The sole Japanese representative in the FIM Motocross World Championship, Kei Yamamoto, could be set for a second term as a Grand Prix rider and the Honda-backed racer is being linked with the second CRF450R in the new Italian Assomotor Team.
Yamamoto is 23-years-old and must move out of the MX2 class in which he competed this year for the Honda Gariboldi squad, scoring a best finish of 10th overall at the Grand Prix of Leon in Mexico. 2014 was his rookie season and he classified 26th in the standings through a campaign that was interrupted with injury as well as a hefty learning curve.
“Kei has to go to MXGP next year so it will not be easy for him at all,” offered HRC General Manager Roger Harvey. “He has improved in typical Japanese style this season; slowly but surely. He has pegged away at it and had a few horrible injuries such as the burn at Maggiora [Grand Prix of Italy] which he described as barbequing his backside! Immediately after that he had a twelve hour flight back to Japan!”
‘He is a dedicated and hard-working rider and hopefully we will see a place for him next year on a Honda,” he added.
The Assomotor team, fronted by former world champion Andrea Bartolini, have already secured the services of Italian Alessandro Lupino and if they agree terms with Yamamoto then they will have two debutants in the premier class for 2015.
Their presence naturally increases Honda’s numbers in the MXGP gate. “They have been very successful in Supermoto and also active in Dakar and Enduro,” explains Harvey. “It is good to see that they want to get involved in the motocross and that it can be a viable project for them.”
It is believed that Yamamoto’s place at Gariboldi, and alongside Tim Gajser, will be taken by young Spaniard Jorge Zaragoza for what will be the former Bud Racing Kawasaki European Championship runner’s first taste of a full Grand Prix term. There were rumours that Mike Alessi could also have been on the shopping list for Bartolini but the American is now allegedly talking with Ilario Ricci’s Husqvarna team for a deal that would see him as part of MXGP once the AMA Supercross season finishes in early May.