Jonas Folger has been forced to pull out of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, and may be absent for the remainder of the overseas triple header as well. The German has been taken ill with what could potentially be a recurrence of Epstein Bar, which he suffered from previously. Japanese test rider Kohta Nozane is to replace him in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team for the Motegi round at least.
Folger was taken ill on his travels to Japan, suffering from a complete lack of energy, forcing him to miss a number of official Yamaha events. He had hoped that some rest would mean he was strong enough to race at Motegi, but rest has not helped. After consultation with Dr. Charte, the medical officer for MotoGP, the decision was taken to fly back to Germany for further tests to try to pin down the cause of Folger's problems. The first check to be carried out will be for Epstein Barr, which Folger has had previously, and which can flare up again in some rare cases.
The Tech 3 team was lucky in some respects that Folger was taken ill at Motegi. Yamaha's young Japanese test rider Kohta Nozane was going to be present at the Japanese round of MotoGP anyway, and this presents a perfect opportunity for him to get some time on a MotoGP bike on a race weekend. Nozane is already familiar with the bike, having tested it at Sepang earlier this year.
Whether Nozane will continue on the bike, if Folger is not fit enough to return at Phillip Island, remains to be seen. The next round of the All-Japan Superbike championship is not until 5th November, meaning that Nozane will be free for both Phillip Island and Sepang. Yamaha's WorldSBK riders Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark will be busy next weekend, racing at the penultimate round of the WorldSBK championship in Jerez, which clashes with Phillip Island.
Below are the press releases from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team announcing Folger's withdrawal and Nozane as a replacement:
Folger forced to withdraw from forthcoming MotoGP action
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Jonas Folger will sit out the Japanese Grand Prix and return immediately to his native Germany for medical checks. The Clinica Mobile medical staff examined Folger today and recommended that he undertake further tests in Munich, with his participation in the next two rounds being doubtful. The entire team would like to wish Jonas a swift and full recovery.
Championship: 10th - Points: 84
"I came to Japan and was motivated for these three flyaway races, but I’ve been feeling really weak since the Misano and Aragon rounds. On arrival here, I have been struggling with my energy levels, even leaving the hotel room was impossible for me, and unfortunately, I had to miss some Yamaha events, which I’m very sorry for. I met with Hervé on Wednesday night and we agreed to go for a check with the doctors this morning. I met with Dr Charte and the Clinica Mobile team and they have advised me to return to Germany right away for a series of blood tests. I’ve had Epstein Barr virus in the past and it’s a possibility that this has flared up again and resurfaced, but we can’t be sure until I’ve had these tests in Munich. I’m really sorry for my whole team and Yamaha at their home race and would like to thank them for all their support. Also sorry to my personal sponsors, I appreciate them all standing by me at this difficult time. Now we must remain positive and aim to come back stronger."
“The very sad news for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team is that Jonas Folger will fly home to Germany tonight and he will not compete in the Japanese GP. He has a disease but we don’t know exactly what it is, however, Jonas has been checked by Dr Charte, the MotoGP World Championship doctor, who confirmed that he is very weak and that this condition has lasted for several weeks. If there is anything good about this situation, it is that we now know why he has been so weak since the summer break. The more he trained, the worse he felt, and the peak of the problem was on Tuesday and Wednesday where he had to stay in bed because he couldn’t even walk and he unfortunately had to miss the Yamaha promotion activities. For sure he will miss this round, but we don’t want to start guessing as to when our rider will return. When Jonas gets back to Munich he will have a thorough check in the hospital as recommended by Dr Charte, and we will know more then. The entire Tech3 team wishes him a swift recovery and we all need Jonas back with us but at the moment there is not much that we can say or do. He will not start this race and it’s 99% certain that he will not participate in the Australian round. More news will come, but for now, we just want to express our sadness and wish him a speedy recovery. We all know that he is a top rider when he is on top form.”
Nozane to replace Folger at Japanese Grand Prix
Local hero Kohta Nozane will step in for the absent Jonas Folger this weekend at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. Folger will fly home today in order to undertake more medical checks and his seat will be filled by Nozane, who made his Grand Prix debut as a 16-year-old in the 2012 Japanese Moto2 race as a wildcard. He won the Japanese GP2 class one year later and for the past few seasons, he has competed in the JSB1000 Championship where he has produced some highly impressive results. In addition, he has also notably battled for Yamaha in the World Endurance Championship. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 team would like to welcome Nozane, and would also like to wish Jonas Folger a speedy recovery.
"This is big surprise for me! I still can’t believe that I will ride at the Grand Prix of Japan. Motegi is my favourite circuit, and I have ridden the YZR-M1 with Michelin tyres here before as a Yamaha test rider. It will be an honour to ride on home soil like a MotoGP rider. I would like to thank Yamaha and Monster Yamaha Tech3 for giving me this opportunity."
“After the very sad and disappointing news that Jonas Folger can not take part in the Japanese Grand Prix, I am pleased to say that the #94 side of the garage will be racing this weekend. We are proud to announce that Kohta Nozane will compete for us here. He is a really important rider for Yamaha Motor Company and has raced in many different championships, including the World Endurance Championship. When we knew that Jonas was going to have to withdraw from this GP, we talked with Yamaha and it made perfect sense to choose Nozane. He knows Motegi quite well and I think he won a race here this year in the Japanese Superbike Championship. He tested the M1 in January, which will clearly be a big help for him to show what he can do. We don’t expect too much because this is one shot and he doesn’t have MotoGP experience. However, one thing that will be interesting is his mentor, Nakasuga, who is a wildcard on another YZR-M1 and I’m sure they will be happy to compete against each other. We are pleased to have found the possibility for two riders to race for Tech3 this weekend. We don’t want to put any pressure on Nozane, but we just want to thank him, YMC, Mr Tsuji and Mr Tsuya, who have helped us tremendously to have this opportunity. We hope that we can give Nozane a good experience, which will help him grow as a racer and hopefully as a MotoGP rider in the near future. Lets see what happens, but the weather forecast does not look so good as there will certainly be sure rain during the weekend. Nevertheless, I want to say thanks and welcome him to our team.”