Japanese Works Bikes, Trick Parts, Racers and More!
October 30, 2019
Japanese Works Bikes, Trick Parts, Racers and More!
Sights at the All Japan National MX Championship Finale
The 2019 MFJ All Japan National MX Championship Series came to an end last weekend at Sugo Sportsland in Sendai, Japan, and SML was on hand to check out all of the sights at the season finale since we missed the opener at Kyushu in April while we were still in the initial stages of creating Swapmoto Live. Thankfully, the Japanese moto Gods provided dry weather on race day, even though rains hammered the area on the Friday and Saturday before race day. The track started out as a super-sticky mess, but it developed into an excellent course for racing.
Australian star Mitch Evans turned in some impressive finishes in this year’s MX2 World Championship Series aboard his 114 Honda Motorsports machine, and was invited by HRC Honda to come to Sugo for the series finale. For the past several years, Honda has brought in International racers for the Sugo finale. Cole Seely went in 2017 and Tim Gajser in 2018.
Evans turned in a pair of commanding moto wins, but that’s not the only thing worth talking about! Check out the giant gallery of works bikes and more below!
The big news at the All Japan National MX Championship finale was that Australian Mitch Evans was being brought in to contest the IA1 (450) class. Team HRC Honda never goes half way...check out the team barrier panel that was made just for Sugo.
After contesting the 2019 MX2 World Championship for Team 114 Motorsports Honda, there is plenty of speculation that Evans will be moved to the factory Team HRC Honda team for 2020.
Evans was masterful aboard the factory Honda CRF450R as he led 95% of the laps across the finish line. Like many GP competitors, his riding style is smooth and feet-up.
Evans was supplied a factory Honda CRF450R by the domestic HRC Honda team. Because there was already a 43 in Japan, Evans added a "1" to his plates. His machine was equipped with factory Showa suspension, including a BFRC shock. A hydraulic clutch was also fitted to his machine.
"The track reminded me of one we have back home in Australia," said Evans. "It was quite technical." For more from Mitch, look for his How Was Your Weekend action video elsewhere on the site.
Because of the sticky mud conditions during practice, Evans' crew covered the skidplate and undersides of the fenders with adhesive-backed foam that prevents mud from sticking and weighing the bike down.
Evans' frame was covered with a very aggressive looking grip tape.
Factory Showa forks never get old.
The Yoshimura exhaust on Evans' machine had a resonance chamber added to the header pipe. The "bung" mounted further back is for data acquisition while the bike is on a dynamometer.
Works parts with options. At over 6', Evans likes his bars mounted further forward than his temporary Japanese teammates.
The reservoir and adjusters of the Showa BFRC shock require a portion of the side panel to be cut away for clearance. Check out the cool bit of carbon fiber that was added to improve the look of the modification.
Evans debuted an all-new look in Japan, as he contested this year's MX2 World Championship in Alpinestars, head to toe.
Toshi Chiba should be a familiar face to race fans in America as he was thrust into the public eye as Jason Lawrence's mechanic in his Team Boost Mobile/am-pm/Monster Energy days. After that, we wrenched for Ashley Fiolek during her factory Honda days. Chiba has been back in Japan wrenching for Akira Narita for several years now and the duo make a formidable team.
Toshi covered the surfaces of Nariita's bike with a silicone spray to keep mud from sticking before the messy practice session and first moto.
There are more Suzukis raced at the highest level in Japan than there are Stateside. The SRM Suzuki team is fielded by RS Taichi and receives a small degree of support from Suzuki.
A hint of America on a Japanese race bike.
Shuma Kobayashi is the lone 450 pilot on the SRM Suzuki squad, which fields 250s.
Zeta is a Japan-based parts and accessories brand that makes everything from handlebars to wheels and everything in between. Zeta parts are found on many of the factory bikes and are available in the United States at Langston Racing.
JGR MX engine mounts can be found on the SRM Suzuki race bikes.
The engine on the SRM Suzuki race bikes are built by Motolab, a domestic high-performance hop-up shop.
Takashi Okano was the sole IA1 factory Yamaha rider on hand at Sugo. His Yamaha YZ450F is production-based, with factory Kayaba suspension and some special factory parts, like the triple clamp and aluminum fuel tank.
Okano's machine is outfitted with a hydraulic clutch and an Akrapovic exhaust system.
A better look at the handmade aluminum fuel tank. A complete Hinson Racing billet clutch assembly helps put the power to the ground.
Yamaha likes to keep the appearance of its factory race bikes in Japan as close to OEM as possible. Only a few sponsors are added to the lower portion of the radiator shroud graphics. Check out the extra-aggro seat cover ribs!
More Japanese Zeta parts on the factory Yamaha. Note the hydraulic clutch master cylinder.
When racers in Japan stage for the race, they must choose and prepare their gates alone, hence the triangle stands they take to the line with them. Only as they take to their parade lap are their mechanics allowed to approach the starting line to pack the starting area dirt.
Every little detail counts, like this fine mesh stretched over the radiator louvers to help keep the fins of the radiator from getting clogged with mud or sand.
Okano was fourth overall at the Sugo finale.
Takashi Okano and Toshiki Tomita share a laugh before the start of moto one.
Motocross in Japan is messy business.
For some reason, we don't think these are officially licensed...
In the 80s, Factory Bear was a motocross apparel line in Japan. These days it is a trackside vending company that sells T-shirts and other apparel.
Yuta Ikegaya races for the KTM team in Japan. The machines are equipped with Yoshimura exhaust systems and factory Kayaba suspension components.
Ikegaya tried to ride practice at Sugo but is nursing an a few arm injuries that made it too painful for him to compete in the season finale.
We can only imagine how well this KTM 450 SX-F handles!
Akira Narita runs the Renthal Fatbar on his factory Honda CRF450R as he prefers the greater flex character it has over the popular TwinWall bar. Check out his polished hydraulic clutch master cylinder...
Yoshimura twin mufflers grace all of the factory Hondas, but each of the four bikes had a different header pipe configuration, based on personal preference.
Check out the shock cover made by Showa to prevent mud from damaging the factory shock on Narita's machine. The header pipe on Narita's machine is straight off the showroom at Yoshimura R&D. Narita said that it makes the sponsors happy to run what they sell!
It's almost a shame to cover the coating on the lowers of Narita's factory Showa forks with a guard...
A closer look at the factory hydraulic clutch assembly.
In the States, Honda's Toshiki Tomita always had the coolest helmet paint jobs. We liked this one that he wore at Sugo...
Toshiki Tomita should be a familiar name to AMA race fans as he has spent the previous two seasons contesting the Lucas Oil MX Nationals with HRC Honda. He competed in the final few rounds of the All Japan series, which run later in the calendar year than the American series.
Tomita enjoyed great starts in both motos and led both motos early on before succumbing to eventual winner Mitch Evans.
Masa Ito worked the past two summers in America with Tomita, but he's worked the AMA circuit previously with Jason Lawrence!
The Team Green factory Kawasaki team was absent on the track at Sugo as both ots riders - Hiroaki Arai and Makoto Ogata - are injured. The team still showed up and set up shop.
Ogata's KX450 is equipped with factory Kayaba components...
...while Arai chooses works Showa suspension.
Look closely at the quality of the factory carbon fiber skidplate on the Kawasaki team bikes...beautiful!
What parts off of Arai's bike would you like to swipe for your own? The factory BFRC shock is nice, but that skidplate is a work of art!
Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage in America, but stock parts grace both of the factory KX450s.
Off-the-shelf Pro Circuit exhaust systems are used on the factory Kawasakis.
After spending the past two summers racing the 250 MX Nationals, Yusuke Watanabe returned to Japan to remind everyone at Sugo that he was the 2017 IA2 Champ.
Watanabe has his AMA Cycle Trader/Rock River/Yamaha bike in Japan. Former Team Manager Christina Denney was on hand to watch her team rider put a whooping on in his home country.
Hat game strong in Japan.
Did you check out the Ogio Powersports How Was Your Weekend video with Watanabe? Longer than a normal HWYW, it includes some cool race action footage, too!
All was not smooth sailing for Watanabe en route to his 1-1 sweep of the IA2 class...
Yuta Toriyabe had better luck in the same section on his way to third overall.
Watanabe says that racing in the United States has taught him to be more aggressive in the early laps of a moto. Ironically, he made the pass for the second-moto win on the last lap, two corners before the finish!
Style check. Yusuke Watanabe sat in this corner....
...while former IA2 champ and runner up on the day Yu Hirata stayed feet up.
Hirata piloted a privateer Yamaha all season with backing from a Japanese businessman referred to simply as Abe-G. Hirata was third on the season.
Haruki Yokoyama spent years in SoCal training and racing the Swapmoto Race Series before returning to Japan two seasons ago. This year, the diminutive rider wrapped up the IA2 Championship at Sugo!
Yokoyama's Alpinestars pants boast a butt patch that says "Little Giant." Standing no taller than 5'3", one can see why.
The sweet feeling of success! Congratulations, Haruki.
Speaking of butt patches, we don't understand Kei Yamamoto's. Haha!
Remember we spoke of the factory HRC Honda riders each preferring a different header pipe? Yamamoto's CRF450R maintains the stock headerpipe, mated with Yoshimura mufflers.
Kei Yamamoto wrapped up his second All Japan MX Championship at Sugo with a third-place finish.
Sakura means "cherry blossom" in Japanese, but in motocross circles it means...power? First time seeing one of these...
No matter the country, kids just wanna ride.
One of the unique things about the All Japan MX Nationals is the abundance of starting blocks used by the top riders. Illegal in AMA Pro Racing, the blocks are likely allowed in Japan as most Japanese are average in stature, at best.
This guy needed double deckers!
This guy, too. Literally.
The starting procedure in Japan also differs from AMA Racing. The board girl first holds a 15-second card...
...then switches out to a five-second card before turning it sideways and sprinting off the track.
After winning his 12th All Japan National MX Championship in 2018, Akira Narita elected not to run the number-one plate. He also passed on his trademark 982, which he was originally assigned by the AMA back in 1998 when he came to race a handful of 125 Nationals. Instead, he chose 114, paying homage to his personal racing hero, Damon Bradshaw, who ran 114 in 1995.
The 2019 season was heartbreaking for Narita, as he controlled the series points lead well into the season. He crashed while testing with three rounds to go and suffered a broken collarbone. A next-day surgery allowed him to salvage points and maintain the championship lead at the next round, but disaster struck at the Motocross of Nations when he suffered a torn ACL during qualifying. Narita suffered through the next Japan National and finished 14th, losing the points lead to teammate Kei Yamamoto. At Sugo, he turned in a remarkable third in the first moto and gained some valuable points back over his rival, but a crash that re-tweaked his knee in moto two held him to 10th and ninth overall on the day.
Later this week we will post a gallery of custom-painted helmets from the All Japan Nationals, as paint still reigns supreme over stock graphics. Narita has the coolest lid of all, painted by his sponsor, Mud Creator. Great name! And great sticker placement, too!
That's not a tooth gap: look closely and you'll see that Narita wears a custom mouth guard to protect against jaw-clacking concussions. The black spot is a small crown and 982, as Narita is the king of Japanese motocross.
A HRC Honda 1-2-3 sweep in the first moto.
We heard from multiple sources in the pits in Japan that HRC will cease its All Japan National Motocross racing effort in 2020, leaving the AMA and MXGP efforts as the only official motocross racing efforts from the Honda factory. This comes as a shock as much of the new technology is developed and race tested domestically. The news leaves Narita and newly crowned Japanese Champion Kei Yamamoto without rides, but Toshiki Tomita will join the factory Yamaha team in 2020.
Will Akira Narita race on in 2020? Without a factory ride, one might assume the highly decorated 38-year-old will retire, but his passion for racing still burns bright, and it is obvious that if he stays healthy he is still a championship favorite, Having fielded his own privateer race team and won the championship in the past, Narita knows the expense and hassles associated with that type of effort, so a big sponsor would have to come along to make it worthwhile for him. If this was indeed the final checkered flag of his career, we feel honored to have seen it. Congrats on your career thus far, Akira-san. You are a legend!
Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.