riding the Honda for the Asia Talent Team. Last year he debuted in the world championship with Team Asia, part a long-term project that could see him progress up through the classes as Ogura has done.
Other upcoming talents
In addition to the five Moto3 riders, there are more interesting Asian names making their way up. Sho Nishimura for example, winner of the 2019 Asia Talent Cup and now in his second CEV season with team MT-Foundation77, which launched a certain Pedro Acosta, and the very young Taiyo Furusato, who dominated in the first rounds of the ATC at Losail a few weeks ago. It’s safe to say that, after some tough years, Japan is finally making a return to the top.
Translated by Heather Watson