Another major stronghold in the resistance to the Japanese round of MotoGP has crumbled: the Yamaha Factory Racing team has announced that the team and both of its riders will attend the Motegi MotoGP race on October 2nd of this year. The announcement means that both Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies will be present at Motegi, lining up alongside the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team - the first team to officially announce they would be going - of Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow, as well as Hector Barbera and the Mapfre Aspar team.
Jorge Lorenzo was one of the first riders to state categorically that he would not go to Japan, leading a general revolt against the decision at Barcelona after a debate which had kicked off at Le Mans, and was soon joined by most of the MotoGP riders, with the backing of many team members and crew. Lorenzo found a powerful ally in Casey Stoner: with both championship contenders initially refusing to race, the grid felt they were capable of withstanding the pressure from Dorna and the race organizers to attend the race. Behind the scenes, Valentino Rossi lobbied hard to have the race either scrapped or moved to Suzuka, both using his acknowledged political power inside the paddock, and representing many people inside the paddock who came to him because of his unique position.
But resistance began to crumble as pressure was put on the riders by their employers, being dealt a fatal blow after the publication of the report on environmental radiation in and around the Motegi circuit published by Italian agency ARPA and commissioned by Dorna. That report found that radiation levels at Motegi were normal, and comparable with levels in both Spain and Italy. The only anomaly they detected was a slightly raised level of cesium contamination from one sample of beef, but this too fell well within the EU safety limits for food imports. With no legitimate basis for their concerns about radiation at Motegi - though, as Rossi told the press at Brno, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was still cause for concern - rider unity crumbled and a collective response became impossible. A rider meeting at Misano, held in the privacy of Valentino Rossi's motorhome, established that consensus was impossible and effectively sounded the death knell of a rider strike.
With Yamaha confirmed for Motegi, Suzuki almost certain to go and the Honda riders highly likely to attend (Stoner having softened his stance at Brno, and with much pressure being brought to bear on the other Honda riders to travel to Motegi) the final holdouts are at Ducati. Valentino Rossi has repeatedly expressed his unwillingness to go to Japan, his Marlboro teammate Nicky Hayden agreeing with him. Karel Abraham and the Cardion AB team have chosen the side of the Mapfre Aspar team in attending Motegi, while the only rider with any real choice is Loris Capirossi, who announced at Misano that he would be retiring from racing at the end of this season.
Yamaha's decision does force Casey Stoner's hand. With Jorge Lorenzo cutting the deficit in the championship race to just 35 points at Misano, Stoner cannot comfortably afford to miss the race at Motegi without risking the championship. As Japanese journalist Akira Nishimura pointed out on Twitter, the two title contenders were trapped in a classic case of the Prisoner's Dilemma, a concept often used in game theory and philosophy; either both men had to refuse, or both men had to go, but neither man had the freedom to choose alone. Despite the situation, both Stoner and Lorenzo emphasized multiple times that they would make their decision solely on the evidence they had seen, free from considerations of the championship. But with Lorenzo now having committed to Japan, it is Casey Stoner's turn to make a formal announcement.
Below is the official statement from the Yamaha team on Japan:
Yamaha Factory Racing Team Press Release
Gerno di Lesmo, 12th September 2011
Team Statement: Yamaha Factory Racing confirms full attendance at the Motegi GP running Yamaha's WGP50th Anniversary special livery
Yamaha Factory Racing herewith confirms the attendance of its riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies to compete for round 15 of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship at Motegi in Japan on 2nd October.
The Yamaha Factory Racing team will race in Yamaha's WGP50th Anniversary red and white livery for the 4th time this year at the home GP of team owner Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.