2011 FIM SPEA Trial World Championship Round8-9

Twin Ring Motegi, Japan - 20-21/8/2011

photoStand the Pain to 2nd

More than two months from June when the event originally scheduled, the Japanese Grand Prix took place at Twin Ring Motegi. Fujinami was the first to leave the Europe to return home, knowing his bike won't be delivered until immediately before the event. He came back early to have more time to get over the jet lag and to get used to super hot and humid Japanese summer for his home Grand Prix. However, when Fujinami arrived in Japan, the heat had eased off.

Day1 - Saturday

The bike Fujinami waited for a few days was the one he rode in the Grand Prix of U.K. In the past, the team sent the secondary bike in advance to the Grand Prix in a great distance, such as the U.S. and Japan. It was good in a way that there was no wasting time. Using multiple bikes, however, had its risk, because the combination between the bike and the rider is very delicate in the top class trial competition, any subtle difference will greatly affect the rider's performance. Nowadays the team uses one bike throughout the season.

photoThe bike came out of the box with the exact setting that Fujinami liked so he was supposed to have any problem performing at his best. Unfortunately, because of a slight difference of the gasoline being used in Japan from what the team usually use in Europe, the engine setting had to make from scratch. Then there was another problem, which made a situation more difficult, was absence of the team staff. Fujinami's regular mechanics did not traveled to Japan, and the team's other mechanical staff took lessons from the regular mechanics took over the role in Japan. There were the engineer people of Japan privately helped Fujinami too. It was the unique problem for this year's Japanese Grand Prix that some of the regular faces of the championship did not come to Japan either. For instance, Fujinami's direct rival for the third place in the championship, Cabestany did not participate the event. Bou did not have his regular minder with him, so Amos Bilbao, the former top rider of
Spain took over the role. Overall, the scene at the paddock looked different from the usual.

Motegi is the extremely difficult place for the first starter. The fellow competitors gave a warm welcome to Fujinami for winning the Day2 in Portugal last year. As expected, Fujinami had a tough time cultivating the sections as a vanguard in Motegi. He would start third following Raga and Bou, which was a good relief.

photoFujinami dropped a single mark at the section2. He dropped a full mark at the section3, so as most of the riders. The first set back for Fujinami came at the section4 when he dropped five points while Raga and Bou both marked clean. He came back strong to mark four cleans at the following sections, but he finished the lap with 12 more points than Raga, who was first at the time.

Although the whole team worked hard, they could not achieved the engine setting that Fujinami wanted. Fujinami struggled with the throttle response at Day1. The top two were getting away, but fortunately, Fujinami had a healthy cushion between himself and Fajardo, who was fourth at the time with 12 points gap. At least at the time, Fujinami's podium finish looked to be safe. Fujinami of course was not aware of those point situation, he was just trying to concentrate his riding.

Starting his Lap2, Fujinami dropped five points at the section1 followed by three points ride at the section2. He dropped two consecutive fives at the section6 and 7, where at the previous lap he marked clean at the both sections. While not showing any improvement, not only the battle for the victory was getting out of the reach, but the third position started to be in danger.

photoFujinami finally asked Mr. Cirera for the competition report when he rode out from the section14. The team boss did not tell Fujinami a precise report nor the rider wanted to hear it in detail. The boss told the rider the situation did not look very good, and told him to make sure to mark clean at the final section. Fujinami did not know then but he was fourth at the end of the section14 with a single point disadvantage against Fajardo.

At the section15, Raga and Bou marked clean as they did at Lap1. It was not the tough section for Fujinami as he marked clean at Lap1, too, but he rode carefully and boldly to climb up the rock from the pond then went up the log on top to mark clean. Fajardo did not seem to have a luck at the final section, as he failed at Lap1, and he could not climb up the rock to drop five points again. As the two laps of competition was over, Fujinami finished third with a slim margin, with only a single point advantage over the Spaniard.

Day2 - Sunday

There were things to be solved on Saturday evening at Fujinami's camp. The most importantly, they had to find the engine setting that would meet Fujinami's taste. They re-mapped the fuel injection, and the engine characteristic became totally different from what they had at Day1. They finished the day hoping the new setting would let the rider perform at his best on Sunday.

Fujinami started out the day strong as the engine responded the way he liked. He had 'the sense of unity' with the bike and able to concentrate more on his riding on Sunday. All the first three riders started the lap with a clean followed by a single point ride at the section2. At the section3, Bou made a mistake at the beginning of the section, so did Raga at the end of the section. Fujinami watched the mistakes by the two Spaniards, and he rode with three points. Fujinami made an error at the section4 at the previous day to lose the ground to the two Spaniards, but at Day2 in turn, the two Spaniards fived and the Japanese rode with a single point to build six points advantage.

photoFujinami dropped three points at the section7 then single point at the section8, but he was still in the battle for the victory. Bou seemed not to be in his top form on Sunday, so the battle for the first place narrowed down between Raga and Fujinami. Then, the accident happened. It was the section10 located in the Hellowoods, with the section consisted of many huge rocks, a very tough challenge. Fujinami was about to hop over from one rock to another, then the rear tire slipped a little. He lost the momentum and could not reach the next rock to fall down. It was supposed to be just another five point error, but his left knee was pinched between the rock underneath and the bike, and then the knee was twisted violently. Fujinami felt sharp and severe pain, and he screamed intensionally to stand the pain. People around the area knew something very wrong was happening as a stretcher was called in. However, while fighting off the great pain, Fujinami was figuring out his
condition. It hurt but movable. What he could do to continue. Opposed to what the other might have thought - it was the end of the day for their local hero - Fujinami never thought about retiring. Still, to be realistic, he was not sure if he would be able to stand the torture for the rest of the lap and another whole lap.

photoFujinami stood up. He resumed and rode through the mountain path to the next section, but it was not possible for him to walk up and down to check the section with the injured knee. He had no choice but to omit the observation before riding. Luckily, the section11 was modified on Sunday morning and the riding line was same as junior class riders'. Still, the severity was high as Bou dropped a single point. Fujinami showed a perfect riding to mark a beautiful clean to surprise the people, who knew the accident. Fujinami rode out of the section, but did not hand out the punch card to the observer and stopped for a while with his upper body hanging over the bike. The knee was giving him a lot of pain, but he was fighting off the hopeless feeling that it might not be possible to ride till the end of Lap2 with the condition.

When moved on to the section12, Fujinami found his acquaintance, who was specializing in qigong, in fact, Fujinami received his treatment on Saturday evening and found it effective. He asked the gentleman for a brief treatment by the section and the condition got better with strength of the leg became stronger. Fujinami said he was so fortunate that Mr. Naoki Kobayashi's introduction of the gentleman, and the gentleman was near the section when Fujinami needed a help.

Fujinami went on to mark clean at the section12 - he failed once on Saturday as it was not really the type of the section he liked - and marked another clean at the section13. His riding did not give a thought of injured rider from just a look of it. He dropped three points at the section14 but concluded the lap with another clean.

Before going into Lap2, Raga was first with 20 points. Fujinami was second, and the gap was only two points. Fujinami had his knee taped, and he borrowed the knee supporter from his minder - thankfully his minder also injured the knee a while ago, and he had it on - to be ready for the next 15 sections.

It is very easy to know the competition situation at the Japanese Grand Prix as flash reports are available all around the venue thanks to the organizer. Fujinami continued to concentrate on his riding and tried not to hear any of those reports. Though accidentally, he heard the situation from the ex team mate, Lampkin, who was there in Japan as a team staff to support Raga. The UK rider told Fujinami that he was doing very well even with the injury, and Raga was equally doing strong. Fujinami saw Bou making unusually many mistakes in front of his eyes, and he knew the team mate fell away from the battle, thus he knew Raga would be the only rider to beat for the Japanese to win.

photoFujinami made an error at the section4, and he hurt his knee again. The situation was not in a favor for the Japanese, but the will for winning never went away from his mind until the end of the lap. He dropped a full mark at the section7, where he rode with three points at Lap1, then he traced almost the same score as he did at Lap1 to finish the lap with 51 points. In the end, Fujinami's score was ten points more than Raga, and he had to settle with the 2nd place.

photoAt the final section of the lap, Fujinami marked a beautiful clean to conclude his home Grand Prix, which was the performance we believe deeply touched the audience's heart. Looking back in the past, when the championship took place in Japan for the first time in 2000, Fujinami suffered severe injury to his leg but fought hard to grab the second place. It was not the first time this year that Fujinami showed an amazing performance even in his distress.

The record shows Fujinami finished 2nd by ten points short. But considering all the difficulties, today's 2nd place means a lot, probably more than just a victory.

Quote from Fujigas:

I could not ride the way I wanted at all on Saturday, still I finished third. I appreciate great support and cheer from the audience, which helped me a lot to get going. We changed the engine setting drastically for Sunday, and all the hard work of the team paid off and I found the setting satisfying. I knew I was riding strong and I saw Toni was struggling, so I rode to win on Sunday. The accident at the section10 was incredible. It was very painful, but I never thought about retiring from my home Grand Prix. The only concern I had during the competition was whether I would be able to ride at the final round with the injury.

I checked my leg and I found it was ok to move, then I went on. The next section was difficult because of the pain and I did not have any strength on my leg. I stopped for a while when I rode out of the section11, not only because of the pain but also with a feeling of anxiety to ride till the end with the condition. I was fortunate to find a friend of Naoki san near the section12, and he gave me a brief qigong treatment. Then the condition got better. Again I like to thank you very much for the support of all the audience. They pushed me to up to the second step of the podium today. I really don't know if I could pulled through without their support. I missed the victory, but I think I rode good trial today. Thank you very much everybody for everything.

2011 FIM SPEA Trial WorldChampionship
Round8,9 - Twin Ring Motegi, Japan
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 31
2 Adam Raga Gas Gas 32
3 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 64
4 Jeroni Fajardo Ossa 65
5 Kenichi Kuroyama Yamaha 73
6 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 93
7 Fumitaka Nozaki Yamaha 103
7 omoyuki Ogawa T Honda 109
1 Adam Raga Gas Gas 41
2 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 51
3 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 61
4 Kenichi Kuroyama Yamaha 75
5 Michael Brown Gas Gas 83
6 Fumitaka Nozaki Yamaha 97
7 Tomoyuki Ogawa Honda 98
8 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 102
1 Toni Bou Repsol Montesa Honda 167
2 Adam Raga Gas Gas 154
3 Takahisa Fujinami Repsol Montesa Honda 131
4 Jeroni Fajardo Ossa 102
5 Albert Cabestany Sherco 99
6 Loris Gubian Gas Gas 74
7 Michael Brown Gas Gas 71
8 James Dabill Beta 69