Thanks to Nicky Hayden’s rides in Aragon and Australia last season, he kept America from being totally shut out in MotoGP. That’s unlikely to happen this year and it’s very possible 2017 will be the first year an American hasn’t raced the premier road racing class since 1975.
The situation for Japan, another country with a rich history of riders in Motorcycle Grand Prix racing, isn’t much better. So far, no Japanese riders are slated to race as regulars in the series, although the Japanese round of the series has always provided an opportunity for Japanese riders for one-off rides.
Last year HRC test rider Hiroshi Aoyama raced a couple of rounds. Yamaha’s test man Katsuyuki Nakasuga made an appearance at Motegi, so Japan had two riders make showings in MotoGP.
The last Japanese rider to win a GP in the top category was Makoto Tamada at Motegi in 2004. There have been four American MotoGP rider wins since then – three by Hayden and one by Ben Spies.
Interestingly Japanese and American riders began winning 500cc Grand Prix in the same era. Hideo Kanaya was the first Japanese rider to win, by taking victory at the Salzburgring in 1975. A year later American Pat Hennen put American riders on the scoreboard with his victory at Imatra.
Japan, unlike America, is still waiting to celebrate its first MotoGP World Champion.
It will be interesting in the coming years to see when and if both America and Japan fans can once again cheer on their homegrown riders in MotoGP.