Jorge Lorenzo has had two crashes in 2015: one at the Misano round of MotoGP at high speed, and the other in a 'ride and giggle' mini bike session.
Incongruously, Lorenzo came out of the former unscathed, while the latter has left him with a strained shoulder and a "little bit of pain" ahead of an intense three-week period of MotoGP action that will most likely determine whether the Spaniard collects a third MotoGP title in 2015, or if his evergreen teammate Valentino Rossi takes home the chocolates.
Japan's Motegi layout is the first cab off the rank this weekend (October 9-11), on a circuit where long straights are punctuated by tight corners: a massive test of braking and acceleration performance. Motegi has hosted GP racing since 1999, with Suzuki's Kenny Roberts Jnr winning the first event.
The frenetic nature of Motegi could spell some problems for Lorenzo — as well as world champion Marc Marquez, who broke a bone in his hand in a recent mountain bike crash — but such was the form he showed in the last round at Aragon that even if he's a little stymied at Motegi he could still get the job done.
If Lorenzo triumphs on his Movistar Yamaha, that would make it three successive MotoGP victories at Motegi, with last year's success coming ahead of Marquez, Rossi and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) — the championship big four well ahead of the others.
Rossi currently holds the championship upperhand by 14pts (263 to 249) over Lorenzo after a year of see-sawing power struggle, followed by Marquez (184), Ducati's Andrea Iannone (172), Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 143), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati, 139) and Pedrosa (129).
"Motegi is a track that I like very much," said Rossi. "Last year I had a good weekend but Jorge was stronger than me so he won. For this reason I will have to give my all.
"There will be three races in a row and it will be important not to make any mistakes, but at the same time make sure to get the best possible results. I feel good. In Aragon, during the test, I crashed but there were no further consequences, only a little abrasion on my arm. I'm fine and I'm ready for the triple-header!"
Pedrosa shapes as another critical figure at Motegi. In the last round at Aragaon he out-muscled Rossi in a last lap thriller to finish in second, and he's a rider with the most victories at the Japanese circuit: four. That includes two MotoGP wins.
Marquez's mountain bike spill has continued the dual world champion's very own 'annus horribilis' in 2015, which has also included machinery setup woes and a number of crashes, the last at Aragon. He's still won four times though, but the rollercoaster year means he's now out of championship calculations— but he'll definitely shape the final outcome.
Dovizioso and Iannone will also be fast at Motegi on the rapid-fire Ducatis, with Dovizioso the polesitter in 2014 before eventually finishing in fifth position. Ducati has four MotoGP wins at Motegi, the last of which was with Aussie Casey Stoner in 2010.
Smith heads back to Japan with fond memories of his Suzuka 8-Hour world endurance victory alongside Katsuyuki Nakasuga and MotoGP teammate Pol Espargaro, and he will finish the year as the leading satellite rider with his lead over Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) now 40pts.
Nakasuga will compete as a wildcard at Motegi on a factory Yamaha, as will compatriot Takumi Takahashi on a Honda. In addition, AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham will miss the event with injury and he will be replaced by another local Japanese star in the form of Kousuke Akiyoshi.
Australian Jack Miller (LCR Honda) is 18th in the championship, and in 2014 he was fifth in the Moto3 race at Motegi.
Meantime after a disappointing Aragon GP, Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) heads to the site of his first ever GP win with eyes fixed on the Moto2 crown. For the Frenchman to claim the title he must leave Motegi with at least a 75pt advantage, the current gap being 78 over Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) — who is riding a wave of confidence after a win at Aragon and announcing a move up to the MotoGP title in 2016.
Japanese-based Aussie Josh Hook will compete at Motegi, as well as the following rounds at Phillip Island and Sepang, as a replacement for the injured Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter on the Technomag Racing Interwetten machine. Hook is competing in the All-Japan Superbike Championship and finished second in the Suzuka 8-Hour alongside Aegerter.
In Moto3, Danny Kent (Leopard Racing Honda) is in a similar position to Zarco, although his lead over main challenger Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Honda) is 55pts. Kent took his first ever Moto3 victory at Motegi in 2012, while he was on pole position in 2014 before finishing in sixth, two spots ahead of Bastianini.
Motegi will be another new frontier for Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra), with the 17-year-old continuing to push hard on his underpowered machine.
The three world championship races at Motegi will be held over the following distances and times:
• MotoGP: 24 laps, 115.2km, starting at 2:00pm local time (4:00pm AEST)
• Moto2: 23 laps, 110.4km, starting a 12:20pm local time (2:20pm AEST)
• Moto3: 20 laps, 96km, starting at 11:00am local time (1:00pm AEST)