Less than 100 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Twin Ring Motegi circuit has been a subject of debate throughout the MotoGP paddock ever since Japan’s devastating earthquake and subsequent nuclear threat.
Current MotoGP world championship leader Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo have confirmed today that they won’t attend the Japanese MotoGP race in October, regardless of whether an independent inspection declares the area around the Twin Ring Motegi safe.
Repsol Honda rider Stoner and factory Yamaha rider Lorenzo could face the wrath of their Japanese employers after both made it clear that they will not attend the rescheduled race on October 2. The Twin Ring Motegi race, initially scheduled for April 24, was postponed after Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami back in March. Ever since, there has been almost constant paranoia in the paddock about staging the race because of fears about the risk of radiation caused by extensive damage suffered to the Fukushima nuclear plant.
(Here is a link to an interactive map that shows the Range of Radiation from the Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Plant by prefecture and how far the dangerous leves have reached throughout the country of Japan. We also provided the map at the bottom of this article as well. Twin Ring Motegi, home to the upcoming Japanese GP is loctaed within the highest radiation zone between Nasukarasuyama to the north and Mt. Kaba to the south – Ed.)
Lorenzo has always maintained that he won’t ride in Japan this season, but Stoner only made his position clear during the post qualifying press conference at the Sachsenring today.
“I will not go,” said Stoner. “That’s my opinion and I’ve had it now for some time. Not as long as Jorge, I took a bit longer to make my decision, but I will not go. Most riders are of the same opinion. It’s up to organizers now to figure out what is going to happen.”
“My decision was taken a long time ago and it has not changed,” said Lorenzo. “Now I am not active in this because my decision was taken a long time ago.”
One Japanese journalist in the press conference then asked Stoner and Lorenzo if they felt carrying stickers conveying messages of support to Japan on their bikes was contradictory given their refusal to attend the event.
Stoner replied: “I don’t think it is a contradiction. I believe that supporting someone and being there in the same place is not necessarily the same thing. There is something that will happen and you must wait, you will understand more. To support someone and be there is not necessarily the same thing. We completely understand the situation everybody is going through in Japan because if people are scared they don’t have the option to leave or do something else. Work must go on, but if something similar happened in Australia near my home I would not be going back there, it’s the same. Just because we are not going there doesn’t mean we are not supporting Japan, that’s a different subject.”
Lorenzo said: “I think that if we go there that things in Japan will not change. I really love Japan and the Japanese fans and I love to go to Motegi and race. I am Spanish and if something like that happened in Spain I would not go. If we can help Japan in another way we will do it, but going there is not real support.”