Yamaha test rider Kohta Nozane says he is honoured to make his MotoGP debut in front of his home fans as Tech3 bring him in to replace the ill Jonas Folger.
German Grand Prix podium finisher Folger pulled out of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday after he was advised to return home for medical checks having felt unwell since the Misano race.
Revealing he had suffered from the Epstein Barr virus before, Folger believes this may have flared up once again. The German’s participation in Australia and Malaysia is in doubt.
Determined to still run two riders at Yamaha’s home event, Tech3 was able to secure the services of the Japanese manufacturer’s test rider Nozane – who was one of the names linked with replacing Valentino Rossi at Aragon.
“This is a big surprise for me,” he said.
“I still can’t believe that I will rider at the Grand Prix of Japan. Motegi is my favourite circuit, and I have ridden the YZR-M1 with Michelin tyres here before as a Yamaha test rider.
“It will be an honour to ride on home soil like a MotoGP rider.
“I would like to thank Yamaha and Monster Yamaha Tech3 for giving me this opportunity.”
Vastly experienced in the World Endurance Championship and in the All Japan Superbike series, as well as being familiar with the M1, Tech3 boss Herve Poncheral felt Nozane was the only person for the job.
“We are proud to announce that Kohta Nozane will compete for us here,” said Poncheral.
“He is a really important rider for Yamaha Motor Company and has raced in many different championships, including the World Endurance Championship.
“When we knew that Jonas was going to have to withdraw from this GP, we talked with Yamaha and it make perfect sense to choose Nozane.
“He knows Motegi quite well, and I think he won a race here this year in the Japanese Superbike Championship.
“He tested the M1 in January, which will clearly be a big help for him to show what he can do.
“We don’t expect too much because this is one shot and he doesn’t have MotoGP experience. We are pleased to have found the possibility for two riders to race for Tech3 this weekend.
“We don’t want to put any pressure on Nozane, but we just want to thank him, YMC, Mr Tsuji and Mr Tsuya, who have helped us tremendously to have this opportunity.
“We hope that we can give Nozane a good experience, which will help him grow as a racer and hopefully as a MotoGP rider in the near future.”
The Japanese rider made four starts in grand prix racing in the Moto2 class in 2012 and 2013, achieving a best result of 16th at Motegi on a TSR in 2013.
Nozane will be one of three Japanese riders contesting their home race this weekend, with fellow Yamaha tester Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Hiroshi Aoyama – who is replacing the injured Jack Miller at Marc VDS – joining the MotoGP rookie.